Edmonton Southeast Rotary Club
As you see, Beavie is propped ready for take off on the judges table: attending our first culinary judging experience together was a given! Service above Self is the Rotary International Motto. Isn’t that a great credo to live by? Compassionate service or a gift of time is a critical value that I have woven into the fibre that underscores the foundation of my life. I have attended a variety of Rotary functions throughout the years and also value their four way test and use it in my personal life:Â Of the things we think, say or do:
- Is it the TRUTH?
- Is it FAIR to all concerned?
- Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
- Will it be BENNEFICIAL TO ALL CONCERNED?
The Southeast Rotary Club and their President,Â Chinwe Okelu (and Ward 11 city council candidate), put on a dynamic affair to showcase the varied talents of our local foreign chefs that have made Edmonton their permanent, or temporary home.Â This group ofÂ Filipino and Sri Lankan chefs have found workÂ at Chili’s, Tim Hortons,Â Uncle Albert’s and at the Sawmill restaurants throughout Edmonton. Like many of our immigrants, they have come to Canada for a better life and this event is a fundraiser that supports and celebrates the relationship that this Rotary Club has developed with these chefs and their families. Rotarian Victoria Ewart spearheaded and chaired this competition last Saturday at the Sawmill Banquet Hall.
Esteemed judges were led by NAIT cooking school head Stan Townsend and included myself (blush), Parklands After Dark Rotary Club president, Kyle Laliberte, MacEwan University president, Dr. Paul Byrne, Graham Hicks, from the Edmonton Sun and fellow food blogger, Kevin Kossowan. Whew! There was a lot of us and why not? Spread the joy! What a pleasure it was.
Kevin and I arrived and enjoyed a heady and intense chat with Stan Townsend about food and culinary schools and cooking and judging. I was under his spell. He has a lot to offer my need-for-knowledge quest chest. So does Kevin, therefore it was fun to share this evening with him after the garden tour and tasting (dinner with his family) such a short while ago. The criteria had us all sit up straight. It was intense!
We did honor all of the work that went into preparing the criteria, but simplified the marking scale so that we could handle it. After all, we were about to sample 6 full three course meals and then judge each one!
The hall was festive. People were excited. The chefs were coming in with trays of partially prepared goods, and the Cocktail Reception had begun.
The judges were conferring about how to do what we needed to do. We decided to judge what were now 5 teams (as one team was unable to attend at the last minute) by teams of two judges. Each team would stagger visits to the challenging tables filling out one evaluation between per team. We would attempt to reach consensus. I was happy that Kevin was my partner!
Mary Ellen and Andreas arrived and Jackie Hobal was also there! She is the new District Governor and my past Principal from Mary Butterworth School. How truly wonderful to reconnect with her! I cannot wait to have her and Wayne over for dinner! There are so many unexpected rewards when volunteers to do something!
Now was a time for wandering and watching the chef’s do their carvings. Apparently, last year’s event featured only the carvings. This year, they wanted a more intense challenge. These chefs carved their sculptures within about 30 minutes. Some were faster. It was really fascinating to watch these artisans at work.
I was also captured by the precision and level of skill within some of the teams. The yam, below, is mandoline perfection by Team Holiday. I would like a slicer like that. Then, they started to form petals.
Team Paris brought in a variety of edible baskets: a rice noodle basket, caramelized sugar basket, and a tuile.
A member of Team Paris sculpting.
Team Asia Minor sculpting their watermelon. They also worked with Lo Bok and Beets to create cactus flowers on butternut squash cacti.
Team Safari amazed both Kevin and I as their work was very different than the others and told a story. It was obviously theme related and the carving demonstrated surprising dexterity, comfortable confidence and ingenuity. They really had a big mess around them. They will have to keep it cleaner when they work, next year (wink)! Seferino Bernal and Jasmine Mendoza set the mood for the evening with their songs and music (below, right).
Gum paste roses were effortlessly spun on the spot by Team Paris, and Team Holiday decorated their Tiramisu with text cut out of a piece of note paper with a razor blade. I definitely learned something watching this process! Both Kevin and I were dying to taste that cake!
So, we had all made the rounds, chatted a bit with the guests, and were anticipating a sensational experience heightened by all of the tantalizing tidbits we had seen on the back burners! Beautiful Mary Ellen feeds Beavie coffee? She had said she wanted a photo with Beavie. Beavie was all excited, and then, there he was, nose stuck in her coffee. What was that all about, he asked me? I told him to ask Mary Ellen. You know Beavie. He always wants centre stage!
