The bell rings announcing another battle of the cutting boards. 1 year after the infamous tie of summer 2016, we are both sharpening our knives for redemption. The amateur chopping of vegetables, the nervous chatter and the blissfully loud music announces another edition of the culinary combat.
This was the third annual cook off between myself (Nick) and my little brother (Jojo). We had been improving our games the entire off season in preparation for this event.
It was a blazing hot summer night in Sudbury Ontario. The star-studded, 3 person crowd was buzzing with excitement like a swarm of bees. The theme for this clash was Canada. Pretty broad right?
This was a 4 round cook-off. We included an extra dish in order to push ourselves over our limitations. These rounds included specific challenges as well, carefully selected by the judging committee.
Round 1 – 4 ingredients or less.
We had to muster up a tiny appetizer or amuse-bouche with the use of only 4 mere ingredients.
Nick: I made a pretty good dish with only 4 ingredients. The trick is to use the ingredients in multiple ways. Mushroom caps with truffle Parmesan cream and fresh oregano. The plate was met with adequate remarks. There wasn’t mushroom for improvement. (I’m sorry.)
Jojo: Joel made a green curry Thai salad with pear. The taste amazing, and trans-formative but the plate was simply a little to big for the judges liking.
Though I have the memory of a plank of wood, I recall that I took this round.
Round 2 – Canadian classic appetizer
This dish had to be a representation of Canadian classic ingredients or meals. This was challenging because of the clear lack of culinary identity in Canadian cuisine. Nonetheless, we did our best and I think our meals came out pretty good.
Nick: I made my take of a poutine. I used thin sweet potatoes, made a stout and pork belly gravy. I added grilled crab and the “crispy porkbelly”.
*Note: I was not vegetarian at the time. This dish was not my finest work, although the sauce was luscious and great.
Jojo: Jojo courageously took the challenge of preparing a classic french cold soup called the vichyssoise. Usually a cream based soup made with boiled potatoes and leaks, traditionally served cold. He completely transformed it to represent “Canadianity”. He made a blackberry, mint and scallop vichyssoise, that impress the soup out of me. Fantastic display of creativity, and research.
Jojo took this round after quite a long discussion in the judges corner.
Round 3 – Canadian colors
This dish had to be visually appealing and use colors that represents the Canadian landscape or spirit. This challenge was hard, but is a challenge supposed to be easy?
Nick: I felt ambitious and tried to cook something I had never touched before. Duck. I tried to cook a magnificently tough duck leg, in under 40 minutes. What a mistake. It was partnered with a cinnamon beet purée. Overall, the idea was there, the execution was not.
Jojo: He made for a steak dish with charred broccoli and cranberry sauce. Not his best effort either.
We both failed to execute our dishes, so no one won this round.
Final Round – Specific Province or Territory
We needed to cook a dessert that used traditional ingredients from a specific territory or province.
We drew our respective region from the hat. Anticipation building. I pick my the name and I get, the Yukon. Not ideal, to say the least, but I was going to make it happen. Jojo picked Newfoundland. Each of us had some thinking to do.
Nick: I had to roll (baking pun) with my sub par baking skills. So I made a custard tart with fresh lacerated berries to represent their abundance in the Yukon. I have never celebrated so hard after taking baked goods out of the flaming hot oven.
Jojo: He made a raisin crumble with Newfoundland rum. His flavors were off the chart.
The coveted dessert round did not disappoint. Seemed like a tight race to the finish line. Until the judges decided, that I won the final decision.
Clearly our most intense battle yet, the result could of went either way. In the end, the judges get an interesting meal.