Chef Irwin MacKinnon

Canada’s Great Kitchen Party

Canadian Culinary Championship

by Chef Irwin MacKinnon

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So my experience in Kelowna was one that I will remember and cherish for many years to come. Here I am amongst the best chefs from 11 regions across all of Canada. On Thursday evening each chef was given a box with an unmarked bottle of wine inside. Each chef was given the same bottle and was to try and determine what variety it was and come up with a dish that would pair best with the wine. We were also given an envelope with $500 cash for food and one with $50 cash for taxis.

The next morning we had to set out in Kelowna and source our food for our dish without exceeding the amount of money given. We then went to the Okanagan College and had to prep our dish for 400 people to be ready to serve at the Delta Grand Okanagan that evening by 5:30. The wine was a Mission Hill Cabernet Franc, I prepared a slow roasted striploin, cauliflower-parsnip puree with horseradish, toasted barley risotto, roasted golden beet, chimichurri, veal jus and a black cherry balsamic drizzle.

The next morning, Saturday, at 7 am we were bused back to the college to compete in the Black Box competition. We did not know when our names were going to be called but when they were we had to enter an unfamiliar kitchen with only our knife rolls, look inside a box containing 7 mystery ingredients. You then had 10 minutes to decide what you were going to make using all 7 ingredients then had 50 minutes to prepare and plate your dish for 15 judges. We were given the following, BC Quince, Buckwheat Seed, Chestnuts, Saffron, Sweet Potato, Sheep’s Milk Yogurt and Lion’s Mane Mushroom. For this challenge I made, Indian Inspired Sweet Potato Puree, Buckwheat Crusted Lion’s Mane Mushroom, Roasted Chestnuts, Saffron Infused Sheep’s Milk Yogurt Drizzle and Spicy Candied Quince.

We were bused to the Delta Grand Okanagan at 2 pm and had to start preparing our Grande Finale dish for 500 people to be ready to serve at 6 pm. We had shipped some of our food from PEI and also sourced fresh ingredients from Kelowna. This for me was the toughest portion of the event as my plate had eleven components on it and we didn’t have a lot of time. I did finish in time and was very happy with what I had prepared—a surf and turf kicked up a notch.

My dish for the Grand Finale was, Braised Certified Island Beef Short Rib, Pulled Short Rib with 4 Year Old Cheddar Centre, Demi Glace, Brined Mustard Seed, Blue Dot Reserve Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio wrapped Lobster Mousseline, Lobster Tail, Lobster Bisque, Asparagus, Crisp Potato, Micro Greens.

The Canadian Culinary Championship was by far the most intense and gruelling competitions I have been to, but also one of the best that I enjoyed very much. My food was prepared the way I wanted, I was on time with each event and although I didn’t make it to the podium I am happy with what I achieved. Everything I did over the weekend wouldn’t have happened with out the help of Chef Andrew Smith who acted as my Sous during the event as well as Diem Bui from Papa Joe’s as a support member of my team.