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A chef by chance, Ottawa’s Ian Carswell competes in Canadian Culinary Championships

2020 was the first year Ottawa hosted the event.

After winning the regional championships, Owner and Chef of Black Tartan Kitchen Ian Carswell found himself competing alongside 11 of the best chefs Canada has to offer.

It was Carswell’s first appearance on the national stage which took place at three locations in Ottawa from Feb. 1, to Feb. 2.

Carswell started working as a cook in a family diner which would begin a journey that would take him to cooking in hotels, bistros, and then working in France, Netherlands, and a restaurant in Finland which was ranked the twenty-third best restaurant in the world.

But Carswell didn’t start his culinary journey with a career initially in mind.

“I got into the industry by chance,” said Carswell. “I was studying at university and I got a job in a kitchen part-time to pay my way through school. I really enjoyed cooking and found a passion for it really quickly, started an apprenticeship and never looked back.”

The championships involved three different competitions.

The first meeting between the chefs being challenged to create a dish with a mystery bottle of wine and with local ingredients that complement the wine with a set budget and limited amount of time.

The second competition required the chefs to create a dish from a black box containing a small amount of food items within one hour.

The third and final competition of the weekend involved all the chefs to plate their signature dishes for the public and judges to try. “It’s been a nerve-racking experience,” said Carswell.

“There has been some anxiety but as each competition progressed it’s felt a little more relaxing as you get involved with the flow.”

Looking back at what brought him to the national stage Carswell says he has taken something from each part of his journey.

“To be completely honest everywhere I’ve gone I’ve learned good things and bad things,” said Carswell. “You always learn something and I’ve been able to find inspiration in each location and restaurant I’ve been in.”

Vancouver’s Roger Ma was crowned with the gold medal and the emotion of winning had him lost for words. “Words can’t describe the feeling,” said Ma. “This weekend has been grueling, It’s been blood, sweat, and tears. I have to thank my team, this has been a real team effort. And it’s just weird, it’s weird right now.”

Montreal’s Marc-André Jetté was awarded the silver medal while Winnipeg’s Emily Butcher will travel home with the bronze medal.

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