Mary Ellen with Judy Wilson enjoying their wonderful samplings from the vast Sawmill buffet.
Everyone had been welcomed by Judy and introduced by Victoria; dinner commenced and judges were also invited to dine. We did, too! Judging didn’t start until 8, so tummies were growling. The food was delicious. There was nothing the Sawmill left off this buffet!
Teams had just positioned all sculptures before the meal and then took a moment to relax and fill their tummies, as well.
Time for Judging; all contestants were participating in four categories:Â appetizer, main, dessert and a fruit and/or vegetable carving each within keeping of their chosen theme.Â Kevin and I started at Team Paris’s table.
Team Paris: (not in the correct order) Ricky Bombase, Rodolfo Solleza, Dominador Doroin, and Jocelyn Bombasi
Appetizer: Stuffed Prawns that were novel and gorgeous, but hard to eat and had prickly things in them. They looked so delicious. Maybe next time more focus on flavour and less on presentation(wink)? But, honestly, who would complain? This dish was a brilliant concept and won the “Best Appetizer” award.
Main: Asparagus Stuffed Beef with Red Wine Reduction and some really delicious mashed potatoes (I would love the recipe for those!). Isn’t this a pretty dish? I love stuffed and rolled mains because we don’t get them often and they shake up the palate to a heightened state of anticipation! I found this dish needed to be seasoned and the reduction didn’t add that depth or excitement to the dish that it could have if it was made with veal jus. Still, a little salt and pepper would have taken this dish a long way and if that is the only complaint, well done!
Dessert: or desserts, rather! Far too huge for a one person serving, but artful and yummy. The Punpkin Pie was creamy and tasty, the New York Cheese Cake was the same, but the Molten Lava cake was not molten. You can see that they did not edit their work. Look at all of the goodies on this tray! Oh, my. This would be a complete meal.
Carving: Stan Townsend was very impressed with the skill level this team displayed. I saw only one team member doing the carving and was looking for a team effort. But, everyone was busy in this team. You can see that. A fantastic presentation by Team Paris. Standing Ovation!
Team Safarai: George Paje, Eric Brillantes, Jose Suapengco, and Lamberto Cadang (not in the correct order)
Appetizer: Crab Salad on a Bed of Lettuce. The novel aspect of this salad was how it fooled the eye, and then the palate. It looked like a slaw on top of the greens, so the texture and flavour stunned the senses until I realized it was crab. The crab was delicious and the julienne cut was exact. The entire salad was just too simple.
Main: Shriimp, Rice and Veggies. The Fried Veggie Tangle was yummy and crispy. Probably not very healthy, but a great textural and flavour contrast to the rice and frozen vegetables. (Don’t use frozen vegetables, chefs. Use fresh, delicious and nutritious in-season vegetables!) The idea was so pleasing to the eye. I love stacked plates.
Dessert: A white cake with a gelatin cream filling layered with meringue and topped with fresh fruit. It was yummy! And look at the bright green spun sugar! Judges felt that this was the Safari’s best dish.
Carving: This group rocked in the carving area! All team members participated and the carving incorporated such a variety of familiar vegetables in such unexpected ways that it tickled us all to examine it! Team Safari won the award for the “Best Carving”.
Team Asia Minor: (not in the correct order) NatalioNavarro, Vince Garcheturena, Ismael Duay, and Joseph Zapata
This team won for “Best Overall Team” and you can see why as you scroll down and breath in their amazing meal.
Appetizer: Diver’s Scallops with Roasted Eggplant Pepper Roll and a Slaw. The scallops were cooked perfectly and seasoned well. The roll was a burst of unexpected lively flavours. The slaw was unnecessary.
Main: Rack of Lamb with Minted Cream Cheese with Vegetable Fries. This meat was melt in your mouth tender and the scent of mint was an unexpected pleasure that really worked. Chef Townsend didn’t care for the cheese in the rack, but both Kevin and I were completely taken by it. We wanted to eat more (and I don’t even eat meat!). This team won the award for the “Best Main” dish. Bravo!
Dessert: This Tapioca BrÃ»lÃ©e was an unexpected surprise. It was the texture of very sticky rice and ultra-sweet. The torched top was a welcome foil to the soft centre, but the show stopper was the knob of dry ice inserted into the egg shell with a cloud of icy fog swirling from it. I am a sucker for gimmicks. It was such a blast, yet I was expecting something to dig out of the egg and eat. It surprised me that it was decor only.Â Dinner at The Fat Duck has truly spoiled me!.
