Tag Archives: Almost Famous Chef Competition

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.

Do-It-Yourself Recipes from the AF Chef Competition

12 Feb

As promised, here are two recipes from the AF Chef Competition that have been adapted for all of us home cooks.

The first one is an adaptation of Daniela Molettieri’s winning dish, and the second is adapted from Cole Nicholson’s signature dish.

Filet of Veal Stuffed with Wild Mushrooms, served with Butternut Squash and Roasted Hazelnut Puree

Daniela Molettieri, Institut de tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec (Montréal)

Veal tenderloin is stuffed with flavourful mushrooms offering up a tender roast that is delicate enough to serve atop the sweet puree of butternut squash. Serve up a fresh mix of carrots, parsnips and beets for additional colour and vegetables for the dinner plate.

2 veal or pork tenderloins (about 2 lbs/1 kg)

1/2 cup (125 mL) butter

12 oz (375 g) fresh mixed fresh mushrooms, minced

4 shallots, minced

1 tbsp (15 mL) chopped fresh thyme leaves

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 tsp (1 mL) freshly ground black pepper

Pinch salt

2 1/2 cups (625 mL) veal or beef stock

1 cup (250 mL) dried mushrooms (about 1 oz/30 g)

Butternut Squash and Roasted Hazelnut Puree:

1 1/2 lbs (750 g) peeled and cubed butternut squash

1/2 cup (125 mL) butter, cubed

Pinch each salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup (75 mL) chopped toasted hazelnuts

Butternut Squash Puree: Bring squash to boil in salted water for about 20 minutes or until very soft. Drain well and return to pot. Using potato masher, mash well with butter, salt and pepper. Stir in hazelnuts. Set aside and keep warm.

In large skillet, melt 1/4 cup (60 mL) of the butter over medium high heat; cook mushrooms, shallots, thyme and garlic, stirring occasionally for about 15 minutes or until liquid has evaporated. Set aside and let cool.

Using a chef’s knife, make an incision in centre of tenderloin across the middle not cutting through to the other side. Cut along each side to open up a bit more. Stuff centres with mushroom mixture and close back up. Tie tenderloins with butcher’s twine in about 2 inch (5 cm) intervals and place seam side down on parchment paper lined baking sheet; sprinkle with half of the pepper and salt. Roast in 350 F (180 C) oven for about 45 minutes or until meat thermometer reaches 150 F (65 C) for medium rare. Let rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing.

Meanwhile, in saucepan combine dried mushrooms and stock and bring to a simmer. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Drain through fine mesh sieve and return stock to saucepan. Whisk in remaining butter and pepper.

Spread squash in centre of plate and place veal slices alongside. Spoon sauce along meat to serve.

Makes 8 servings. 

Tip: To toast hazelnuts, place in baking pan in 350 F (180 C) oven for about 8 minutes or until golden and fragrant.

Tip: You can serve the rehydrated mushrooms alongside the veal and sauce if desired.

Maple Juniper Venison Loin with Chocolate Infused Red Wine Jus, Leek and Potato Mash

Cole Nicholson, The George Brown Chefs School (Toronto)

Creamy leek mashed potatoes are the base for the slightly sweet maple flavoured venison. The taste is enhanced by the true chocolate flavour that sings in the red wine jus. A few Brussel sprouts with carrots would beautifully finish this earthy dish.

1/3 cup (75 mL) pure maple syrup

3 tbsp (45 mL) juniper berries

2 tbsp (30 mL) chopped fresh thyme leaves

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 venison loin or beef tenderloin (about 2 lbs/1 kg)

Pinch each salt and freshly ground black pepper

Chocolate Infused Red Wine Jus:

1/3 cup (75 mL) butter

1 carrot, chopped

1 onion, chopped

1 leek, white and light green part, thinly sliced

2 bay leaves

3/4 cup (175 mL) Meritage wine

2 cups (500 mL) beef stock

3 oz (90 g) 90% dark bittersweet chocolate

1 tbsp (15 mL) red wine vinegar

Leek and Potato Puree:

1/2 cup (125 mL) butter

1 leek, white and light green part, thinly sliced

1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped fresh parsley

1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt

1 1/4 lb (625 g) Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and chopped

2 tsp (10 mL) chopped fresh thyme leaves

1/2 cup (125 mL) 35% whipping cream, heated

Leek and Potato Puree: In nonstick skillet heat 1 tbsp (15 mL) of the butter over medium heat and cook leeks for about 10 minutes or until soft and golden. Stir in parsley and salt; set aside.

