I was recently invited to judge a cook-off at Toronto’s Mildred’s Temple Kitchen, hosted by Tourism PEI. Four students from culinary schools across Ontario were invited to go head-to-head in a culinary competition using fresh and locally sourced ingredients from Prince Edward Island, including their famous potatoes, fresh mussels and locally farmed beef.
But wait – this was no ordinary cook-off; the students were also challenged with the task of cooking with ingredients they had never used (or possibly even seen) before! Sleek black boxes were unveiled to the participants minutes before the cook-off, each containing secret ‘foraged’ ingredients straight from the woods of PEI: (clockwise from top left) fiddleheads, spruce tips, dulse seaweed and cattails.
From left to right:
Keith Hubbard (Fanshawe College), Lorelei Simbulan (Liaison College), Trevor Littlejohn (Niagara College), Chrystalla Papachristou (Humber College)
Under the watchful eye of PEI ambassador (and Chopped judge) Chef Michael Smith, the students grilled, cooked and deep-fried their way through an intense 30-min battle in the open kitchen.
Together with fellow judges Chef Michael Smith, Good Food Revolution‘s Jamie Drummond and local Toronto food blogger Stella Yu of Food Junkie Chronicles, we tasted our way through four original dishes created by the students, each with their own interpretation on how to best use the ingredients to create the most flavourful and delicious recipe.
The winner emerged as Lorelei Sumbulan from Liaison College, whose melange of “pan-seared spruce tip beef medallion, smashed PEI potatoes and panko-dulse coated mussels” won over our score sheets (and our hearts). Not only was the overall dish delicious, but we particularly loved the creative aspect of adding the dulse seaweed into the PEI mussels’ panko coating, and seasoning the beef with spruce tips. Congratulations Lorelei!