Carving: Ta-Da! All of those individually carved watermelons magically became a giant Dragon: so unexpected! Do you see the cacti with lovely flowers on it in the background? This was a close second for some of the judges.
Team Sri Lankaran: (not in the correct order) Doowalage D. Gunarathne, Hastumuni Saysa, and Pathmasiri Salpadove
This team came in “Second Overall”.
Appetizer: Shrimp and I apologize for not recalling the entire dish. The presentation took our breath away. Both Kevin and I looked at one another incredulously. My photos do not do this team’s appetizer justice. And, it was really tasty. The anticipation of this plate was absolutely met with a burst of succulent flavours and textures. The sauce was a nice compliment to the plate. Embarrassingly, I picked up what was apparently just garnish and shared it with Kevin. We learned from Chef Townsend later that the head of the shrimp wasn’t meant to be eaten. Woops! I guess I will eat anything. It was nice to know, though, because it tasted like the tami of a lobster which I don’t have a palate for!
Main: Rack of Lamb in Pastry with Deep Fried and Battered Pecans, Rice and Vegetables. This dish was outstanding! It was gorgeous, and novel and thoughtful and delicious. It was definitely in the running for the main dish award.
Dessert: This team offered a trio of desserts as Team Paris had, but these were well portioned as each was a miniature dessert. Still, there was ample on this plate. The chocolate was the star for both Kevin and I. The caramelized rice pudding was a privilege to taste as it is a traditional Ski Lankan dessert and I love tasting traditional cultural food. Yum!
The Jack Fruit Cream Tart in a White Chocolate Cp was also a traditional dessert. I am completely unfamiliar with Jack Fruit, so savored that opportunity, as well. This team won in the dessert category. Hands down: “Best Dessert”. Hurrah!
Carving: This team blew our socks off in every course, but their carving was very simple compared to the others. This was their only weakness, and still, look at it!
Team Holiday: (not in the correct order) Arthur Parilla, Ernesto Tabia, Edmar Fajardo and Michael Abansado
This team went home without an award. That was unfortunate, but not because they are untalented. Their food was very special and there were some definite highlights from this table that were strongly contending with the award winning teams.
Appetizer: Chicken Wonton Purses. These were crispy and flavourful. The dipping sauce was “homemade” and it tasted just like the sauce you can buy. To me, that was impressive as I don’t know how to make it. They lost out on creativity, but won big on flavour. YUM!
Main: Roasted Chicken Stuffed with Peppers and Cream. This meat dish was perfectly cooked; it was exceptional and for me, the winner of the lot. However, the vegetables and potatoes it was served with did not do it justice. The carrots were rubbery and the potatoes were, well, boiled potatoes. That would have been fine, and maybe even perfect, had the complimentary vegetables actually complimented the dish and been properly cooked. I am seeking the recipe for this chicken. I asked for it. I know someone has it as the team told me they handed it in to “Paul”. Paul, if you read this, will you please send it to me? Spectacular!
Isn’t it so pretty?
Dessert: Tiramisu. This dessert was disappointing. If you have eaten Tiramisu, and are serving one that is different, it must be as good as, or better than the traditional Tiramisu. And Mascarpone cheese is an essential ingredient. It is not an option when making a Tiramisu. This team used cream cheese. They didn’t use lady fingers, they used chocolate cake. I couldn’t taste coffee or liqueur. Sorry, fellows, but you need to work on your dessert. Kevin and I appreciated the lettering lesson, though, and the first two courses from you were exceptional!
Carving: This floral display was as innovative as Safari’s. It just wasn’t as elaborate, but we loved it. The precision of the cutting and the shaping of the taro root and the lo bok and the yam and squash was stellar. Kevin and I were both moved by the piece and this was second place in the carving arena from our point of view.
Finale! Awards were announced and prizes given. Celebrations were had. Photos were taken and the room packed up.
Suddenly, everything was over and everyone was gone. It was like magic. The Ski Lankan Team asked me to take a photo of them with Kevin. I thought that was hilarious. Well, odd? And, flattering. They must have taken a shine to him. Kevin left with his raffle prize. He won the Safari Sculpture. Won’t his gals have fun playing with it? He was the perfect person to be taking that home to his wee daughters.
Then I saw the Sri Lankan Team ask for a photo with Dr. Byrne and Stan. Graham and Kyle had left. Beavie and I were miffed. Was it my smile? My gender? My manners? We decided that they were still our personal favourite even if they didn’t want a picture with me! (Are judges allowed to have favourites and declare them in public? …maybe only when they didn’t take your picture!)