Bring potatoes and thyme to boil in large pot of salted water for about 20 minutes or until tender. Drain well and mash until smooth. Add cream and remaining butter and stir until smooth and creamy. Add leek and parsley mixture into potatoes and stir to combine well. Set aside and keep warm.

In large shallow dish, combine maple syrup, juniper berries, thyme and garlic. Add loin and turn to coat evenly and let marinate for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Place loin on rack in roasting pan and roast in 450 F (230 C) oven for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 275 F (140 C) and roast for about 1 hour or until meat thermometer reaches 145 F (63 C) for medium rare. Let stand for about 5 minutes before slicing. Slice into 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick slices.

Chocolate Infused Red Wine Jus: In saucepan melt 2 tbsp (30 mL) of the butter over medium high heat and sauté carrot, onion, leek and bay leaves, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes or until softened and browned. Add wine and simmer for about 5 minutes or until reduced by about half. Add beef stock and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes. Strain sauce through fine mesh sieve into clean saucepan. Whisk in chocolate and remaining butter until melted and smooth. Stir in red wine vinegar.

Place potatoes in line down center of plate and set venison slices along side of potatoes. Spoon sauce around meat on the plate to serve.

Makes 8 servings.

Tip: For a crunchy seared venison, rub loin with maple sugar (available in fine food stores) and sear the loin in a hot skillet before roasting in 275 F (140 C) oven.

Tip: For a smoky addition to your potatoes, add a splash of liquid smoke when stirring together.

The Almost Famous Chef Competition – A Celebration of Young Talent!

11 Feb

I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on the idea of mentoring and just how important it is to offer help, advice and opportunities to young people within specialized industries.

I never would have been able to work my way through and up in the television business – a highly competitive creative industry – without the mentorship and support of some really great people along the way. So it’s now my personal policy to always try to help anyone who asks me for advice or guidance. I’ve been approached by a lot of young, talented and passionate people in the TV biz over the last few months who all seem to have the same frustration: how can anyone move up or get noticed if no one will even give them a chance?

I’m assuming it’s the same story across lots of different industries – especially creative ones – which is why an event like the S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition is so important. I’m so happy to support this fantastic event, now in its tenth year, that celebrates young chefs just starting out in their careers.

It was founded in 2002 as a mentoring program that connects top culinary students with established chefs and influential media. It’s helped to launch hundreds of culinary careers and refined the skills of a new generation of chefs.

How cool is that?! Not to mention, inspiring.

Students from over 60 culinary schools across North America compete in smaller regional competitions and the winners from those land a spot in the big finals competition being held next month in Napa, and judged by nationally renowned chefs. 

I had the pleasure of attending the Canadian regional event in Toronto, where six top culinary students from different schools across Canada each had two hours to prepare their signature dish for a panel of distinguished chef judges, kitchen judges and media judges.

And at the same time, us lucky guests got to sample smaller tasting plates cooked by Calphalon’s chefs using the competitor’s original recipes. Such a treat!

George Brown Student Cole Nicholson's Maple & Juniper Seared Venison Loin

Judges had to scrutinize and assess the competitors on a few areas: creativity (plate appearance, taste, texture, and aroma), sanitation at their workstation, personality while being questioned by judges and media, and ability to perform under pressure. 

DeAille (Yee Man) Tam's Halibut marinated w/mirin & sake

At one point, I snuck into the kitchen where the student chefs were hard at work. I expected to see chaos, but the chefs were all working methodically and calmly, with focused concentration.

George Brown Chef School student DeAille (Yee Man) Tam working in the kitchen

I was also extremely impressed with how well they each faced the judges, answering their tough questions with confidence and obvious passion for their craft.

Daniela Molettieri facing the panel of judges

The winner of the night was Daniela Molettieri from Institut de tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec, with her beautiful signature dish of fillet of veal stuffed with wild mushrooms served with butternut squash puree. She used milk-fed veal from Quebec and locally grown vegetables, and drizzled the meat with foie gras sauce.

