Three chefs prepare for battle. One cooks modern French fare. Another uses molecular gastronomy, turning his kitchen into a lab. And the third is a down-home cooking enthusiast who plans to open a food truck this spring.
La Persaud vs. Niche vs. Big City Sandwich.
The battle lines were drawn Wednesday night at Ronald McDonald House for YEG Chopped. The brainchild of local caterer and private chef Andrew Parker, the event was based on the Food Network hit, Chopped. In that show, chefs compete against each other, and each combatant must use the items from a “mystery basket.” And the event was in support of the RMH's Home for Dinner program.
At the end of the day, it was La Persaud’s Tony Giesbrecht who ended up the winner. The judges (including, well, me) found that his team did the best job when it came to out-of-the-box thinking and using all of the ingredients to their full potential.
‘For the first challenge, the chefs were asked to make an item using Chinese five-spice, bison, orange juice and green apples. Eric Hanson, the executive chef at Niche, and his team created a meatball and mashed-potato dish with a gravy that used a lot of cinnamon. Unusual and delicious. And, being the gastronomic scientists, Niche’s team members created the orange infused pearls that dotted the dish.
Chris Delaney hopes to have his Big City Sandwich truck up by early April. His team, decked in t-shirts bearing the slogan “Epic Meat” made, well, an epic meat dish. Bacon and bison made up the burger patty, and more bacon was lovingly used as a condiment, alongside the spicy creamy salsa for plenty of kick.
And Giesbrecht’s team combined bison and foie gras for a meat dish that was buttery soft and perfectly cooked. And, thinking totally out of the French-fare box, they made biscuits — a nod to the cuisine of the American deep south. The orange juice barbecue sauce was sticky and tangy, and the biscuits were freshened by a tasty sauce that highlighted the green apple.
In a close vote, Hanson was chopped, leaving Giesbrecht and Delaney to battle in the dessert round: Bananas, raisins, marshmallows, balsamic vinegar and mint.
Delaney went with a campfire classic, splitting a banana in two, then stuffing it with marshmallows and roasting it. He served it with a mint-covered frozen yogurt and made a balsamic-brown sugar reduction in which he candied the raisins.
Giesbrecht did a take on the French toast. But what won him the day was the use of the marshmallow. His team melted down marshmallows and chocolate, then put the mixture in a Co2 canister. The result was a foamy sauce that has the smoky-yet-sweet flavour of a slightly burned marshmallow, which is a taste we all associate with childhood.
The judges, which included myself, Parker and Joe FM’s Jonny Sullivan, ruled that La Persaud won the day.
But the real winners were the kids and families of RMH, who enjoy fantastic meals as part of the Home for Dinner program. The house provides a home away from home for families whose children are undergoing treatment at Edmonton hospitals — and offers stability and support for parents who are undergoing some of the most difficult times of their lives.
Seeing Edmonton’s culinary community come together in such a way — and seeing kids enjoy the work of some of the city’s best-know chefs — well that was a reward in itself.