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- Who will represent Ottawa in the 2024 Canadian Culinary Championships?
Who will represent Ottawa in the 2024 Canadian Culinary Championships?
Six local chef’s teams went head to head in the Ottawa Senior Chef’s Culinary Challenge to vie for a spot.
From the folks that brought you the Orleans Beer Festival, the Cork and Fork Festival was back for its second run at the Shenkman Arts Centre.
The event, celebrating the gourmet in you, showcased dozens of vendors with locally produced spirits, wines and foods. It was a selection offering something for everyone and the sparkling energy that first night suggested that people were sampling everything.
My focus that evening was the Ottawa Senior Chef’s Culinary Challenge. Six local chef’s teams went head to head to vie for a spot in the 2024 Canadian Culinary Championships to be held in Edmonton.
I’ve listed the teams and dishes below in the order that they placed at the end.
Winning Ottawa University team. Ralf Joneikies/Ottawa Lookout
Ottawa University executive chef Janik Quintal created the winning dish of pan seared smoked duck breast on a bed of makhani du Puy lentils, pickled beet, shallot cups and Saskatoon berry duck reduction.
Smoked duck. Ralf Joneikies/Ottawa Lookout
It was certainly worthy of the title. The duck had been modestly smoked and the lentils were a reminder of how fabulous they can be when properly handled. I almost went back for seconds and I felt that the Saskatoon berry duck reduction should have come with a sippy cup.
Atelier team. Ralf Joneikies/Ottawa Lookout
Atelier sous chef Mariel Legere-Van Herpen constructed a menu of broiled hamachi, Hokkaido uni, tonkatsu gel, smoked avocado, crispy nori, compressed water chestnuts, pomelo and sea grapes.
Broiled Hamachi. Ralf Joneikies/Ottawa Lookout
It was an attractive example of tweezer food that took some time to assemble and tested the patience of those in line. Plates were then passed out and it was a success. So much so that her dish won the evening's People's Choice award.
Shaw Centre team. Ralf Joneikies/Ottawa Lookout
My personal favourite, chef Matt Seguin’s preserved tomato pressé, duck prosciutto,shaved fennel, basil gel and crunchy kalamata olive, was a creation that delivered a payload of umami.
Pressed tomato with duck prosciutto. Ralf Joneikies/Ottawa Lookout
Two chefs spent a total of eight hours blanching, peeling and seeding 70 kilos of tomatoes. The tomato “petals” were then stacked and pressed for a day, establishing a dense yet pliable tomato cake.
The duck prosciutto was an excellent example of charcuterie and went so well with the black olive and tomato. For my money this was an example of top-tier cooking but with restraint and smart consideration of how the elements would combine. No overloading the plates.
El Camino team. Ralf Joneikies/Ottawa Lookout
Chefs from the two El Camino restaurants Barry Moore (ByWard Market) and Matt Bishop (Elgin Street) offered an octopus tostada on a manchego “tortilla” with a grilled scallion gremolata and a side of poblano cream.
Octopus tostada. Ralf Joneikies/Ottawa Lookout
For me it was one of the top tastes of the evening and deserves an honourable mention. The octopus was tender and the poblano cream was a delicious accompaniment giving a modest heat that didn’t overwhelm the flavour of the manchego cheese. In fact the two elements married rather nicely.
Cork and Fork showcased some serious culinary talent that for some of the public may have flown under the radar until now. It’s an event I’ll revisit next year and I’ll be interested to discover the next up-and-coming stars from the local culinary landscape.f7