Wednesday, November 25, 2009

This Just in: Chicken skin wins!

It was my first mouthful of the evening -- an audacious one-bite dish that was all texture and umami-packed bliss. But could it win?
I was attending the Toronto leg of the Gold Medal Plates culinary competition, which pits the nation’s finest chefs against one another during evening competitions, held annually, across the country to raise millions in support of Canada’s Olympic and Paralympic athletes.
Described on the display card as “Crisp chicken skin and chicken cartilage” chef David Lee of Nota Bene presented his dish with a twinkle in his eye. This is what I’d call mischievous cooking: He knew he had created something great –- flattened shards of greaseless chicken skin topped with a plum hoisin, a tangle of green apple slaw, fresh coriander, and a pristine chunk of chicken breast cartilage that had been pressure-cooked for 24 hours. It was up to us to “get it”.
When compared to most of the other dishes of the evening –- fully realized small plates of venison tenderloin with sides and sauces, or seared scallops with smoked fish, I honestly didn’t know if chef Lee’s one-bite wonders fit the criteria. And even if they did, would the judges “get it”?
The champions from the other Gold Medal Plates regional events are: From Edmonton, Chef Nathin Bye of Wildflower, Lazia at City Centre; from Vancouver, chef Rob Feenie of Cactus Club; from Ottawa-Gatineau, chef Matthew Carmichael of Restaurant E18hteen; from Montreal, chef Matthieu Cloutier of Kitchen Galerie; from Calgary, chef Jan Hrabec of Crazyweed; and from St. John’s, chef Ivan Kyutukchiev from Bianca’s.
Chef Lee won the Toronto competition and will compete at the Gold Medal Plates Finale, held in Vancouver Nov. 27th and 28th.
My money's on him to take it all.
(BTW, I didn't take this photograph of David Lee. Photo credit: Martin Tan)

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