More Golden Plates
I flew into Winnipeg on Thursday for the second Gold Medal Plates event of 2006, the tournament preoccupying me in recent weeks. Cold wind and a foot of snow—winter has already come to the prairies—but it was charmingly warm in the sumptuously decorated Convention Centre. The evening was a huge success with Olympic and Paralympic athletes “assisting” their assigned chefs most graciously. A large and generous crowd relished the offerings of the city’s finest restaurants and then settled down to listen to gold medallists Paul Rosen and Clara Hughes deliver their extraordinarily inspiring speeches. Even hardened culinary professionals had tears in their eyes.
It was apparent from the calibre of the offerings that every chef who competed in Winnipeg was there to win. The gold medallist finished up with marks about five percent clear of the field but the chefs who came second, third and fourth were in a very tight cluster. Taking the bronze medal was Chef Joe Dokuchie of Tavern in the Park who gave us bison carpaccio with a pungently flavoured tart of goat cheese and tomato. Taking the silver medal was Chef Lorna Murdoch of Fusion Grill who prepared a miniature tourtiere of moist ground northern goose meat topped with a little Dragon’s Breath cheese (New Brunswick’s finest). On the plate was a puddle of peppercorn jus, a fabulous plum compote and a tiny gold medal made from a slice of golden beet strung wth a chive as a ribbon. The gold medal winner was Chef Makoto Ono of Gluttons. His meticulous, avant-garde dish was a fascinating treatise on the beet, spectacularly presented and offering a very broad range of textures and flavours. Beneath a brush stroke of vermilion beet syrup, a hemisphere of chioggia beet leaned against a morsel of chevre over a small puddle of sherry vinaigrette. A folded slice of barely seared ahi tuna, soft as satin, was speared on a bamboo spike with caramelized golden beet over a tiny pool of vanilla butter and red amaranth microgreens. Very crisp red beet chips were drizzled with dark chocolate beside a standing square of red beet jelly and a sprinkling of beet dust. The dish was paired with Tinhorn Creek Vineyards 2001 Merlot VQA.
Ono now moves on to the next stage of the competition, the Grand National Championship to be held in Whistler B.C. on February 1 to 4. There he will compete against Chef Ray Bear, winner of Gold Medal Plates 2006 Halifax, and against the winners of our upcoming events in Edmonton, Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa and Calgary. The ultimate champion of the Whistler competition will win a trip to the Beijing Olympics.
Meanwhile, the party continues on to Edmonton—via Toronto, fortunately for Paul Rosen (goalie of Canada’s gold medal-winning Paralympic sledge hockey team). His carry-on luggage for the flight home was a box of two substantial cakes from Jeanne’s Cakes in Winnipeg. Though they live in Thornhill, his wife comes from Winnipeg and insists he brings these confections to her whenever he visits her old hometown. Ever the hero, Paul obliges. “The first one gets eaten in the car on the way home from the airport,” he explains.