Gold Medal Plates (Edmonton)
Chief Gold Medal Plates judge, James Chatto writes this report.
October 19th ~ Edmonton has a special place in the hearts of the Gold Medal Plates team. The city has been one of our loyalist supporters since the beginning, it is the first to sell out every year and the party is always exceptional. Last night, 700 guests added to the ongoing legend at the Shaw Centre, waltzing to beautiful music from Sarah Harmer, Barney Bentall and Ed Robertson and giving a standing ovation to dozens of Olympic and Paralympic athletes led by the evening’s energized master of ceremonies, Adam van Kouverden seen here rocking the stage with Bare-naked Ladies’ Ed Robertson.
Joining me on the judging panel last night were Edmonton’s Senior Judge, food and wine writer and wine educator Mary Bailey, chef instructor and international gastronomic judge Clayton Folkers (who had just flown home from Germany where he was judging the culinary Olympics), catering guru and culinary educator, Gail Hall, The Edmonton Journal’s food writer Liane Faulder, chef Chris Wood and last year’s Edmonton Gold Medal Plates champion, chef Jan Trittenbach.
The bronze medal was awarded to chef Paul Shufelt of Century Hospitality Group who presented Brome Lake duck in two ways. As he introduced the dish, Chef Shufelt explained that he grew up just ten minutes from Brome Lake (near Knowlton, Quebec) and always enjoyed working with the birds. He began by wrapping a drum-shaped piece of the marvellously tender breast in prosciutto, cooking it until the full flavour emerged but the meat was still moist and juicy. A wand of the duck’s sweetly glazed skin lay across the surface and beneath it we found a drift of roasted butternut squash purée subtly spiked with cinnamon and nutmeg. The plate’s other main component was a weighty arancini of forked duck confit, wild mushrooms and shortgrain rice, fried to a splendid crust in duck fat. Some pickled sour cherries added a sweet-sour fruitiness and a sprinkling of bull’s blood microseedlings finished the dish. The wine match was one of the evening’s best – a brambly, tangy, richly extracted 2010 Old Vines Foch from Quails’ Gate in the Okanagan.
The silver medal went to Shane Chartrand of Murrietta’s Westcoast Grill – like Paul Shufelt, another regular competitor at Gold Medal Plates. He offered a most dramatic, almost art deco presentation of sablefish “Noir et Blanc.” The sablefish was the principal component (its flesh slipping apart into petals that melted in the mouth) crusted black with onion ash that added an intriguingly deep and deliciously bitter flavour. Alongside the fish was a cod tongue, slippery and rather firmly textured, that was lent a buttery flavour by a teaspoonful of foie gras-Cognac potato crème, the better to complement the sablefish. A little crab bisque served as a second sauce while lightly pickled baby pearl onions added a moment of acidity. Crunch was provided by a tall, tissue-thin fin of crisply fried mashed potato. Smoked sea salt was discreetly used to season the fish and a squeeze-bottle atomizer of fruity verjus was presented separately, to be used according to the taste of each judge. Chef Chartrand made a successful wine match with Lake Breeze Vineyards 2011 Pinot Blanc, not just because of his noir-et-blanc theme but because its shining fruit and forthright acidity enhanced most of the components on the plate.
Our gold medal was awarded to a young chef who has won it before – Nathin Bye of Wildflower Grill (at right) – who proffered a dish he called “Breakfast for Dinner.” Many of the judges raised an eyebrow as we read the description of the creation handed to us by Chef Bye in advance of the competition. So many components! So much going on! And when we saw the dish we were still not convinced it could all come together. But it did. An intricate knot of textural and flavour harmonies provided unexpected unity. Where to begin…? With an ornamental spoon that held a creamy bircher meusli of rolled oats, apple and quinoa, garnished with a tiny marshmallow, a miniature grapefruit jelly, a sun-cured blackberry and a half-inch-high tuile shaped like the 2012 Olympic symbol. A quail egg fried sunny-side-up, its yolk still runny, sat on a plinth of potato, golden beet and cheese pavé which served as the substantial point of reference for many of the dish’s more ethereal elements. There was a mushroom pop tart made with dried, powdered mushrooms in the flour that several judges (including me) found utterly irresistible. A triangle of buttery brioche and a puddle of spiced carrot purée were there to underline similar notes that Chef Bye had found in his chosen wine. The centrepiece of the whole affair was a maple syrup and bacon-infused panna cotta that contained a surprise – a meaty heart of Texas-barbecue-style pork paté that contributed a powerful meaty hit, as did a delicate vertical ribbon of crispy bacon. Chef Bye explained that many of the choices he had made while bringing this elaborate dish together were inspired by the flavours and aromas of the wine he chose, the delicious, complex, intense 2010 Chardonnay from Tantalus in the Okanagan.
Gold Medal Plates is a national culinary competition & celebration of the finest cuisine in 10 Canadian cities. Chefs are invited to participate and the Gold Medal winner in each city is flown to Kelowna to compete in the Canadian Culinary Championships ( February 8/9, 2013). Gold Medal Plates captures much of the spirit and camaraderie of the Olympic Games with dozens of sports and music stars participating, from Adam Van Koeverden Canadian Olympic gold medallists Jamie Sale, Kyle Shewfelt and Cassie Campbell (usually between 20 and 30 Olympic medallists attend) to Jim Cuddy, Alan Doyle, Jim Robertson, Colin James, Anne Lindsay and Sara Slean to name only a handful.
Proceeds go to the Canadian Olympic Team’s efforts to Own the Podium!
Photo Credit: Johwanna Alleyne