You’re not just good, you’re golden

It is said that competition brings out the best in us.

But when that competition is a culinary one, it’s the spectators (or tasters) who benefit.

Last Thursday, eleven chefs brought their A game to the Cunard Centre for the Nova Scotia 2013 Gold Medal Plates. The NS edition of the event had a dual “raison d’être” : to support programs for athletes and to decide who will represent Nova Scotia and compete in the national edition of Gold Medal Plates in Kelowna.

ruizImage by Kelly Neil

The chefs in this year’s competition included eleven chefs from around the province, but it was Martin Ruiz Salvador from Fleur De Sel in Lunenburg who won first place with a beautifully constructed and well-balanced dish that played on the idea of an east coast breakfast fry up: fish cakes were replaced with a salt cod and parsley root brandade, the fried hen’s egg subbed with a quail’s egg, cured pork jowl for bacon, a pig’s head mortadella for sausage (or arguably bologna), along with a few veg on the side, comprising honey and ginger poached edamame, pickled beets, beet green and napa cabbage kimchi. To sauce up the dish, a tomatillo confit, tomato and garlic reduction and a mustard seed and saffron mayo. Save for the saffron, all of the ingredients were reported to be Nova Scotian grown or reared.

Although they did not win, I have to admit a love for two dishes that evening: Matthew Krizan from Mateus Bistro served prawns that were steamed into a shockingly beautiful and palate-pleasing experience, and Luis Clavel’s gave modernist cuisine twist to a foie gras-focused dish.

The real glory of these events is the dedication, the pizazz and the excitement that the chefs get to bring to their plates at competitions. This is not to say that chefs don’t bring their all to the plates they dole out on a daily basis. But there is something special that happens at these events.  There is an opportunity for both chefs and diners to experience something new, something exciting. Everyone benefits.

But maybe the spectators/tasters benefit just a little bit more.

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