Toronto Winners

Canada's Great Kitchen Party Toronto Winning Chefs T Sandler

Recent Winners

Gold

Elia Herrera
Los Colibris

Pairing: Southbrook Vineyards 2016 Estate Cabernet Ros´, Niagara

Silver

Gian Nicola Colucci
Four Seasons Toronto

Pairing: Hidden Bench Estate Winery 2016 Estate Riesling, Niagara

Bronze

Keith Pears
Delta Toronto

Pairing: Trius 2016 Barrel-fermented Chardonnay, Niagara

Best of Show Results

Gold

Charles Baker Wines, 2014 Picone Vineyard Riesling

Silver

Mission Hill Family Estate, Quatrain

Bronze

Hidden Bench Winery, 2016 Estate Riesling

Toronto 2018 Photo Highlights

Click on the thumbnails to view full-size photos.

Toronto Competing Chefs (click photo to learn their stories)

We would like to thank all of the competing chefs this year and we encourage Canada's Great Kitchen Party supporters to visit their restaurants.

Elia Herrera

Elia Herrera

Los Colibris View Website

Representing Toronto

Q & A with Elia Herrera
Tell us something people don’t know about you.
Something that people don't know about me is that I am afraid of worms.
Please tell us three things you love about your restaurant.
I love my team, I love the meaning of Los Colibris (love and memories), and I love my guest.
Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
I see myself as a very important business woman in 5 years.
Jeff Kang

Jeff Kang

Canis View Website

Representing Toronto

Q & A with Jeff Kang
What is your favourite thing to cook at home?
I love to make preserves at home, especially kimchi.
Where would you travel to on a culinary vacation and why?
I would travel to Korea for my culinary vacation because that is where I miss the most.
Please tell us three things you love about your restaurant.
I love that we get to change the menu whenever we want. I love that I get to work with people I love on a daily basis.
Gian Nicola Colucci

Gian Nicola Colucci

Four Seasons Toronto View Website

Representing Toronto

Q & A with Gian Nicola Colucci
Tell us about who or what inspired you to become a chef?
My Father is a great cook and he gave me the inspiration for this lovely job. It slowly become my life style, thanks also to the right chef I found on my path.
Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
I am an adventure person! I love to travel and learn new languages and new cultures.
If you were an Olympic athlete what sport would you compete in and why?
I did athletics and Martial arts for long time, so I can see me in one of those sports. I'm a competitive person and I push myself over the limit.
Jesse Vallins

Jesse Vallins

Maple Leaf Tavern | PORT View Website

Representing Toronto

Q & A with Jesse Vallins
Tell us about who or what inspired you to become a chef?
I fall asleep and wake up every day thinking about food.
Please tell us three things you love about your restaurant.
  1. The location - we're in the east end of the city where I've lived almost my whole life. Things are getting better in the area, but there haven't always been. These days there are a lot of great places around. It's nice to be part of the change.
  2. The live fire grill - it gives a flavour that you can't get any other way.
  3. My staff - they work extremely hard and I'm nothing without them.
Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
I have a weak spot for sweet and sour chicken balls.
Amira Becarevic

Amira Becarevic

Mira Mira View Website

Representing Toronto

Q & A with Amira Becarevic
What do you love about cooking for a living?
I love transforming an item from raw form to a composed dish, made from imagination, skill and love.
What’s your favourite thing to cook at home?
My day off ritual is going to St. Lawrence Farmer’s Market or Kensington Market and getting inspired by whatever is fresh and beautiful, vegetable and fruit wise, then building a dish around it. I’ll always try to grab something I’ve never cooked with before as a small twist so I research/learn/experience something new.
Where would you travel to on a culinary vacation and why?
The next stops on my travel wish list are Japan, Spain and Portugal. I’ve long envied their respective cuisines/spirits/wines and world-renowned culinary markets. I’m trying to get a group of chef friends together for an epic food pilgrimage soon.
Keith Pears

Keith Pears

Delta Toronto View Website

Representing Toronto

Q & A with Keith Pears
What is your favourite thing about Canada’s Great Kitchen Party?
Well, I love food, sports and competition. Cooking is very relatable to a sport environment especially when it comes to the team aspect of things. What I love about CGKP is that I get everything I love all in one event. I get to cook food for guests that will enjoy my creations; I get to compete against some of the top chefs in Toronto; And I get to follow my own goals while participating in helping our three charities achieve their goals. It’s the perfect combination.
Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
When I was younger I always wanted to be a professional athlete. In order for me to get into football, my mom wanted me to take dance class. So I took Jazz/Ballet for 1 year and my mom never even put me in football until I was a teenager.
What do you love about cooking for a living?
I love watching and making people happy with food. I love being able to teach and give back to the young cooks and other chefs around me. I learn from them just as much as they learn from me.
Jason Oszoli

