David Lee and his chicken cartilage take home top honours at the Toronto edition of Gold Medal Plates

David Lee and his chicken cartilage take home top honours at the Toronto edition of Gold Medal Plates

Crisp chicken skin and chicken cartilage: David Lee's winning dish at the Toronto edition of Gold Medal Plates

The bar was raised mighty high last night for the city’s haute cuisine scene with a head-to-head cook-off between some of Toronto’s most dazzling chefs. Mark McEwan (Bymark, One), Jason Bangerter (Auberge du Pommier), John Kwan (Lai Toh Heen) and seven other star cuisiniers battled it out at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre for the Toronto title of Gold Medal Plates—a national fundraiser for Canada’s Olympic and Paralympic Athletes.  Held in seven cities across the country, Gold Medal Plates selects, by jury, each city’s top chefs, then asks them to create a medal-worthy meal. With plating assistance from Olympians (like dishy rower Adam Kreek), the meals are then judged by a panel of tough-to-please palates, which included food writer James Chatto (who is also GMP’s National Culinary Advisor) and last year’s Toronto winner, chef Patrick Lin.

And the winners are David Lee (centre), Jonathan Gushue (left) and Anne Yarymowich

This year, the competition was particularly close, with David Lee of Nota Bene just edging past the competition to win gold with his avant-garde “crisp chicken skin and chicken cartilage” dish. It featured a lozenge-shaped piece of chicken skin topped with plum hoisin sauce and sour apple compote, and a piece of white breast cartilage softened to perfection over 24 hours in a pressure cooker. Langdon Halls Jonathan Gushue came in a close second (barely half a percentage point separated him from the gold) with a torchon of rougié foie gras, and Franks Anne Yarymowich took the bronze with a roasted and glazed pork belly from a Tamshire pig.

David Lee’s win secures him a coveted spot in the 2009 Canadian Culinary Championships on November 27 and 28 in Vancouver, where he will face off against other regional gold medalists from Edmonton, Vancouver, Calgary, St. John’s, Montreal and Ottawa.