The Canadian Culinary Championships will serve up a new winner this year, bringing the best chefs from coast-to-coast to Ottawa as part of the kick-off to Winterlude.
Branching from twelve regional competitions across the country, these chefs are competing to win this year’s championship on Friday, January 31.
The Championships are put on by Canada’s Great Kitchen Party – and serve as the grand finale to those festivities, which include concerts and events aplenty.
“The Kitchen used to be called Gold Medal Plates, and we would raise money for the Canadian Olympics Committee,” said Sylvie Bigras, spokesperson with Canada’s Great Kitchen Party.
“A few years ago we parted ways positively, and went in different directions. We wanted to continue raising money for high-performance athletes, and the Kitchen Party was born.”
The re-brand – and a subsequent move from Kelowna, B.C. to Ottawa for the national competition this year – means the events now raise funding for B2ten, MusiCounts and Community Food Centres of Canada, which in turn support athletes, food causes and music education.
Bigras said the 12 regional qualifiers allowed them to get the best talent from all around the country.
They begin with a mystery wine pairing, where chefs get a bottle and must create a dish with local ingredients to complement it. Then the Black Box Challenge will see chefs given an array of foods in a box, and they must plan, cook and plate a dish in one hour.
Finally, the grand finale will see chefs create their best dish on the final evening to be judged, and musicians will perform. There will also be athletes on-hand to tell stories during the night.
“I’d say 90 per cent of the time our chefs decide to go with the dish that got them through the qualifying round, but truthfully, it’s up to them,” she said. “They can prepare whatever they like and have a lot of freedom. It’s a great competition.”
With Yannick LaSalle – the winner from last year – set to be on-hand, it should be a delight. LaSalle and Marc Lepine are from Ottawa, and have combined for three wins – the most from any city – in the competition’s history.
“We have so many great chefs from west to east. New Brunswick and P.E.I. are combined so they get access, and everyone is well-represented,” she said.
“We don’t have a territory yet, but I think that would be really cool. That’s a future objective for sure, but we can’t wait to have a great competition this year as is.”
She said the pillars of the competition really reflect the three founders, and that’s not by accident.
“They had backgrounds in sport and hospitality, and the want to celebrate excellence in wine, sport, food and music was necessary,” she said. “That’s what Canada’s known for, so we’ve developed this competition to celebrate exactly that.”
For more information on the championships, click here.