Les petits chefs cook the books: S. Pellegrino Recipes from Almost Famous Chefs

Honey-seared beef with apple parsnip puree and vegetable sauce Almost Famous Chef Recipes Canada

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.

Visit the S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition on Facebook or follow along on Pinterest or Twitter (#AFC13).

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!

AFChef Jean-Christophe Comtois École Hoteliere de la Capitale Milk Veal tenderloin Matsutake Tomme des Joyeux Fromagers

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!)…

cooking with kids chopping carrots celery and onions

And started working on the parsnip-apple purée…

cooking with kids chopping parsnips and apples

Meanwhile we seared the steaks and prepared them for the oven…

cooking with kids steaks

And we all had a lot of fun sprinkling the steaks with thyme and honey…

cooking with kids honey thyme steaksAs we got to puréeing…

cooking with kids making apple and parsnip puree

The boys were a little enamored with the honey squeeze bottle…

Honey-searing beef with apple parsnip puree and vegetable sauce Almost Famous Chef Recipes Canada

And the result?

Almost Famous Chef Recipes Canada Honey-seared beef with apple parsnip puree and vegetable sauce

(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 celebrate young talent in the kitchen, I’m giving away a $150 Gift Certificate for Lee Restaurant in Toronto, courtesy of S. Pellegrino and the S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition.

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.


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30 Responses to Les petits chefs cook the books: S. Pellegrino Recipes from Almost Famous Chefs

  1. michelle March 7, 2013 at 08:27 #

    Would love to see Les Petit Chefs cook from Fresh, and Fresh at Home (recipes from Fresh Restaurants) and The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook.

    Tweeted contest entry.

  2. Paula March 7, 2013 at 09:15 #

    Teaching the boys to plate was a great idea and you did it beautifully. That puree sounds wonderful and everything looks delicious.

  3. yummychunklet March 7, 2013 at 15:17 #

    What a great event!

  4. Geraldine D. March 7, 2013 at 15:40 #

    I’d like to see them cooking from Real Fast Food by Trina Holden

  5. Geraldine D. March 7, 2013 at 15:47 #

    I entered via Twitter. https://twitter.com/GingerGeri/status/309766586296840192

  6. Geoff March 7, 2013 at 16:54 #

    OK, we “down under” can’t really enter. The air fares would make the meal – even with the certificate – a touch unaffordable.
    However, this was a really interesting post. It is rather surprising (to me, anyway) how food and food preparation have become so mainstream. Yes, I know, most people cook – but the interest in cooking better or more imaginatively, has really become a dominant topic of general discussion – helped along by the many cooking/chef/kitchen shows that now dominate nightly TV, at least down under.
    And, as always, LPCs nailed it. Great post, Mardi. Really interesting and encouraging on all fronts. So, was the puree sweet tasting because of the apple?

  7. Colette @ JFF! March 8, 2013 at 03:42 #

    I’ve loved your Les Petits Chefs series.
    They’re so impressive!

  8. Jessica March 8, 2013 at 09:33 #

    I would love to see them cook from Crazy Sexy Kitchen. Vegan food can be tasty. 🙂

  9. Jessica March 8, 2013 at 09:36 #

    I also tweeted! 😀

  10. Colleen C March 8, 2013 at 13:59 #

    I am not sure if you already covered this book, but my personal favourite right now is Gordon Ramsay’s World Kitchen. The recipes are simple and delish! I would suggest trying the Warm Smoked Salmon and watercress salad or the Fishcakes with Spicy Cucumber Relish or the Stir-fried Chicken with Cashews – that recipe is great when you have a time crunch.


  11. Colleen C March 8, 2013 at 14:01 #

    Tweeted: https://twitter.com/40somethngbride/status/310102704510873600

    Fingers crossed!

  12. Mary March 8, 2013 at 14:46 #

    I love the Family Meal – Home Cooking with Ferran Adria. Simple step-to-step photos, ingredients are easy to source, and techniques are simple from one of the world’s best chef.

    Love your blog and the idea of teaching boys to cook. – your former macaron student.

  13. Meredith Flynn March 8, 2013 at 16:05 #

    I’d like to see the petits chefs cook from the new Americas test kitchen book “comfort food makeovers” I’m very excited for this book to be released here in Canada!

  14. Dragon March 11, 2013 at 09:37 #

    I would love to see you and the petit chefs cook from Saveur’s The New Comfort Food…..one of my favourite books right now. 🙂

  15. Dragon March 11, 2013 at 09:37 #

    PS. ….just tweeted. 🙂

  16. Erika March 11, 2013 at 19:40 #

    I’m not sure if it will fit in the time limit but I read about this book online and it sounded interesting La Tartine Gourmande, by Béatrice Peltre

  17. Andrew P March 11, 2013 at 22:31 #

    My choice would be Gordon Ramsay’s Fast Food:

  18. Andrew P March 11, 2013 at 22:31 #

    Tweeted as well https://twitter.com/apham17/status/311303400811790336

  19. chris March 13, 2013 at 01:34 #

    I think theyshould try “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking” by Marcella Hazan.

  20. Chi March 13, 2013 at 09:40 #

    Nigellissima seems to be making the rounds. Didn’t you even blog about it recently?

  21. Chi March 13, 2013 at 09:41 #

    Here’s my bonus tweet, thanks!


  22. nicoleroannef March 13, 2013 at 13:11 #

    I know it is a little cliche but I love Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child and I would love to see the chefs cook from that classic book.

  23. nicoleroannef March 13, 2013 at 13:13 #

    I tweeted

  24. Carmen March 13, 2013 at 14:29 #

    It’d be awesome to see them cook from Chef Michael Smith’s Kitchen or the Garde Manger cookbook. 😀

  25. Yvonne T. March 13, 2013 at 14:38 #

    I’d love to see Les petits chefs cook from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. It’s always inspiring to know that a food blogger can gain such success. 😉

  26. Yvonne T. March 13, 2013 at 14:39 #

    I tweeted!

  27. Lisa Penney March 13, 2013 at 15:20 #

    Definitely from Fresh! More vegetarian options! Thx!

  28. TW March 13, 2013 at 18:21 #

    Any cookbooks by jamie Oliver. All his food always looks so good! 🙂

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