So here we are at the final Petits Chefs session for Term 2, where we’ve been “cooking the books”. I’ve been so thrilled to work with the boys using real recipes this term and I am so happy with the results – if we can do what we do in an hour in the science lab, anyone can!
For our final session this week, I was inspired by 2012’s S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition Regional Finals in Toronto which I was fortunate enough to attend last year. After that event, I was provided with some “make at home” versions of the recipes and was completely wowed by Cole Nicholson’s maple juniper beef tenderloin with chocolate infused red wine jus and leek and potato mash (yes it’s a mouthful but oh, what a delicious one!) and last month I was happy to be invited to the 2013 Almost Famous Chef Regional Finals in Toronto again. The evening took place at Cirillo’s Culinary Academy and consisted of the regional finalist winners from around Canada competing for the chance to represent Canada in Napa later this month.
About the S.Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef® Competition
The S.Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition was founded in 2002 as a mentoring program that connects top culinary students with established chefs and influential media. Since then this program has helped to launch hundreds of culinary careers and refined the skills of a new generation of chefs. Through the S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition, student chefs are given the opportunity to gain unmatched experience, while cooking in some of the most prestigious kitchens in the world.
It was a crazy, fast-paced evening and I have nothing but admiration for the chef-testants who prepared their dishes (in a 2-hour timeframe) amongst a lot of noise and with cameras in their way at every turn. Each chef was so very focussed on their dish that the noise and somewhat cramped workspace did not seem to bother them – I know a few of us onlookers remarked more than once that it was like cooking in a nightclub! But these chefs proved themselves to be rockstar contestants and absolutely rose to the challenge. Such youth, such talent
As the chef-testants worked away, we were simultaneously served versions of the dishes as cooked and plated by the Cirillo’s team and some students from Humber College.
The People’s Choice winner was Kellie Callender from Culinary Institute of Vancouver Island (Nanaimo), who prepared Slow Sockeye Salmon – Sockeye salmon confit, Sunchoke puree, crab stuffed leek, beet quinoa salad, sunchoke chips, crispy leeks and salmon skin as his signature dish.
Other finalists and their signature dishes:
- Alexandre Latendresse, Institut de tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec (Montréal), prepared Piglet loin and scallop sautéed, accompanied with a “cidre de glace” sauce and served with pickled vegetables and cauliflower pure.
- Matt Cusano, The International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Vancouver, prepared A Taste of BC – Poached BC Halibut with Dungeness crab Gnocchi, chanterelles, local Kushi Oysters, and a chorizo emulsion.
- Janine Hall, The Canadian Food and Wine Institute at Niagara College (Niagara-on-the Lake), prepared Oh Deer – This dish features fresh terroir from her home country paired with some flavours from her cultural heritage.
- Kevan Hafichuk, Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts (Vancouver), prepared Poached Spot Prawn on an Oxtail Lemongrass Tortellini with Cauliflower Purée & Baby Peas.
- Timothy van Ryzewyk, Humber College (Toronto), prepared a Seared Scallop with Pork Tenderloin (appetizer).
And the winner?
Jean-Christophe Comtois from École hôtelière de la Capitale (Québec City), who prepared Milk Veal tenderloin, Matsutake and ”Tomme des Joyeux Fromagers” flavored polenta as his signature dish. Congrats Jean-Christophe!
To see such young chefs putting out such gorgeous food made me very excited for the future of restaurants here in Canada. I’m all about encouraging young people to pursue the culinary arts, as you know! Which is why I was interested to see the launch of the Recipes from Almost Famous Chefs Cookbook. This recipe book includes student signature dishes presented at the S.Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Canadian Regional Competitions – 14 delectable dishes in total, all adapted for the home chef. How cool for those students to have their recipes (e)published at such an early stage in their careers!
As soon as I saw the book, I knew I wanted to make a dish from here with the Petits Chefs. Most of the recipes are pretty approachable but as soon as I saw the Honey Seared Bison with Parsnip-Apple purée and a vegetable sauce created by Jean-François D’Aigle from the George Brown Chef’s School in Toronto, I was sold! I loved the simplicity of the dish: “Creamy apple parsnip puree is the base for the decadent richness of bison and adds a delicate sweetness to this recipe. A chunky vegetable sauce finishes the dish” and knew that it would be do-able in under an hour! We used beef, not bison, and it worked really well…
The boys got chopping for the vegetable sauce (we didn’t use red wine much to the boys’ dismay!)…
And started working on the parsnip-apple purée…
Meanwhile we seared the steaks and prepared them for the oven…
And we all had a lot of fun sprinkling the steaks with thyme and honey…
The boys were a little enamored with the honey squeeze bottle…
And the result?
(Yes *I* totally plated this for the boys – I do think it’s important to show them how to plate properly as often we just put the food in the tupperware for the express purpose of getting it to the subway or the car without much thought to what it looks like. The boys were, I think, suitably impressed: “You’re pretty good at this Mademoiselle” said one. Um, yeah, I have a lot of practice 😉 )
$150 Lee Restaurant gift certificate giveaway!
To enter, simply comment on this post telling me which books you’d like to see the Petits Chefs cooking from in the future (remember we have a 60 minute time limit for the club!).
For a bonus entry, tweet the following message: “I entered to win a gift certificate from Lee Restaurant (Toronto) and @eatlivtravwrite. You can too! http://bit.ly/W6JMUK
then leave another comment letting me know you did.
Contest closes on Wednesday, March 13th at 6pm EST. I’ll draw the winner’s name using Random.org and email the winner the following day! Good luck!
*** Congratulations to Mary Catherine who won my Nigella book giveaway! I’ll be in touch with you soon!
Edited to add: Thank you so much for all your suggestions. The giveaway is now over. A winner has been chosen and will be contacted via email.