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Kelowna chefs face off in black box cooking competiton

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010 | 4:51 pm

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Chef Tom Curran of the Sturgeon Hall restaurant will be one of eight participating in the Stone Soup Chef event to benefit the Kelowna Gospel Mission. They will each go head-to-head in a challenge to create the heathiest, most flavourful soup from ingredients found at the Mission on the day of their competition. Curran will go up against Bernard Casavant of the Manteo Resort Mar. 3. (Photo Chris Stanford)

By Kathy Michaels

Local chefs went  head to head today, in the first round of a competition that will determine who has the best soup-making chops in Kelowna.

More importantly, however, today’s Stone Soup Chef challenge started showing this city how Gospel Mission cooks are able to turn ordinary donations into extraordinary meals for hundreds of people each day with meagre tools and equipment. The event is designed to raise money to help outfit the kitchen with better equipment.

“Stone Soup Chef is based on the Aesop’s Fable, where a stranger arrives in a village that is starving, and prepares a magical stone soup,” said the Gospel Mission’s Ami Catriona.

“When all is said and done, each villager has contributed the little that they have to the soup, and everyone is fed.”

In this case “the magical stone” is the donated foods the mission’s staff use to feed the masses every morning. “Soup is a big part of the 300 meals we serve using donations from our community,” she said.

While the event is fun, it’s also a quick way to ensure that the Mission gets the supplies it needs to run the kitchen efficiently. As each rung of the competition moves along, the winner will be forwarded to a final competiton which will play out at a gala fundraising event at the end of the month.

Today Bernard Casavant from Manteo Resort and Tom Curran from Sturgeon Hall competed by bringing their creations to local celebrity judges as well as the Mission’s clientele.

“It was wicked,” said Catrioni. “People were really pleased with it — they made two very different soups from the things donated here.”

Mixing up a batch that would serve dozens, Curran made a butternut squash, curry and apple soup. Casavant put together a turkey vegetable soup with spinach pesto. He topped it all off with savory rosemary muffin.

Casavant won this leg of the event.

“It was super close… only five points separated the two,” said Catrioni.

Curran wasn’t bothered by the end result. His soups are well beloved by the community and are well known for being among the best in town.

“I’ve been involved since the beginning when they were just starting to plan it,” he said, noting he took part in a workshop that helped low income familes learn how to make healthy food on a limited budget.

“I’m not into competitive cooking, I am more into feeding people.”

Casavant, the winner, is on the same page.

“Obviously my ego wanted to win, but I want to support what they do at the Gospel Mission — I really respect what they do,” he said.

If all goes well, the March 20 gala fundraiser will provide enough funds for the Mission to buy an industrial can opener, soup stirring paddles, professional grade oven mitts and a new freezer.

Remaining chefs are Edan Fay, executive chef at Lake Okanagan Resort, Jesse Croy, executive chef of Summerhill Winery, James Hanna, Chef de Cuisine of RauDZ, Bernard Casavant, executive chef at Manteo, Tom Curran, executive chef of Local Group and Michael Lyon, executive chef of Eldorado.

The rest of the cook-offs will take place March 3, 4, 8, 10, 12, 15, and finals on March 20.  Each recipe will be posted on-line at the conclusion of each round. A cookbook of the recipes, along with cooking tips and advice from each chef will be produced.

kathy@kelowna.com

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