Gold Medal Plates 2008, Montreal

Gold Medal Plates Montreal soared gracefully out of the starting gate at the Palais de Congrès de Montréal on October 23. With some 750 guests eager to taste, listen and bid on this year’s dazzling auction lots, it was a merry gathering indeed and the spacious halls of the Palais inspired envy in visitors from other cities where Gold Medal Plates is close to outgrowing its venue!

Seated in the splendour to which they are rapidly becoming accustomed, the judges eagerly awaited the offerings of our 10 star chefs. Montreal presented some firsts for GMP this year. Denise Cornellier is the first chef to compete who runs a catering company rather than a restaurant. Also, Laurent Godbout was entered twice, at one station cooking solo on behalf of his restaurant L’Épicier, then dashing to the next station where he is co-chef of Restaurant Duel with David Biron? Opinions were divided as whether he was at an advantage with “two kicks at the can” or disadvantaged by splitting his energies and attention. Last year’s Montreal competition saw a distinct division between chefs cooking classic dishes in traditional ways and a more free-spirited avant-garde. This year, the dichotomy was not nearly so apparent as each chef concentrated on expressing his or her distinctive and individual style. As has been the case everywhere so far this campaign, the final marks were close.

The bronze medal went to Deff Haupt of Renoir who played with the sophisticated simplicity of a beet carpaccio, sliced tissue-thin, as the base for a pan-seared scallop. A slim wheel of orange, dried to a crisp, lay on top of the scallop as a base for a delicate orange and ginger emulsion. Big citrus flavours were earthed by the sweet flavour of the beet and the fresh sea taste of the scallop. Chef Haupt paired the dish most successfully with Huff Estates Off Dry Riesling 2007 from Prince Edward County.

The silver medal went to chef Gilles Herzog of Derrière les Fagots. He marinated red tuna in soy, ginger and sesame, seizing its juices and clenching its texture until it had the juicy solidity of beef. He then paired it with a mysterious cylinder of a white sesame emulsion, a butternut squash purée, and a spicy, tangy citrus chutney. The dish was beautifully matched with Black Prince Winery Vidal 2006 from Prince Edward County.

The gold medal was won by caterer Denise Cornellier with a dish that was the most delicious and pleasurable of the entire evening. She offered a bowl of a rich, flavourful Jerusalem artichoke soup dotted (in a rare molecular moment) with carrot “caviar.” Dressing the soup was a crisp fritter of Gaspesian crab meat, a fragile pastry wand and a ball of rich, flavourful foie gras ice cream. The combination of disparate temperatures and textures wowed the judges. Chef Cornellier chose another Black Prince wine from Prince Edward County as her partner – the First Crush Chardonnay 2005 which worked particularly well with the soup and the fritter.

Congratulations to all the competitors! Denise Cornellier now goes on to the Canadian Culinary Championships in Banff next February, representing the fortunes of Québec.

James Chatto
National Culinary Advisor
Gold Medal Plates

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