This week I had the pleasure of sitting on the judging panel for the Canada Regional of the San Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef competition. Eight culinary students competed for the chance to move on to the North American finals.
Jean-Francois Daigle’s honey-seared bison tenderloin was the judges’ favourite. Jean-Francois is originally from Dieppe, New Brunswick and studies at The George Brown Chef’s School in Toronto.
Christine Amanatidis of The International Culinary School at The Institute of Vancouver won the people’s choice award for her duck breast with chestnut bread pudding and roasted beetroot.
The answers competitors gave when the professional chefs on the panel asked how many courses they would serve their dish with indicate that I ate the rough equivalent of three wedding banquets. Some of the food on my plates–Christine’s bread pudding, Jean-Francois’s polenta, Francis Traversy’s “Pâté Chinois”, and Nathalie Des Rosiers smoked scallops all come to mind–incapacitated my already weak sense of restraint.
The dishes were all delicious and each of the competitors displayed a unique mix of passion for their craft and poise under pressure. The criticism didn’t stray from the constructive but I can understand being nervous when the panel asking questions includes Chefs Jeff Dell (Milestones), Laurent Godbout (L’Epicier), Chris Mills (Joey Restaurants), François Blais (Panache) and media judges Claire Tansey (food editor of Chatelaine), and James Chatto (editor-in-chief of Food & Drink Magazine).
It was surreal to be eating in front of a crowd but I definitely enjoyed myself. Canada will be well-represented at the finals in Napa, California.
Jess Bennett has a post that includes recipes over at Sift, Dust, and Toss.