Victory last night against nine competitors entitles Garland to compete in grand finale in Kelowna in February
NOV 18 14 – 11 AM — Chef Patrick Garland, owner of Absinthe Café on Wellington Street, took top gold title Monday at the 10th annual regional Gold Medal Plates competition, beating nine local challengers. It was Garland’s second attempt in the invitational culinary competition. His dish was quail stuffed with foie gras with braised thigh croquette (more details below).
Placing second with silver was chef/owner Steve Wall of Supply & Demand Food and Raw Bar, also on Wellington Street, who has competed at Gold Plates two times previously.
Winning bronze (third place) is newcomer John Morris, executive chef at the National Arts Centre.
“It’s a really exciting day for me and my team,” Garland said, moments after his win. “I’m looking forward to the championship on Kelowna.
“I’m a French cook and tonight’s dish is classic and updated. We poured tons of wine into that dish — like, eight bottles — and we just marinated it. But it’s really my team that made me proud today, it’s all their awesome support.”
Said Wall: “The silver win is great,” adding that his popular carpaccio dish has been on the restaurant menu about six months. “We just wanted to do something we knew we did well and we love.”
Said Morris: “My team performed really well. As everyone knows cooking is not an individual sport, it’s a team sport. I couldn’t have asked for more.”
Ottawa was the 10th regional Gold Medal Plates competition held across Canada, to culminate in an intense two-day Canadian Culinary Championship scheduled Feb. 6 and 7 in Kelowna. The final regional contest will be held Nov. 21 in Regina.
Ottawa has done well in the Grand Championship in the past: Chef Jamie Stunt, formerly of Oz Kafé, took the national silver prize in 2013 after winning gold in Ottawa in November 2012. Before that, in 2012 chef/owner Marc Lepine of Atelier restaurant on Rochester Street took the top gold national prize after winning gold in Ottawa in late 2011.
Other regional Ottawa gold-medal chefs who moved on to place among the top three in national competition include chef Matthew Carmichael in 2009 (bronze) and Michael Blackie in 2006 (silver).
As last year’s regional winner in Ottawa, chef/owner Marysol Foucault of tiny Edgar restaurant in Gatineau joined the judging panel Monday night, and so did not compete this time around.
“Overall, it’s not the best year we’ve had in Ottawa but it was a solid year for sure,” said James Chatto, national senior judge for the Gold Medal Plates series across Canada.
“There were lots of good dishes, quite closely contested, with a number of chefs jostling for first place,” Chatto said. “All the judges chose the same top four chefs, but maybe in different orders, but when we crunched the numbers we came up with our first, second and third places and everyone was happy with that. …
“We had a lot of big flavours and good harmonies happening. We had some complicated dishes, and simple ones. We had one dish that we felt might have been presented differently — it was in a bowl but might have been better expressed on a plate where we would have had a chance to taste some of the elements separately.”
Chatto’s comments on chef John Morris’ third-place finish: “He did a smoked vine tomato that was gorgeous with mussels inside but it was the actual tomato that we loved. He did a great little mussel broth with that, and a veal fillet that was sort of squeezed inside almost like a boudin or mousseline of sweetbreads and we loved the creamy texture of that. It was a very successful dish, we thought, and a nice match with the Pondview Pinot Grigio.
Chatto on chef Steve Wall’s silver finish: “A couple of judges liked this for gold, but in the end it ended up silver with aged raw beef, which was a consciously simple dish but it was really well done. We particularly liked the smoked oyster purée that he turned into a mayonnaise, and the beef itself was delicious with eldercapers as garnish. That’s something I’d never had before — unopened elderflower buds pickled like capers. That was extraordinary, but it was just one tiny element on a dish. It was a simple dish, but flawless, and a very good match with the Sauvignon Blanc from Redstone.
Chatto on first-place chef Patrick Garland: “He did quail and grapes every-which-way on the plate. We loved how he did the quail with foie gras introduced under the skin as if it were a duck with that layer of duck fat. The fried croquette was very well done — I gather he had some problems with his heat sources at the station, but we didn’t feel that diminished it much. He had lovely mushrooms, beautiful grape gelée, tiny little frittered shallot rings. It was a very accomplished dish. It wasn’t avant-garde but it was really well done and we appreciated that. He used the wine in the dish a lot in various guises, for the jus and the jelly and things like that, and it was very successful.”
And the unofficial award for most, ah, interesting ingredient has to go to chef Kyle Mortimer-Proulx of Lowertown Brewery, who included kidney bean-shaped duck testicle in his very nuanced and multi-layerd dish in a bowl, simply called “Duck and Alliums.”
Gold Medal patrons are occasionally treated to unusual ingredients. Last year, contestant chef René Rodriguez of Navarra restaurant garnished his excellent molé dish with crispy fried maguey worms — the kind you might find drowned in the bottom of a tequila bottle.
Worms one year, bird testicles the next … What to expect in 2015?
“Duck testicles?” Chatto quipped later.
“I had no idea they were so big. It was an interesting dish, that. There were so many elements in that dish that were fascinating and beautifully done, but in the broth they all kind of merged together a bit and I would have liked to see perhaps a little more definition in that plate. Great to have a duck testicle — never had it in my life.”
This is the first year the gala, at $350 a plate, was held at the Shaw Centre where larger digs enabled organizers to offer 600 seats — 100 more than in 2013 — and increase the number of competitors to 10 from eight when it was at the National Arts Centre.
Chefs invited by organizers to participate this year were:
• Steve Wall, Supply & Demand Foods and Raw Bar;
• Michael Radford, The Whalesbone Oyster House;
• Kyle Mortimer-Proulx, Lowertown Brewery;
• Katie Brown Ardington, Beckta Dining & Wine;
• Stephen La Salle, The Albion Rooms;
• Pat Garland, Absinthe Café;
• Ryan Edwards, Salt Dining & Lounge;
• Kyrn Stein, Social Restaurant & Lounge;
• Pierre Lortie, Le Baccara, Casino Lac-Leamy;
• John Morris, Le Café, National Arts Centre.
Seven chefs were newcomers this time around: La Salle, Radford, Mortimer-Proulx, Edwards, Stein, Lortie and Morris. Brown Ardington placed third last year.
Gold Medal Plates celebrates Canadian excellence in cuisine, wine, the arts and athletic achievement in 10 cities across Canada this year. Invited chefs in each city compete to win gold, silver and bronze medals, culminating in a national grand finale in Kelowna in February 2015.
Founded in 2003, the competitions since 2004 have raised a total $8.2 million for Canada’s Olympic and Paralympic athletes.
Judging again this year in Ottawa was head judge and Food writer/critic Anne DesBrisay; Sheila Whyte, owner Thyme & Again Creative Catering; James Chatto, Toronto-based national head judge; cookbook authors and TV personalities Margaret Dickenson and Pam Collacott; Judson Simpson, chef at the Parliamentary Dining Room. Joining the judges this fall was Marysol Foucault, as last year’s gold winner.