Last night saw a brilliant party at Edmonton’s Shaw Centre as the Gold Medal Plates campaign soared onwards into the fall. We have never welcomed a bigger crowd – 775 guests – and, as always in this generous city, the welcome was warm and the auction bidding lively. Alexandre Bilodeau was the inspiring keynote speaker, allowing us to all to relive his gold medal moment from Vancouver with emceeing duties provided by the ever-charming Terry David Mulligan and dashing paddler Adam Van Koeverden. Irresistible music from Jim Cuddy, Colin James and Anne Lindsay kept energy levels high as a kite.
The ten competing chefs had also come to win, bringing first class ingredients and delicious imagination to their dishes. Such is the strength of Edmonton’s culinary scene these days that seven of the ten chefs were competing at Gold Medal Plates for the first time.
Taking the bronze medal was Chef Shane Chartrand of L2 Grill, the new restaurant at Fantasyland Hotel. He created a delectable roll of rich, soft, foie gras-scented steak tartare, rolling the finely ground raw beef in a crunchy, peppery crust of dried squid ink. At the heart of each slice lay a morsel of moist white monkfish. Two sauces complemented the protein – one a purée of sweet pea enriched with bone marrow, the other a tangy, sweet orange caramel sauce that served as a brilliant bridge into the wine. For that, Chef Chartrand went to Ontario, pouring the Wayne Gretsky No. 99 Estates 2005 Vidal Icewine, VQA Niagara Peninsula, a bold decision that paid off handsomely with a great match in terms of texture and weight.
The silver medallist was no stranger to the podium: Michael Brown, execuitve chef of Share in the Westin Edmonton hotel, won gold in 2006 and another silver in 2008. This year he gave us “a study in crab,” complete with some poetry he had written especially for the dish. Each guest received a small cocktail glass of rich, thick, intensely flavourful crab bisque topped with a corn espuma spiked with a hint of jalapeño and scattered with crunchy, colourful motes of beetroot crisp. Beside the glass lay a spinach crepe wrapped around a salad of Alaskan red king crab, the flavour cool and delicate but unmistakably crabby. A single parmesan gougère was the third element, its rich cheesiness leavened slightly by a garnish of micro firestix flowers. An elegant yellow beet tuile was perfectly crisp, earning the applause of the chefs on the judging panel. Chef Brown paired his dish with an appropriately aromatic Tinhorn Creek’s 2009 Gewurztraminer from the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia.
Our gold medallist last night, by a unanimous decision from the judges, was Andrew Fung, chef of Blackhawk Golf Club, who presented a duo of Alberta beef. A plump gyoza, piping hot on the warm plate, was filled with a mixture of red-wine-braised short rib, caramelized onion, balsamic and foie gras mousse – a rich mouthful indeed. A lip-sticking veal reduction enhanced it from one direction while a tartly refreshing Granny Smith apple purée leavened the effect beautifully. Lolling over the top of the gyoza was a piece of garlic-and-thyme-infused, oven-dried roma tomato. The second part of the creation came in a miniature bowl – slices of very rare beef tataki, using the hanger steak cut. Seared for seconds then sliced against the grain, the meat was spectacularly tender, dressed with shaved asiago cheese, olive oil and – in a surprising but very successful combination – a tangy ponzu sauce. The wine pairing was particularly well achieved, with chef choosing Road 13 2008 Jackson Pinot Noir from the Okanagan Valley in B.C.
Congratulations to all our competitors and thanks to our valiant judges! Now Chef Fung will start planning for the Canadian Culinary Championship in Kelowna next February. We look ahead to a busy rest-of-the-week with GMP events in Vancouver on Friday and Saskatoon on Saturday.