The judges kept saying how impressed they were with a unique cooking technique she used.  I took the opportunity to ask her about it afterwards. She told me that she wrapped the veal in tin foil and submerged the package directly into the flame on a burner for about six minutes, allowing the meat to cook evenly all the way around while staying pink in the centre, much like cooking sous vide. (Apologies to Daniela if I didn’t describe it exactly right!)

Daniela's Winning Dish at the AF Chef Competition

Daniela was confident, well spoken and knowledgeable while still being very humble. The judges asked her why she chose to work at two different stations on opposite sides of the large kitchen, creating more stress for herself. She responded by saying she likes a good challenge. My kind of gal!

Furthering the importance of mentorship, upon winning she said “I owe a lot of my success this evening to Chef Côté, my ITHQ advisor…He spent a lot of time helping me prepare for this competition and his patience really paid off.”

The crowd got to choose a People’s Choice winner, which was given to Anne-Marie Plourde, a student at École hôtelière de la Capitale. She won the hearts of everyone in attendance with her signature dish of Roasted Duck Breast and Gingerbread-Crusted Foie Gras. Our tasting portion of this was so flavorful and delicious.

Anne-Marie Plourde’s Roasted Duck Breast & Gingerbread Crusted Foie Gras

Congratulations to the chefs, who all did a great job competing that night. And best of luck to Daniela, who will be representing Canada at the finals in Napa. You can check out the AF Facebook page for more info and to find out the results!

And for an added treat, I’m going to post two recipes from the competition that have been adapted for all you home cooks. Stay tuned for those, coming up tomorrow…

We Have a Winner…

30 Jan

S. Pellegrino almost famous chef competition

Congratulations to Natalie, who won the $150 gift certificate to Lee in our Almost Famous Chef Competition draw. Here’s what she had to say about her most memorable food experience:

“My top food experience I can remember is a gnocchi dish I had at a little restaurant in Rome. My sisters and I had been backpacking through Europe for a couple of weeks and hadn’t treated ourselves to any “good” food in order to save money, but once we got to Rome we decided to go to a nice restaurant to treat ourselves. There I had the best gnocchi I’ve ever had in my life – I remember wiping every single drop of sauce off my plate. I hope I can remember where that place is if I ever get to go back one day!”

Thanks to everyone for the great comments about your food experiences. I’m glad that we chose a winner at random, because having to pick the best entry from all the stories submitted would have been a difficult task. Natalie’s entry was one of five we received that drew upon an experience in Italy. Others mentioned memorable meals in other parts of Europe, while some had interesting stories to tell from even more exotic locations (Bora Bora, Bali, Peru). One commenter mentioned Treadwell restaurant in the Niagara region, where Jenny and I had one of our most memorable meals a few years ago, and another talked about Chicago, where we’re hoping to finally visit together this year (hopefully we’ll get to eat at Charlie Trotter’s iconic restaurant, which is closing this August after 25 years). For some, the most memorable food experiences took place in their own kitchen. Ultimately, I think the range of stories we read serves as proof of something Jenny and I both believe – wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, food will always be a central part of what makes it special.

I have so many great food memories. But Italy – where Jenny and I travelled together in 2010 – stands out for so many reasons: taking a cooking class in Florence taught by June Bellamy, a native of Burma who’d relocated to Italy in the 1980s to teach both Italian and international cooking; discovering the Florentine delicacy lampredotto – boiled cow stomach served on a bun with salsa verde (sounds awful, tastes incredible) – at Nerbone in Florence’s amazing Mercato Centrale; and a meal at Ristorante Papa Re in Bologna that was life changing (a term I don’t throw around loosely).

Thanks again to everyone for entering – and don’t forget to come back in a few days to see Jenny’s look at all the action from tonight’s Almost Famous Canadian regional finals.

Almost Famous Chef Competition and Win Dinner at Lee Restaurant!

25 Jan

S. Pellegrino almost famous chef competition

Last year, Jenny and I were invited to the S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition’s Canada regionals in Toronto. The event brought together culinary students from schools all across the country, all vying for the chance to represent Canada at the Almost Famous Chef Competition final in Napa Valley, California. We loved the chance to see some of Canada’s next generation of chefs showing off their skills under pressure, and we were amazed by the dishes they produced for judging.

