S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition: A Showcase of Culinary Promise

20 Feb

S. Pellegrino almost famous chef competition

For the past couple of years, we’ve been lucky enough to attend the Canadian regional portion of the annual S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition. The competition brings young culinary students from around North America together to compete and showcase their skills as the next generation of great restaurant chefs.

This year’s Canada regional competition is taking place next Monday in Toronto. I had the chance to chat with Timothy Van Ryzewyk, a culinary student representing Toronto’s Humber College in the competition, about what drives him to create great food. You can read his thoughts below.

But first, an exciting contest: We have a $150 gift certificate, good for dinner for two at Mark McEwan’s Fabbrica restaurant in Toronto, courtesy of S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition. I recently had the chance to eat at Fabbrica and chat with Mark McEwan, and I can vouch for the food.

To win, leave a comment below telling us what your most memorable restaurant meal was in the past year. We’ll draw a lucky winner from all comments left here by 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, February 23.

UPDATE: Congratulations to Victoria, who was randomly chosen as our winner with the help of Random.org!


S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef

What drew you into cooking?
I have always been passionate about cooking; my mother still brings up photos of me as a child helping in the kitchen. Everyone has to eat, so my goal is to give them a dish that they want to keep eating over and over again. I love the kitchen atmosphere – whether it be the long hours, hard work and dedication everyday or the occasional stressful day, it all comes with the job and I just couldn’t see myself behind a desk.

Who is your biggest culinary influence?
From the industry standpoint I would say Chef Susur Lee is my influence. His extremely hard work throughout his career got him to the point he is at today. From a food standpoint my biggest influence is my Mom. If it were not for her allowing me to be a part of cooking family dinners and holiday meals, I never would have discovered my calling.

How would you describe your preferred cooking style?
I enjoy the fusion style of cooking because you can take bits and parts of different styles you have learned and bring them all together to make a very ”out of the box dish” using very different cooking techniques. Introducing and discovering new food combinations and preparation techniques is definitely something that really appeals to me.

How are you preparing for the S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition?
I have been practising my signature dish at Humber College and at home at least twice a week. When I sleep, I dream of my dish so that on the day of the competition, I can close my eyes and produce my dish.

You write comedy in addition to training as a chef. How do you think your creative and humourous side helps in the kitchen?
The comedy I write is based upon sketches. I am currently working with a few friends on writing and acting in a sketch comedy show that we plan to have ready to send out by the end of the year.

Comedy writing is a great utensil in the culinary world because there will always be moments when you’re in the heat of things and someone loses their cool. Being able to defuse that tension can really save the day during a busy service – especially in my case, where I am currently the head expeditor at Lee Restaurant.

Having a constant creative outlook makes it very fun creating menus for school projects or for a competition. You don’t limit yourself; at the same time you’re being logical with the food choices you make.


7 Responses to “S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition: A Showcase of Culinary Promise”

  1. Victoria February 20, 2013 at 9:34 pm #

    Most memorable had to have been at Black Hoof on Dundas in Toronto. We started with a beautiful riesling followed by horse tartar, bone marrow, pork belly, and charcutiere board. The presentation, atmosphere, and of course execution of the meal has left me talking about it for weeks.

  2. Anita DesRosiers February 20, 2013 at 9:42 pm #

    My most memorable meal this year was a Bhima Warung’s in Waterloo. This meal was to celebrate my significant birthday and did not dissapoint. The funky Indonesian decor and the sarong clad waitresses added to the pleasure of the fusion food with its huge nods to South East Asia. It is not surprising that the chef at Langdon Hall claims this to be his favourite restaurant when not at “The Hall”! For your readers in Toronto, this restaurant is definitely worth the trip to Waterloo.

  3. SUMMER PLEWES February 21, 2013 at 8:24 pm #

    My most memorable experience was the day after Valentines. We went to a restaurant that we had never dined at before on the recommendation of a friend. Our 12 year old son was at a friends house so we decided to have a date night. We dressed up to the nines and went for dinner. The restaurant was small and fancy. We did not have a reservation so we ended up seated at a table that practically entered the kitchen. As was such we could see our chef preparing the entire restaurants food. It was quite an experience. The food was out of this world and I think I said “wow” about 100 times. Since we were the last table seated for the evening, we were also the last table out the door at night. We had a nice long chat with the employees there and were able to speak with the chef and his right hand lady as well. It was a wonderful experience.

  4. Katleya February 22, 2013 at 8:11 pm #

    My most memorable meal this year was at a great vegan restaurant in St. Catharines called Rise Above Bakery. A couple girlfriends and I went out for brunch one Sunday in January. We started with some vegan milkshakes, I had coffee and one of my friends had the peanut butter one – so yummy! I had the vegan mac and cheese with a fresh salad while another friend had the quesadilla. Rise Above also has THE best vegan cheesecake, which I had with cherries (it was also available with blueberry). I’m not vegan but I have gone back many times to take-out their cheesecake and much prefer it to “regular” cheesecake. Everything was scrumptious and it was so nice to go out for a leisurely brunch on a cold, blustery day.

  5. David Chisholm February 23, 2013 at 2:30 pm #

    A simple brunch at Hammersmith’s on Gerrard. Warm summer morning, great coffee, duck confit for breakfast. Nothing elaborate, just simple, belly warming food while watching the street traffic go by on a lazy Saturday morning. Enough said.

  6. Carly W February 23, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

    As if the holidays aren’t indulgent enough… I had a wonderful dinner at Morton’s Steakhouse. There’s nothing like a perfect steak (medium rare) with garlic mashed potatoes, asparagus, mushrooms, and brussel sprouts. Oh, and molten chocolate lava cake for dessert… what was I thinking….? 🙂

  7. jasmineyeung February 23, 2013 at 5:28 pm #

    A new restaurant – House of Moments – opened a block away from my house in Leslieville, Toronto. My (then) fiance and I decided to go on opening day. We walked into the building and were amazed by the 9000 square foot space, split into an art gallery, lounge and restaurant. While we waited for our dinner, we wandered around the gorgeous venue. We then returned to our table and had the most delicious, beautifully plated beef tenderloin and salmon teriyaki. We were so impressed with the dinner and the space, we ended up booking our wedding there – and of course, had the salmon and the tenderloin on the wedding menu (Our guests raved about the food – had we actually had time to eat dinner on our wedding day, I’m sure that would have ended up being our most memorable dinner in the past year, instead). 😉

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