Happy Thanksgiving to all our cooking and foodie friends in the States! We hope you’re having a fabulous time today feasting with your family and friends.~ Belle and Ward

Last night, I went to the the Dunbarton Culinary Chef Challenge. It was a fantastic event. Run by our local high school, the idea was to see if local chefs could compete using local ingredients, getting everyone to be more aware of local farmers/food producers and the people who put it on the table (the restaurants).

Wonderful idea! It was a big, big success. They held the event in the high school gym, which was packed. The chefs served (and plated for the judges). There were 11 chefs competing and they were all winners.

I tried almost everything and now must do an extra couple million miles on my stationary bike to pay for this.

Chef Tristan D'Souza - The Winner!Chef Tristan D’Souza – The Winner!

The winner was Chef Tristan D’Souza from the Toronto Hunt Club – his Roasted Chestnut Soup with Cipolini Onions, Candied Ginger, Celery Hearts & Amaranth topped with a Foie Gras Foam was to die for, just unbelievable. I want this recipe!Roasted Chestnut Soup

He also served Roasted Orangeville Wild Boar Stuffed with Smoked Bacon & Black Infernato Olives, Purée of Cauliflower & Parsnip and Mustard Greens & Pickled Beets finished with a duo of Black Garlic, Raisin & Prince Edward County Merlot Jus (Orangeville is a local town). This was wonderful, too.Wild Boar being plated for the judges

And for dessert, he made Coconut Brioche Bread Pudding, Holland Marsh Carrot & White Chocolate Mousse Topped with Algoma Orchard Russet Apple Compote, Carrot Coulis & Maple Tuille (I did not have this or any of the desserts, but I wish I had!)

Second and third were Chef Bruno Elsier, the Executive Chef of Higher Education at  Aramark Canada and Chef John Harcourt of the Port Restaurant in Pickering. Unfortunately, I am not positive who came second and who came third.

I didn’t try Chef Bruno Elsier’s Cream of Cremini Mushroom, Filled French Crepe with Ricotta Cheese, Fresh Basil, Baby Arugula and Spinach, but it looked very nice and others around me raved about it. I loved his Stuffed and Oven Roasted Savoy Cabbage with Emu and Chicken Filet, Braised Belgian Endive, Shi-Take, Oyster and White Button Mushrooms and Duchesse Potatoes, although I did find the endive to be a bit watery, but this was probably due to the venue and the way they had to keep things hot.

Emu and Chicken

For dessert, Chef Elsier served Suisse Meringue Mushrooms on Lavender Infused Crème Anglaise with Fresh Berries and Belgian Dark Chocolate – as I had vowed to stay away from the desserts, I didn’t try this, but did it ever look incredible!

Chef Harcourt (of Port Restaurant) served Durham Butternut Squash Puree Finished Leg of Rabbit, Pear Salsa and Scallion Herb Foam and Duck Two Ways, Pan Seared Duck Breast Top with Sour Cherry Preserve, Confit of Duck Leg and Stewed with Duck Stock Reduction served over Mushroom Savory Pudding  and Poached Salsify Puree. This was absolutely wonderful, a real winner.

Duck Two Ways

Chef Harcourt's Trio

For dessert, Chef Harcourt made Archibald’s Estate Winery Black Cherry Fruit Wine Poach Pear with Vanilla and Infused Mascarpone Cheese, Pistachio and Almond, Crème Anglaise finished with Crisp Sugar.

I tried many other dishes that were also winners in their own right, Chef Andrew Selvador from Kobo Sushi did a wonderful stuffed quail, but there was no information at their table as to the exact ingredients so I will just leave you with this picture.

Stuffed Quail

Kobo Sushi is a Japanese gourmet restaurant just down the street from us; I go there whenever we decide to order takeout.

There were many other dishes, and most of the ones I sampled were very good. I did have a French onion soup that tasted like it came out of a can, so I didn’t finish that one, but I had two bowls of the Roasted Chestnut Soup from Chef Tristan D’Souza.

Some of the dishes were bland, but you have to remember that these chefs were all working away in a high school gym, preparing their dishes on single burners rather then in their usual, professional kitchens. I thought they were all amazing.

Belle says I have to learn to cook off a burner if I want to compete (I have, though – whenever we have Shabu Shabu) but most of their work was done before and brought in warming boxes first. Still, it was quite a feat. The place was packed and they kept on serving and also plated for the judges.

They are going to do this again in the spring, I will be first in line – if I am not competing!

Belle’s note: Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to go to the Culinary Chef Challenge; I wasn’t feeling well, so I stayed home with Dylan and his friend Matthew (we were originally going to take them both with us – I’m not sure what Dylan would have said, with no macaroni and cheese in sight!) It worked out well, though, because at least one of us got to sample a lot of the delicious dishes; I doubt very much if we would have had the chance to do so if we had brought the boys with us as we had originally intended. Can’t you see Ward having fun participating in a culinary challenge? I can!