This year marks the 10th S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition, and the Canadian regionals are coming up next Monday, January 30. We’ll have a rundown of all the action after the event. But in the meantime, we had the chance to chat with Cole Nicholson, a culinary student at George Brown College who’ll take part in the competition.

We were also given a great prize to give to one of our lucky readers: a $150 gift certificate to chef Susur Lee’s Toronto restaurant, Lee. Keep reading to find out how you can win. But first, check out my interview with Cole Nicholson.

Cole Nicholson George Brown

How long have you been cooking?
I’ve been cooking for about three years now. I started working in a restaurant when I was 17 years old and I took the culinary management program at George Brown when I finished high school. I’m usually one of the youngest people in the kitchen, if not the youngest, so it makes it kind of fun and a lot more people are open to teaching me new things.

What first inspired you to get involved in the kitchen?
The high school that I went to was originally a trades high school when it was opened; it had professional auto shops, carpentry labs and a full production kitchen. Part of the curriculum was to take a trade class. I decided to take cooking because nothing else really interested me and I thought it would be a good life skill to have. I ended up taking it all through high school and I really learned a lot. In my grade 11 year, the school got a new cooking teacher. He was completely different from any other teacher at the school – he was only 27 years old and this was his first teaching job. He was fresh out of the industry and was up on modern cooking techniques and styles. He made me realize that cooking could be cool. He changed a standard cooking class into something so much more; we learned how to make fresh tomato sauce, veal jus, homemade pasta and ravioli, even butchery. If not for him, I would have chosen a completely different career.

Why did you choose the culinary arts program at George Brown? How have the curriculum, instructors and interactions with others in Toronto’s food community helped you expand your skills in the kitchen?
When I first started researching culinary schools, George Brown really stood out to me because of the number of people that have graduated there and gone on to be successful. Almost every great kitchen in Toronto has someone that went there and I thought it was a great way to make connections. The teachers are amazing. Every one of them knows a lot and they are passionate about teaching. Many of them have great connections and are open to helping you with your career.

What cuisines and/or ingredients are you most passionate about?
I just got back from working and living in Italy for four months as part of my Italian program at George Brown. I worked in a great restaurant called Il Baluardo in the Piedmonte region of northern Italy. It was extreme culture shock at first, but being back home I miss everything about Italy. They have an amazing respect for food and ingredients and their lives revolve around their daily meals. I learned so much while in Italy and I came back to Canada with a lot of passion for Italian food and culture.

How would you define your cooking style? 
I don’t really think I am old enough or experienced enough to really have my own “style” of cooking yet. I love to learn new techniques and try to figure out new ways of preparing something. My favourite styles to learn from are chefs who use a lot of old school techniques and flavours in their cooking, but done in a modern way to get the most out of their product.

What current food trends are you most excited about?
The trend that excites me most right now is chefs having relations with farmers and purveyors and really promoting them in their restaurants and on their menus. I think this all really started with Thomas Keller at the French Laundry, but many other great chefs around the world and in Toronto have gone on to do the same.

How are you preparing for the S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition?
I was first notified that I would be competing in the competition by my teacher back when I was in Italy. I was notified in October and had to have my menu submitted in November. I had no way of practicing while in Italy, so I did a lot of research on seasonal products of Canada at the time of the competition. I put a menu together using seasonal products that I find interesting and challenging to work with. I was a little homesick at the time, so my dish is pretty Canadian. When I got back to Canada a few weeks ago, I started practicing at the school and the dish came together. I’ve been practicing two or three days a week and refining the dish.

Have you heard much about previous years’ competitions to get a sense of what to expect and what’s worked for the competing chefs?
I had not really heard much about it until the student from George Brown (Jean-François Daigle) won the Canadian regional competition last year. His coach, who is now my coach, was one of my culinary instructors last year and I expressed interest to him in competing this year. One of the students in my program, Brian Cheng, competed two years ago and once he found out I would be competing he gave me a lot of helpful advice. He told me a lot of basic considerations to take into account when preparing the menu: proteins that I shouldn’t use, things the judges look for.

