It’s not like it was a huge life goal or anything, but I’ve always wondered what it would be like to judge a competition. Would I be the Simon Cowell of the bunch, an encouraging presence, or someone out to lunch?
Loblaw (Real Canadian Superstore, Presidents Choice, No Frills, Dominion, Loblaws, Joe Fresh, etc) has just launched a Canada-wide campaign to raise $1.2 million and 1.2 million pounds of food, and was trying to figure out a fun launch event in Vancouver.
So the company decided to put on a black box challenge, similiar to what you woud see on Iron Chef — chefs are given a specific ingredient (that they don’t know about in advance) and a limited amount of time. They have to then create a dish to impress the judges.
The twist this time around: chefs Gennaro Iorio (La Terrazza), Ned Bell (Rosewood Hotel Georgia), and Quang Dang (Diva at the Met) would be using ingredients drawn from the list of items the food bank needs most — essentials like canned goods, starches, and proteins.
When the boxes were whisked away, the items the chefs had to use were revealed as canned tomatoes, canned green beans, canned pink salmon, rice, and the ‘twist’ ingredient — canned peaches.
Right away they began scribbling notes down for their plan of attack, and within mere moments, the horn was sounded — the chefs would have just 30 minutes to produce something that incorporated all of the items in a creative and beautifully presented manner.
When I’ve covered stories in the past about the food situation for those living around or below the poverty line, one of the issues I’ve heard brought up is not so much WHAT people are eating, as how it looks. ie, “poor people food.” It’s sometimes grey, or greasy, or mushy, or just generally unappetizing. And I don’t subscribe to that ‘you should just be grateful to be eating at all’ noise, so we can just shut that down right now.
No, I think that if we’re addressing a common human need — to not be hungry — there shouldn’t be discrimination on the plate. Food should be tasty, nutritious, and look good, and that applies for everyone. </endrant>
So what did the chefs come up with? Take a look!
Holy cow, just watching the fellas hard at work made me tired — I can type in a frenzy like that, but definitely can’t cook that way.
After going carefully through the criteria and conferring with my fellow judges, the winner was… Quang Dang and his salmon cake! Excellent efforts from Ned and Gennaro too.
I do feel inspired after this. If these guys can come up with this kind of cuisine, on the fly with stuff you can find in anyone’s pantry, well surely I can do a little better with what I’m cooking up at home.
And certainly there’s no way anyone ever has to say again that something looks like “poor people food.”
ps I think I was a pretty fair judge — analytical without being overly critical. But really, with something like this, it’s a win for everyone.