This post is dedicated to ALL my supporters and contributors who made it possible for me to attend the Kitchenaid Cook for the Cure Culinary Showdown event in 2014 to support The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation (CBCF). I was able to raise about $2800 which allowed me to participate in the Celebrity Chef School during the day, and compete on stage with a team under Chef Vikram Vij’s mentorship at the Culinary Showdown reception to battle for the Culinary Showdown title.
Last year, the event raised over $600, 000 towards CBCF and knowing that my fundraising efforts contributed to the amount, felt amazing! Every bit counts! I wanted to share highlights of my bucket list experience.
Celebrity Chef School:
The participants were asked to wear a light coloured shirt to the Chef School portion of the day, where we received a ‘KitchenAid Cook for the Cure Culinary Showdown’ apron, which we were able to take home as a souvenir. I had a chance to meet fellow participants, many who have participated in previous years. I recognized one familiar face, Brooke Feldman from Master Chef Canada Season 1, so we sat together at the same table. I also had an opportunity to meet Ethan Adeland and Melissa Hartfiel, the co-founders and Managing Director from The Food Bloggers of Canada, who flew in from Vancouver.
Our breakfast and lunch was provided by Longos, where we had a smorgasbord of food from sandwiches, salads and desserts. The host/MC of the Chef School, who also hosted the Culinary Showdown, was Noah Cappe. I followed his show ‘Carnival Eats’ on Food Network Canada, so I was excited to meet him in person. We also got to meet all the Celebrity Chefs who were part of the full day festivities, which included Chef Corbin Tomaszeski, Chef Mark McEwan, Chef Lynn Crawford, Chef Susur Lee, and Chef Vikram Vij. It was surreal to be in their presence the entire day!
After the breakfast, we were told which Celebrity Chef team we would be teamed with. I was part of Chef Vij’s team, alongside 6 others including Patricia, Anita, Chanelle, Jenna, Skylar and his mom. Skylar was a humble and talented 12-year old from Vancouver who was an impressive home cook (read more about him on his website http://www.kidscancookgourmet.com/). We got lots of attention from having him on our team all day, and I was confident we would score some brownie points from the judges in the evening.
Before lunch was served, we made our rounds with our teams between each Chef station, where we learned knife skills, tricks of the trades and various recipes. We learned to make a fragrant Indian dish, siu mai (dim sum), fresh pasta, as well as how to grill a fish and make our own spice mix at home. The Chef School was my favourite part of the day, as it was hands on, interactive and informative, without the pressure of competing.
After lunch, we had a chance to strategize with our team about the evening competition. We discussed what we would potentially make, how we would best work together in each round and figure out a name for our team. We came up with “Team Heat” which was short, to the point, and the perfect name for being on Chef Vij’s team. Chef Vij was funny and was a great motivator, yet he was competitive.
The Culinary Showdown:
We had a few hours off between Chef School and the evening reception. Our team did not discuss our evening outfits in advance, but most of us happen to wear black to the formal cocktail reception, where we got to mix and mingle with the Chefs. We were not in our formal wear for too long before we had to switch to our chef jackets and prepare for the evening competition inside the banquet hall.
The reception was beautiful with centerpieces, chair covers and dim lighting. Each team sat together with their Chefs, where we were served a 3-course meal. In between each dish, we went up on stage to compete for the appetizer, main and dessert round.
Similar to the show Chopped Canada on Food Network Canada, we had access to a pantry with basic items, and got a mystery basket of ingredients that we had to use. All the appliances and tools we used were provided by KitchenAid Canada. We each had assigned roles including “the sous chef” and “the food stylist”. Another team member and I was responsible for cooking the dishes, including the meat, so it was important we nailed everything. I wasn’t nervous being on stage or the competition, but I did feel it was a bit chaotic with little space and trying to find all the ingredients in a short time period. The intensity of the moment did not bring out the best of all our team members at times, which made the experience more interesting. During the competition, our burner stopped working, so I had to run into the kitchen frantically looking for a replacement. It was team work that got us through each round.
All our dishes had an Indian flair to it, as Chef Vij had his “secret” stash of Indian spices, which we used in every dish. During the dessert round for example, we used Indian Vark (edible silver sheets) to garnish our dish. I don’t recall everything that we made, but having seen the other teams dishes, I knew we would stand a hard chance of winning the title. It was a tight competition!
What I loved about the experience was that it was a blast and we cooked together for a great cause! Being there with the team was one of the best moments I have experienced.
During the evening, we had key speakers discuss the developments and breakthroughs related to Breast Cancer Research and treatments, as well as an auction. The auction portion blew me away seeing how generous the Celebrity Chefs and the sponsors were. I was even more stunned at attendees who were able to auction for the prizes, as there were prizes worth over $10, 000. There are many people with generous hearts and pockets ($$!).
At the end of the evening, the panel of judges added up the scores from each round to announce the winner of the Culinary Showdown title. Chef Lynn Crawford’s team impressed the judges and deserved the Culinary Showdown title. Congrats to Chef Crawford and her team!
Here’s a video of the highlights of the event.
AGAIN, thank you to EVERYONE who donated and supported me and the cause! It meant the world to me!
Check out the 2014 Culinary Showdown photos on the website
If you are interested in signing up for the 2015 KitchenAid Cook for the Cure Culinary Showdown on Nov. 14th, 2015, please check out the http://culinaryshowdown.ca/ or please donate to cause and “Let’s build a future without Breast Cancer”.
With sincere gratitude,
Mary (aka Mary’s Happy Belly)