On February 7 Toronto’s Calphalon Culinary Institute will host the Canadian Regional Competition for the San Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef competition (Twitter, Facebook). Eight Canadian culinary students will create an original dish in hopes being selected to compete against the winners from the four US regions for the North American title.
The event’s judges will be James Chatto, Claire Tainsey of Chatelaine and Chefs Chris Mills, François Blais, Jeff Dell, and Laurent Godbout (of Joey’s Restaurants, Panache Restaurant, Milestones, and l’Épicier respectively) as well as a guest judge from the food blogging community. I’m honoured to have been invited to post on why I should be a judge but in order to do so I’ll have to sail pretty close to the wind of trademark violation.
First, I’ve seen the movie Almost Famous more than a couple times. The soundtrack is amazing, Phillip Seymour-Hoffman is just starting to make his case for Best Character Actor of His Generation, and it’s full of some very good performances from actors that haven’t done much since. I can sense some skepticism about how this counts as a qualification but know this: If at any point I’m distracted from my judge-ly duties it will be because Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” and Zeppelin’s “Tangerine” are on infinite loop in my brain.
Secondly, I’m actually a fan of North America’s most despised celebrity judge, Mr. Jeffrey Steingarten. I have read both of his books, in which his writing is erudite and well-researched but also humble and funny. Obviously, that stands in contrast to his television persona and the difference puzzled me until I settled on the only plausible explanation. Steingarten doesn’t translate to television both because it makes him nervous and because he’s offended by the demand to offer his opinion in anything less than a thousand words. (I don’t share this easily-offended sensibility.)
Finally, I’d make an excellent judge because, simply put, I love food. From curing my own pancetta, to building a pizza oven, to cooking steak in a beer cooler I think I’ve demonstrated a passionate willingness to explore food to its most basic, esoteric, and delicious ends. Through this site I’ve developed my ability to understand, comment on, and most of all eat food thoughtfully.
Who, I ask, could make a better guest judge than someone who has food in his heart, is inside the head of the most notorious celebrity judge, and has an excellent soundtrack to distract himself?