What are you hoping to do with your career once you’ve graduated from George Brown?
I really want to work in the U.S. I think that they have a lot to offer and I could learn a lot working there. Chefs there are combining some amazing skills and techniques with great products to produce some of the best food in the world. I have a list of places that I want to work at: The French Laundry in Napa Valley, Le Bernardin in New York City and Alinea in Chicago.

What chef would you most love to cook with?
If I could cook a meal with any chef, it would be Thomas Keller. I had the opportunity to meet him and hear him speak when he was in Toronto a few years ago. He completely changed my outlook on food. His whole approach to food and respect for ingredients and people is something to learn from. The French Laundry cookbook is like my bible, not for the recipes necessarily, but for the philosophy and wisdom. I had the opportunity to eat at his restaurant Per Se in New York City last year and it was a life changing experience. I knew after that meal what I wanted to do with my life.

WIN A $150 GIFT CERTIFICATE TO LEE RESTAURANT!

For a chance at this great prize, here’s what you need to do:

Click here to leave a comment, telling us about your top food experience. It could be a great restaurant meal you had, a food adventure like taking a cooking class in a foreign country, something amazing you cooked in your own kitchen, or a food memory from your childhood. The possibilities are endless. Whatever your favorite food experience is, we want to hear about it.

We’ll take all the comments we’ve received by 11:59 p.m. this Sunday, January 29, assign each a random number, and then choose a winner at random using random.org.

**You don’t have to live in Toronto to win, but the prize includes the restaurant gift certificate only (no travel expenses, etc), which means a winner from outside of the Greater Toronto Area must plan to be visiting Toronto in the near future to use the gift certificate.

A glimpse of Canada’s young talent at the Almost Famous Chef Competition

17 Feb

Almost Famous Chef Competition Dishes

For the past nine years, the S.Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition has given talented culinary school students from across North America the chance to show off their talents. The annual competition is composed of 10 regional contests and a finals competition.

Jenny and I were lucky enough to be invited as media to check out the Canadian regional competition in Toronto last week. Eight students from the George Brown College Chef School, The International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Vancouver, École hôtelière de la Capitale in Québec City and Montreal’s Institut de tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec were asked to create their ‘signature’ dish for a panel of judges including restaurant chefs, food writers and blogger David Ort of Food with Legs.

Chefs Working in Kitchen
Almost Famous Chef contestants working in the kitchen

Each competing chef was free to incorporate any ingredients and cooking techniques into their dish, and it was amazing to see what was created, and to hear the students talk to the judges about what inspired them. In most cases, the chefs chose ingredients common to their home province and talked about their passion for Canada’s bounty. Jenny and I were happy to be able to eat many of the foods we love – bison, duck, pork belly, lobster, scallops – served in interesting new ways. And we even had the opportunity to taste something new – salsify, a vegetable I’d heard of but had never tasted, and which showed up in a couple of the chefs’ dishes.

Piglet Belly and Lobster Pasta
Piglet belly with lobster ravioli from Emile Balk at Montreal’s Institut de tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec… one of our favorite dishes of the night

The chefs’ focus was also clearly evident in the kitchen. We were able to spend some time watching the students cook. In contrast to the chaos shown in the kitchens of shows like Top Chef and Chopped, the scene in the Calphalon Culinary Center’s professional kitchen was one of quiet intensity.

In addition to preparing composed dishes for each of the judges, plated as they might be served in a restaurant, each competing chef was also tasked with preparing tasting portions of their creations for each of the 100+ invited guests and media to sample. Guests were then asked to choose their favourite dish, with the winner receiving the People’s Choice Award. Christine Amanatidis of the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Vancouver took this honour for her amazing dish of crisp seared duck breast served with a savoury chestnut bread pudding. I’m a huge fan of bread pudding and I’d never tried a savoury version, so Christine’s dish was really inspiring.

Chestnut Bread pudding
Chef Amanatidis’ duck with chestnut bread pudding

But the night’s big winner was Jean-François Daigle of Toronto’s George Brown College Chef School. He wowed the judges with bison tenderloin cooked sous-vide and then pan-seared, which he served with an apple-parsnip-mustard puree, asparagus and a sauce of honey, red wine and beef stock.

