Four heats, 37 competitors and the highest amount of applications we’ve ever seen… this year’s Hawksworth Young Chef Scholarship has been our busiest year yet and we’re proud to reveal the talented top eight competitors whom will be battling it out at the Vancouver Community College on September 12 to win $10,000 and an international stage.
Thanks to our all of our sponsors, including TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege, Gordon Food Service and Le Creuset, for making this year’s competition such a success and inspiring the next generation of young Canadian chefs.
We kicked off the competition at George Brown College in Toronto on May 26, where the first of our finalists Stephen Baidacoff (27, Georgetown, ON) and Marvin Palomo (22, Markham, ON) came out on top, winning the praise of the judges and a spot in the final each. Stephen used his eclectic experience – from cooking progressive Canadian cuisine in Edmonton to his current role at the Michelin starred restaurant in New York, Eleven Madison Park, to create spice roasted lamb loin with onion petals, pickled potato wedge and thyme oil. Marvin also comes from a background that includes many influences; from a five-month stage in Piedmont, Italy at the Michelin-starred La Contea Di Nieve with Chef Claudia Verro to his position at Toronto’s Dailo restaurant, where he creates new Asian cuisine under Chef Nick Lui. His dish of sous vide lamb loin with fava bean puree and balsamic lamb jus won him the second spot in the finals.
Vancouver Community College was the location for our BC heat on June 9 and Taiwanese born Kevin Tang (28, Vancouver, BC), now of the Shangri-La Hotel Vancouver, took the winning spot with his pan seared lamb loin with spiced sabayon and roasted cauliflower puree. Keith Hodgson (24, Summerland, BC) from the Four Seasons Hotel in Vancouver, took the second spot with his honey glazed lamb loin, cauliflower, roasted king oyster mushrooms, crispy garlic and cumin garlic emulsion.
Our search for the nation’s most talented chefs continued with our Calgary heat on June 13 at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, where our two youngest finalists impressed the judges with their dishes. Sean MacDonald (24, Calgary, AB) of Market Restaurant showed the European influences from his travels with his winning onion milk sous-vide eye of lamb short loin with celery potato puree, pickled caramelized leeks, celery salad, pickled mustard seeds and sauce espagnole. Ian MacDougall (23, Calgary, AB) also brought a continental flair, having spent four years in England – most recently a year at the award-winning Five Fields in London – and his roast loin of lamb, olive oil poached tenderloin, charred eggplant, spinach gnocchi, shallot, fava bean and jus gras showed the high level of skill developed in his Chef de Partie role at Calgary’s renowned Model Milk.
New for this year was the popular Montreal heat for eastern Canada, held on July 29 at the Quebec Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management. Cynthia Iaboni (26, Montreal, QC) blew away the judges with her lamb in brodo with gnocchi, eggplant puree, fava beans and asparagus tips, which showed off her fine dining background at Montreal’s Restaurant Le Serpent with Chef Michele Mercury and Bouillon Bilk with Chef Francois Nadon. Montréal resident Alec Fraser (23, Calgary, AB) of Toque!, previously also of Model Milk, took the final spot with his lamb short loin crusted with leek ash, spring vegetables and charred lemon emulsion.
Congratulations to our eight deserving finalists and we look forward to seeing them cook again in the black box challenge at Vancouver Community College on September 12. Judges Chef Mark McEwan (The McEwan Group), Chef Normand Laprise (Toque! and Brasserie T!), Chef Scott Jaegar (The Pear Tree), Chef Anthony Walsh (Oliver & Bonacini Restaurants), and Chefs David Hawksworth and Kristian Eligh (Hawksworth Restaurant Group) will be joined by food critics Jacob Richler (Canada’s 100 Best), Marie-Claude Lortie (La Presse) and Alexandra Gill (Globe & Mail) to choose the winner of the 2015 Hawksworth Young Chef Scholarship.