Vancouver 2008 Gold Medal Plates

The Vancouver 2008 Gold Medal Plates gala was another triumph. Almost 700 guests, chefs, cooks and athletes crowded the Westin Bayshore hotel looking to party and the event did not disappoint. Melissa Craig, chef of Barefoot Bistro and current Canadian Culinary Champion, was back on her home turf, showing her mettle with a delectable dish during the VIP reception. Jim Cuddy was joined on stage by local hero Barnie Bentall and the incomparable Anne Lindsay for several musical sets that had the audience on their feet.

Last year’s gold-medal wining chef, Pino Posteraro, owner-chef of Cioppino’s, prepared dessert and served as one of the judges. Pino’s involvement with Gold Medal Plates has been tremendous over the years in terms of both practical support and inspiration within the chefs’ community and it was a pleasure to induct him into the Gold Medal Plates Hall of Fame. We also welcomed Daniel Boulud, renowned as one of the world’s greatest chefs and now a gastronomic presence in Vancouver, as Honourary Chair of the gala. His generous donation of a weekend in New York including flights, meals at his restaurants there and in Vancouver led off a very successful auction.

The competing chefs’ imagination and dedication to the competition was in particular evidence last night with a wide variety of dishes on offer.The judges has their work cut out for them and, as has often been the case during this campaign, marks were extrremely tight with less than one percentage point separating the gold and silver medallists’ scores.

Taking the bronze medal was Andrey Durbach of Parkside. He presented each guest with an individual pot au feu of game birds and wild mushrooms based on a sumptuously layered, dark, clear game consommé. Bathing in the broth were several items: here a soft-textured farce of duck confit and chestnut wrapped in a bright green cabbage leaf; there a slice of capon and truffle boudin blanc; beside them, a porcini mushroom-stuffed capeletto, the pasta darkened by the inclusion of powdered dried porcini instead of a measure of the flour; a torchon of quail and pheasant breast completed the dish. Chef Durbach paired it with Stag’s Hollow Simply Noir 2006 from the Okanagan, a blend of Gamay and Pinot Noir that worked beautifully with the many flavours and textures of the gamebirds.

The silver medal was awarded to the inimitable Hidekazu Tojo, who has stepped onto the podium each time he has entered Gold Medal Plates.In honour of the season, Tojo decorated his plate with a real maple leaf and pine needles topped with a paper parcel tied tightly with raffia. Inside the parcel was a remarkable offering: a juicy chunk of supple poached pine mushroom; a panko-crusted shiitake mushroom with its own slightly different texture; a gloriously plump West Coast mussel taken out of its shell and topped with a morsel of lobster. These elements were wrapped in a cloak of soft, warm, golden smoked sablefish and shared their parchment prison with a green chili of the most subtle capsicum heat stuffed with a delicate mousse of ling cod. Outside the package was a small dish of crunchy sweet-tart Japanese pickled vegetables that provided a delightful and refreshing contrast. Tojo chose an excellent wine as a partner to his dish – the 2007 Riesling from Mission Hill Family Estate winery in the Okanagan.

Our Vancouver gold medallist was Frank Pabst, chef at Blue Water Café. His dish was a bold one, involving the (for some guests) challenging flavour of local red sea urchin. Chef Pabst mitigated the pungency by turning the urchin meat into a mousse blended with sweet Qualicum Beach scallop, glazed with a fine ponzu jelly. Beneath the mousse was a crunchy, refreshing salad of chopped wakame seaweed and leek. Beside it was a cloud of cucumber vichyssoise foam, its ethereal texture in contrast to the distinctive cucumber flavour, and on top of the foam lay a semi-translucent white pearl of sake and yuzu liquid jelly. A nori crisp. Brittle and tissue-thin, provided a different texture. The judges felt the wine match – Sumac Ridge Winery’s sparkling 2001 Pinnacle from the Okanagan – was one of the most successful in all the years of competition.

Chef Pabst now goes on to compete in the Canadian Culinary Challenge in February 2009 – three days of gruelling gladiatorial gastronomy to be held at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.

James Chatto
National Culinary Advisor
Gold Medal Plates

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