At an early age I learned to appreciate those people in my life who could cook. My mother felt obligated to cook at least twice a day for Dad and us kids, whether she felt like eating or not, and she was fearless in the kitchen. No groceries? No problem. Just give Judy a pantry and she would always figure out something to prepare that was delicious and comforting. Then there were the church potlucks where home cooks from over twenty-five different countries would bring dishes that opened up a world of flavours and textures that I grew to love. Visiting my friends and watching the preparation of curries from Jamaica, nacatamales from Nicaragua, or pupusas from El Salvador while we chatted in the kitchen played a large part in my growing appreciation for chefs and home cooks alike.
I am fascinated when I come across people who have dedicated their natural talents and skills to a craft and who have excelled beyond the norm. When that craft is food, I move past fascination and well into the fan category. So, it was with great interest that I learned about a national culinary competition that has been quietly taking hold in Canada over the past couple of years.
The Hawksworth Young Chef Scholarship, started by Chef David Hawksworth, is a non-profit program that gives young chefs a head start in their careers by facilitating a nationwide competition. The winner of the competition receives $10,000 and a stage at an international restaurant of their choice. This sort of competition is a natural progression after culinary school and lends credence to all young chefs who are accepted into the program. Last year’s winner, Paul Moran, is now working at Nita Lake Lodge in Whistler after his international stage at Chef Enrique Olvera’s Restaurante Pujol, in Mexico City.
After watching this video profile of Moran, I immediately did two things. I googled Pemberton Hay so I could figure out how to burn some in my own kitchen and I started plotting a visit to Whistler just so I can eat his hand-rolled Root Celery Ravioli. I’ll be shocked if you don’t do the same.
Canadian chefs who are under the age of 28, have their Red Seal certification (or on their way to receiving certification) and are working full-time with a professional kitchen, are eligible to enter the Hawksworth Young Chef Scholarship competition. The application must include a recipe that they have created for a main course dish that only uses ingredients sourced from a list of provided ingredients, it must serve four people and be completed within two hours.
This is the first year that the program is having regional heats judged by local chefs alongside Chef Hawksworth. The heat for Western Canada is being hosted at SAIT in Calgary on June 22 and the heat for Central Canada will be held at George Brown College in Toronto on June 25. The winners of the two regional heats will continue on to the black box challenge at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts in Vancouver on September 28th, 2014.
I was curious about the ability of the local judges to remain impartial while tasting dishes that may have been prepared by their protégé. Brody Jones, of Hawksworth Communications, informed me that the judges who are tasting the food will not know who prepared it and so will remain impartial. The judges in Calgary will be Connie DeSousa of CHARCUT Roast House, Justin Leboe of Model Milk, Michael Allemeier who is Culinary Instructor at SAIT and Michael Noble of NOtaBLE. You can see by the list of Western Canada competitors below that the judges will have several of their own chefs in the competition.
1. Alexander Fraser, Model Milk, Calgary
2. Douglas Dika, Glo, Victoria
3. Lukas Gurtner, Sonora Resort, BC
4. Yi Felix Zhou, Nita Lake Lodge, Whistler
5. Stephen Baidacoff, Get Cooking, Edmonton
6. Chad Rittenhouse, Charcut, Calgary
7. Michael Christiansen, Pear Tree, Vancouver
8. Chris Pyne, Notable, Calgary
9. Richard Pilkington, Notable, Calgary
10. Corey Hess, L’Abattoir, Vancouver
I am looking forward to following these promising young Canadian chefs to see where they end up. Check back after the regional heats for a list of their Twitter handles so we can cheer them on and maybe one day taste their dishes ourselves.
There will also be a coinciding fund-raising gala dinner, available for public reservations, at Model Milk evening of June 22 with a special collaboration menu created by Chef Leboe and Chef Hawksworth. The menu looks amazing, of course, and you can call 403.265.7343 for a table.