Jason Oszoli

Oliver & Bonacini View Website

Representing Toronto

Q & A with Jason Oszoli
Tell us about who or what inspired you to become a chef?
Going to my Nagymama’s (Grandmother) for Sunday family dinners and watching how it brought such joy and family pride serving us our heritage food. To this day I still think about how much we all enjoyed her food and I want to share this experience with people on a daily basis.
What’s your favourite thing to cook at home?
I love pickling and canning seasonal food.
Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
That I am great dancer and know how to cut a rug.
Albert Ponzo

Albert Ponzo

The Royal Hotel - Events & Provisions

Representing Toronto

Q & A with Albert Ponzo
Where would you travel to on a culinary vacation and why?
I have always wanted to delve deep into the traditions of Piemonte Italy, during white truffle season. I can only imagine the excitement at the markets and the restaurants, where they are serving the truffles. I would love to learn the local traditional recipes from the locals there. I would also be sure to take time to sneak off and see my favourite soccer team, Juventus from Torino.
If you were an Olympic athlete what sport would you compete in and why?
Bobsled! Looks like so much fun!
What do you love about cooking for a living?
I get the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people and cook for them and with them. I also love to be able to be a contributing part of the community through charitable work and supporting other local farms and producers.
Ryan Crawford

Ryan Crawford

Backhouse View Website

Representing Toronto

Q & A with Ryan Crawford
Tell us about who or what inspired you to become a chef?
I grew up in a bed and breakfast with my Mom. I always helped her in the kitchen and dreamed about cooking. My first kitchen job was with my uncle Gilly. He inspired me to become a chef. My first instructor Brian Steele helped me achieve my dream.
Please tell us three things you love about your restaurant.
  1. We grow all our own vegetables.
  2. We cook everything on an open fire or wood oven.
  3. We are hidden in a shitty little strip mall.
Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
I have a 19 year old Daughter – Her name is Roxanne. She’s my sourdough starter!!
Rob Toppan

Rob Toppan

The Fifth Grill & Terrace View Website

Representing Toronto

Q & A with Rob Toppan
Tell us about who or what inspired you to become a chef?
My inspiration comes from multiple sources – I remember growing up cooking with my mom and loving it, and I’ve always had a passion for using my creativity to create something memorable for others. In terms of cuisine and style, I’ve always felt inspired by Massimo Bottura because of the way he reinvents traditional Italian food and uses his skill and creativity to create visually and tastefully spectacular food.
What do you love about cooking for a living?
For me, cooking is a career with endless possibilities with no limits to what you can learn or what you can accomplish – you are limited only by your imagination.
Please tell us three things you love about your restaurant.
There are many things I love about The Fifth, but the top 3 are:
  1. The ambience – the Fifth has a very unique setting where you arrive to the European style dining room and stunning rooftop patio on the 5th floor via a 100 year old freight elevator
  2. The staff - everyone is very friendly and knowledgeable, and they come in every day wanting to deliver great service
  3. The food of course! - We strive to provide a memorable and delicious culinary experience and wherever possible, we use locally sourced ingredients and partner with local suppliers to support the community while delivering quality
What’s your favourite thing to cook at home?
Having grown up Italian, I love making fresh pasta, it’s definitely my comfort food. It brings back memories of childhood and reminds me of home.
Where would you travel to on a culinary vacation and why?
Although this may seem cliché because of my background, I’d love to travel to Italy for a culinary adventure
  • Italy – because of all the regional differences and specialities
  • You can travel to two different cities and have the same dish and it will taste completely different
  • Also like the history of food in that country – can see food the way it was produced – went with my wife to see the artisans produce parmigiano reggiano and
  • Has a wide variety as well – diverse landscape and, different climates seafood, land, mountains, etc.
Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
Having been a chef for a few years now, I’ve found that one of my favourite things is to mentor others. In the next few years, I’d love to be helping bring up the next generation of great chefs. In the longer term, I’d love to eventually open my own Italian restaurant.
If you were an Olympic athlete what sport would you compete in and why?
Hockey – it’s the quintessential Canadian sport and just like in the kitchen, you rely on each member of the team to be successful.
What is your favourite thing about Gold Medal Plates?
I love that it brings together and supports multiple passions of mine – music, food, and sports.
Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
I worked briefly in Parma, Italy during my early 20s as a cook at Antica Corte Pallavicina under Chef Massimo Spigaroli and was there when the restaurant received its first Michelin star.

