Discovered Chef Culinary Competition

By: Alison Silveira

I am a big fan of the Food Network's show, Master Chef, which features home cooks competing for a chance to win prizes and the title of Master Chef. While watching the show, I have wondered if the stress and pressure that the chefs face are as intense in real life as they appear on television. 

A friend of mine told me about the Discovered Chef Culinary Competition which I recently attended. Similar to Master Chef, the competition was created to find Canada's great undiscovered chef. Chefs compete to showcase their culinary skills in front of a live audience. I was very curious to see how they would exercise their creativity and handle the pressure of making multiple dishes in a short amount of time. The competition was held at Nella Cucina, where I had my first professional cooking class just a few weeks earlier.

Jamie Drummond, a sommelier, was the entertaining host for the night. The chefs had to each cook an appetizer, main dish and dessert over the course of two hours using ingredients given to them in mystery boxes. A panel of judges sampled and scored the food and eliminated one chef after the appetizer, main course and dessert until they had their winner. 

The Chefs

Cesar Andocilla - Cook at Harvest Kitchen

Taylor Sweet - 1st Cook at Keg Steakhouse & Bar

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Magda Sylvestre Louis-Jean - Chef at La Creole

Kira Whittaker - Sous Chef at Jack Astor's Bar & Grill

The Judges

Zane Caplansky - Owner of Caplansky's Delicatessen
Alexa Clark - Blogger & Co-Chair at Second Harvest 
Christian Fontolan - Executive Chef at 7 Enoteca 

The judges were looking for creativity, playfulness and most importantly, flavour and taste.

Round 1 - The Appetizer

The mystery ingredients for the appetizer were mussels, ramps and Thousand Island dressing. Chef Whittaker struggled with the appetizer round, as she is allergic to seafood and was unable to taste the food that she was preparing. Chef Sweet also does not cook with seafood, so it was quite challenging for him, too. After the judges tasted and deliberated, Chef Whittaker was eliminated in the first round.

Round 2 - The Main Course

The chefs had to cook with breakfast sausage, duck eggs, Cap'n Crunch and collard greens. After observing the chefs in action, I could see that they were under a lot of pressure, as they were working against the clock and the chefs had never cooked with some of the ingredients before. With a live audience scrutinizing their every move, they were certainly feeling the heat. The competition had a lot of high energy and Chef Andocilla even cut himself, but like a trouper, he kept going. The judges both praised and criticized the chefs' skills and abilities. With Chef Andocilla, they wanted to see beautiful presentation of the food. They praised Chef Sylvestre Louis-Jean's creativity in use of the Cap'n Crunch ingredient as a garnish as well as incorporating it in her sauce. Chef Sweet was eliminated in this round, as his frittata was undercooked and flavour was lacking.  

Round 3 - Dessert

Chef Sylvestre Louis-Jean and Chef Andocilla went head to head to prepare a dessert, which had to include unique ingredients such as kombucha, meringues, blueberries and agar-agar. The judges did not like that Chef Andocilla used store bought cookies in his dessert. They loved Chef Sylvestre Louis-Jean's pudding and her use of the meringue. After the judges deliberated, they named Chef Sylvestre Louis-Jean as the winner of this week's Discovered Chef Culinary Competition. She was beaming and it was wonderful to see her supported by her family.

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This experience was something out of the ordinary for me, as it made me realize that I can exercise more creativity in the kitchen. On my next grocery shopping trip, I am going to challenge myself by picking up an ingredient that I have never cooked with before.

If you would like to be a part of the live audience of the Discovered Chef Culinary Competition, visit facebook.com/discoveredchefs for more information.