Holland College Blog

News and views from around the college

Posts Tagged ‘competitive cooking

Have Knives – Will Travel: CIC grad jumps into international culinary competition at last minute

leave a comment »

Sean Burton full length

Preparing for an international culinary competition takes weeks, if not months. Developing and perfecting recipes and timing, ensuring that the kitchen is safe and organized, figuring out contingency plans in the event of last-minute hitches — it all takes time, if a chef wants to maximize their chance of winning.

Or not.

Chef Sean Burton, a graduate of The Culinary Institute of Canada’s Culinary Arts and Pastry Arts programs, stepped into the breach and hopped on a plane to Saint Pierre et Miquelon, an overseas collectivity of France located just off the western end of Newfoundland’s Burin Peninsula, with only three days’ notice, to represent the CIC and P.E.I. in a two-day culinary competition – and brought back a silver medal.

Sean was team captain for the CIC in the World Culinary Olympics’ Regional Competition in 2016, which won double gold and placed fourth in the world. He said the Concours Culinaire competition in Saint Pierre et Miquelon was unlike any other. Most of the events he has participated in have been black box competitions in which each team or competitor is provided with a pantry of items, but don’t know what key ingredients they will have to work with until only a few hours before they are expected to present their dishes.

“This competition was based on classical cuisine, so there were very specific dishes that we had to prepare, like souffles. I’ve never done a competition like that before. You need to distinguish your interpretation of the dishes from those of your competitors, you have to re-imagine them,” he said.

The opportunity to compete in the Concours Culinaire came about when the chef who had been preparing for the event had to cancel. Austin Clement, program manager for The Culinary Institute of Canada’s culinary and hospitality programs immediately thought of sending Sean instead.

“Austin asked me if I would be interested in going to France represent P.E.I. in the Concours Culinaire, but I thought he was joking,” Sean recalled.

“By the time we were able to confirm that I was going, we were three days out.”

Chef Austin said he had absolute confidence that Sean was up to the task.

“Sean took on the challenge with just three days’ notice, a case of sharp knives, and his proven ability. After two days of intense competition and the elimination of top competitors from the region, he found himself once again representing PEI and the CIC to the very end. We are proud of his amazing finish. Sean showed the world that our craft is alive and well, and in good hands,” he said.

Unflappable, highly organized, and quietly confident, Sean relished the chance to compete so far outside of his comfort zone.

“It was a whirlwind of excitement and competition that I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to share with my fellow competitors in Saint Pierre Miquelon. I would do it again in a heartbeat!”

After the competition, Sean returned to Charlottetown and his duties as a lab technician for the CIC; but not for long! He is now in China for two months teaching Food Theory and Production to International Hospitality Management students enrolled in the Holland College Educational Joint Venture program.

Culinary Youth Team Canada brings home gold and silver from Nations Cup

leave a comment »

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Culinary Youth Team Canada members Isabelle Chevarie and Tracy Wildrick participated in three days of intense competition at the 2017 Nations Cup in Grand Rapids Michigan recently, and were rewarded with four gold, including a Best of Show award for their appetizer, and three silver medals for their efforts.

Isabelle is no stranger to competition, she was part of the team Holland College’s Culinary Institute of Canada (CIC) sent to Erfurt, Germany last fall; but for Tracy Wildrick, the Nations Cup was an eye-opener.

I realized that it doesn’t matter how amazing a cook you are, it’s the team and instructors that win these kinds of things, not an individual,” he said.

The young chefs trained under the watchful eye of Chef Instructor Hans Anderegg for weeks in Team Canada’s new training kitchen in the Tourism and Culinary Centre on the Charlottetown waterfront to prepare for this high profile black box competition, but there are some circumstances for which you can never be prepared – like when you’re handed a bucket of live trout.

“We had a hard time getting them out of the bucket,” Isabelle laughed, “the first one slipped out of my hands and under a table.”

All’s well that ends well, though, and the trout ended up pan seared and served with a potato pavé that featured a layer of blue potatoes, earning the team a gold medal.

The students competed against teams from the U.S.A., Barbados, Mexico, Italy, and Scotland. Chef Hans said that culinary competitions such as the Nation’s Cup bear little resemblance to the cut-throat approach so familiar to fans of reality TV cooking shows. Isabelle agreed.

“There’s a lot of pressure, but there’s a lot of camaraderie, too,” she explained. “We may not speak the same language, but we still manage to communicate through food.”

Students from CIC will represent the country at international competitions as National Culinary Youth Team Canada. The CIC was awarded the honour following their exceptional performance at the 2016 Culinary Olympics in Erfurt. Rather than representing the country and competing against other junior chefs, they competed against experienced professional chefs as Regional Team PEI, bringing home two gold medals and placing fourth overall out of 57 teams. In 2012, the team brought home a gold and silver medal as Regional Team PEI.

As the team adds members, practices will ramp up. Right now, they are practicing about 14 hours a week, but by the time January rolls around, they’ll be in the kitchens at least 40 hours a week, sometimes more. Over the next couple of years, they will represent Canada in several competitions all over the world, leading up to the ultimate competition, the Culinary Olympics, in Stuttgart, Germany in February of 2020.

Team Canada Results
Fish/ Shellfish: Gold
Game: Gold
Appetizer: Gold (Best of Show)
National Dish: Gold
Pasta: Silver
Poultry: Silver
Dessert: Silver

Overall Results
Team USA             6 Gold 1 Silver Winner 2017 Nations Cup
Team Canada       4 Gold 3 Silver
Team Barbados   4 Gold 3 Silver
Team Mexico       3 Gold 4 Silver
Team Italy            2 Gold 3 Silver 2 Bronze
Team Scotland    2 Gold 2 Silver 3 Bronze