July 11th, 2013

The 14th edition of the Bocuse d’Or cooking competition started by Paul Bocuse in 1987 was held as always in Lyon France at the end of January 2013. Canada placed 9th (best ever finish 4th), USA 7th (best ever 6th) with the gold going to France (their 7th win – one out of every two years!), silver to Denmark and bronze to Japan.

In Canada we have Gold Medal Plates (GMP) a culinary competition across Canada to raise funds for the charitable Canadian Olympic Foundation and over the nine years has raised more than 7 million dollars for donation to help Olympic athletes train on their Own the Podium program. All the regional GMP winners then compete in the Canadian Culinary Championships (CCC) to be named best chef in Canada. I am a judge for the Vancouver GMP competiton and I just returned from judging the 2013 CCC with 10 competing chefs this year – all champion regional GMP winners! The CCC is held over several days and has 3 main events on which the results are based:

1. The Wine Matching Challenge

The night before this event each chef is given a bottle of unmarked mystery wine and has 24 hours to shop for and develop a dish that will pair well with that wine all on a limited budget of $500 to serve 400 guests. The wine turned out to be 2010 Norman Hardie pinot noir from Prince Edward County in Ontario. Some chefs found good matches with local duck, cherries and even raspberry-strawberry tuilles in capturing the wine essence but others went to less successful matchings of ling cod and albacore tuna.

2. The Black Box Competition

Every year we have 6 ingredients in the box which each chef opens and then has one hour to prepare 2 dishes. The six catagories with this year’s selection were:

(a) Grain – Red Fife Wheat Flour

(b) Dairy – Goat Gruyere with firm strong flavours

(c) Fruit – Anjou Pear

(d) Vegetable – Black Kale ( or Tuscan Kale) – versatile use raw in a salad, in soups or pastas, sauteed, or my fav deep fried crisp kale chips!

(e) Fish – Northern Divine Sturgeon Caviar

(f) Meat – Bone in shoulder and neck of lamb – shows butchering skills but impossible to braise properly in the one hour time limit!

3. The Grande Finale

A glittering affair of a signature dish of each chef with their choice of Canadian wine for 700 guests.

The winning chef Marc St. Jacques of Toronto’s Auberge du Pommier featured a classy terrine of foie gras with lemon curd on black sesame financier.

Please post for our edification any comments you have on this or even a short note to make us aware of any of your own city or regional culinary competitions.

July 11th, 2013

2 Responses

  1. Hi Sid. Can’t think of any cooking competitions amongst the local chefs in Melbourne but Chef Ben Shewry of Attica, a brilliant chef and restaurant, invites the top boys from Victoria into his kitchen to cook together from time to time. Others can tell us if they know of any local competitions. The cooking competition that has taken the imagination of many (considered by others as rubbish) is the televised Master Chef program. The current series actually features professional chefs. This program is so popular that for the grand final two years ago, the pre-election political debate between the leaders of the two main parties in Australia was rescheduled so that it did not compete in the same time slot as the grand final of Master Chef. We understand our priorities in Melbourne. Big ommission in Master Chef is that there is never any talk whatsoever of wine or wine matching – maybe that’s the next dimension they should take on board.

  2. Certainly Yvonne, Australian MasterChef (AMC) is indicative that the combination of reality TV and the cooking competition is a winning mix on Australian television. While this may not be quiet the conversation anticipated by Sid in rousing discussion on Culinary Championships, what interests me is that AMC seems to have succeeded in mainstreaming gastronomic competition and cooking generally.

    While its critics are many, arguably the broad appeal of AMC has put cooking on the table of many Australian households. Essentially, the combination of competition, family viewing and the evening time slot seem to have culminated in at long last having Australians talking about food!

    It seems that the MasterChef formula has much in common with the Canadian Culinary Championship which Sid presides over – i.e variations of The Black Box Competition and the Signature dish are regular segments of the show.

    Like you Yvonne, I lament the screaming absence of any mention ever of wine or wine matching. While a Wine Matching Challenge may be beyond the scope of AMC, some informed comment from the judges on wine matching would elevate the gastronomic content of the show considerably and probably become a popular addition to the existing format.

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