Almost Famous Chef contestants in Toropnto
Announcing the winner…

He’ll move on to the finals in California’s Napa Valley from March 11 to 14, for the chance to win the grand prize of $10,000 and the opportunity to work as a paid apprentice for one year with a recognized chef. The finals will be streamed live via the Almost Famous Chef website and Facebook page, so you can follow the action.

Honey-Seared Bison with Apple-Parsnip Puree
Chef Daigle’s honey-seared bison with apple-parsnip puree

In the meantime, why not recreate the winning dishes for yourself? Below are Christine Amanatidis and Jean-François Daigle’s recipes, which they’ve adapted for home cooks. Bon appetit!

Honey Seared Bison Tenderloin with Apple Parsnip Puree
Jean-Francois Daigle, The George Brown Chef’s School (Toronto)

2 cups (500 mL) beef broth
2/3 cup (150 mL) dry red wine
1 cup (250 mL) each diced carrots and onion
3/4 cup (175 mL) diced celery
2 bay leaves
1 tsp (5 mL) whole black peppercorns
1 buffalo or beef tenderloin, about 2 lbs/1 kg, cut into 8 equal portions
Sea salt and pepper
1 tbsp (15 mL) extra virgin olive oil or garlic oil
2 tbsp (25 mL) liquid honey
2 tsp (10 mL) chopped fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp/2 mL dried thyme leaves

Apple Parsnip Puree:

1 lb (500 g) parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 lb (500 g) apples, peeled, cored and chopped
2 tbsp (25 mL) 35% whipping cream, hot
2 tsp (10 mL) Dijon mustard
Salt and white pepper

Apple Parsnip Puree: In pot of boiling water cook parsnips, covered for 15 minutes or until tender. Add apples, cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until very tender. Drain well and puree in a food processor until smooth. Whisk in cream and mustard and season to taste with salt and pepper; keep warm.

Meanwhile, in saucepan bring stock, wine, carrots, celery, onion, bay leaves and peppercorns to a boil and simmer until reduced to 2-1/2 cups (625 mL). Remove bay leaves and discard.

Sprinkle tenderloin with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large skillet, in batches sear both sides of the tenderloin and place on lightly greased baking sheet. Drizzle with honey and sprinkle with thyme. Roast in 425 F (220C) oven for 5 to 7 minutes or until meat thermometer inserted in centre reaches 145 F (63 C) for medium-rare.

Spoon apple parsnip puree in centre of plate and top with tenderloin and spoon vegetable sauce around plate.

Makes 8 servings.

Duck Breast with Chestnut Bread Pudding
Christine Amanatidis, The International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Vancouver

4 boneless duck breasts
Salt and pepper

Chestnut-Chai Bread Pudding:

1 cup (250 mL) chicken broth
1 cinnamon stick
5 each whole cloves and green cardamom pods
3 slices fresh ginger
1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
1/4 cup (50 mL) minced shallots
1/2 cup (125 mL) whole milk
2 eggs
8 roasted chestnuts, quartered
1/2 tsp (2 mL) freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
8 cups (2 L) 1/2-inch (1 cm) cubed multigrain sourdough bread
2 tbsp (25 mL) butter, broken into tiny pieces

Chestnut-Chai Bread Pudding: In saucepan bring chicken broth, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and ginger to boil. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and steep for 5 minutes. Strain and discard spices.

Meanwhile, in a skillet heat oil over medium heat and cook shallots for about 4 minutes or until lightly browned; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together milk and eggs. Add steeped chicken broth, shallot, chestnuts, pepper and salt. Stir in bread to coat well. Spread evenly into 13 x 9- inch (3 L) pan lined with parchment paper. Scatter butter on top and bake in 400F (200C) oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until top is golden brown. Let cool slightly before slicing into 8 pieces, approximately 4 x 3- inches (10 cm x 7.5 cm).

Score duck skin in a cross diamond pattern and season with salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and place duck breast skin side down. Reduce heat to medium and let cook for about 5 minutes or until crisp and brown. Turn duck and place in oven for about 8 minutes or until thermometer reaches 155 F (68 C). Let stand before slicing. Place bread pudding on each plate and top with sliced duck.

Makes 8 servings.

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