Culinary Report

Toronto Culinary Report

By James Chatto

Toronto was full-throttle party central last night – a most spectacular affair, long since sold out, with technical production soaring to a completely new level of dazzling visual effects. The music was incredible thanks to our super-powered musical line-up of Jim Cuddy, Ed Robertson, Tom Cochrane, Anne Lindsay, Bill Bell, Devin Cuddy, Sam Polley, Dustin Bentall, Kendel Carson, Tally Ferraro and Gianni Ferraro. And over 40 athletes, many of them household names, came to show their support for the Kitchen Party, including Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, Erica Wiebe, Heather Moyse, Jennifer Botterill, Brian Stemmle, Billy Bridges… The list goes on and on! Our brilliant emcee, George Stroumboulopoulos, kept things moving at a great pace until the moment came when the gold, silver and bronze medal-winning chefs were announced, each one coming on stage through a kinetic light show and a most dramatic mist of dry ice.

The three who reached the podium were clustered in one of the tightest-scoring groups we have ever seen. Each judge had the three of them in either first, second or third and when every point was tallied, gold and bronze were only separated by 1.5 percentage points. Who made up the judiciary of this exciting photo-finish? We were led, as ever, by our Senior Judge for Toronto, writer, editor and food guru, Sasha Chapman; together with the renowned chef, and Canada’s greatest culinary educator, Chef John Higgins; chef, entrepreneur and beloved tv star, Christine Cushing; author, food journalist and proprietor of the delectable Rosen’s Cinnamon Buns, Amy Rosen; last year’s gold medal winner, Chef Lorenzo Loseto of George; and finally our special guest judge, rock star and legendary gastronome Geddy Lee.

Here’s how it all went down. We awarded the bronze medal to Keith Pears of the Delta Hotel, Toronto. He worked with excellent Rougie duck from Quebec, giving each of us a perfect slice of the breast. Most of the fat layer had been melted out but the tender flesh was still pink and juicy. Propped up beside it stood a tissue-thin crisp of the duck’s skin and close by was a croquette of rich, well-seasoned duck confit and mushroom duxelles crusted with sesame seeds. Combining a little of the croquette with a piece of breast on one’s fork brought both elements into a delicious balance. The fourth duck component was a ball of creamy foie gras parfait, subtly flavoured with peach and vanilla and contained by its own “skin” achieved through some arcane molecular technique. On top of the breast was a small purple tricorn hat that turned out to be a thin slice of beetroot, pinched together to become a container for a rich tartare of beet, apple and cream cheese. Chef piped dots of squash purée onto the plate – he had included squash juice in the recipe which gave the flavour a slightly funky edge. A spoonful of emulsified jus tasted intensely of duck. It was a disciplined, elegant dish, full of precise techniques. Chef’s wine match was a bold one, choosing white rather than red, but it worked well – the oaky 2016 Barrel-fermented Chardonnay from Trius winery in Niagara.

Gian Nicola Colucci of the Four Seasons Hotel won the silver medal. He began with pork belly, curing it with salt and a little sugar, brining it, smoking it over cherry wood, cooking it sous vide and then cutting it into small brick-shaped pieces which he briefly deep-fried. The result was awesome – crisp on the surface and meltingly tender inside – like bacon that had gone to heaven. Next to this was a generous mound of a classically flavoured sauce Gribiche, its base of egg and walnut quickened with olives, capers and anchovies: chef had lightened the sauce’s texture to an aerated emulsion. A crunchy little tapioca “chicharron” was seasoned with powdered espalette peppers, giving a sly heat that kicked in late. A dust of yuzu and lime salt with more of the espalette powdered a small area of the plate. Two baby kale leaves offered a token gesture towards the vegetable kingdom. Again, Chef’s wine match was a winner – the off-dry 2016 Estate Riesling from Hidden Bench Estate Winery on Niagara’s Beamsville Bench, a wine full of the aromas of apple and citrus, natural allies to pork.

We gave the gold medal to Elia Herrera of Los Colibris. She too chose pork belly as her protein, giving it three separate cures over three days then cooking it sous vide for 12 hours, before cutting it into slices and finishing each one in a hot pan to crisp the meat’s surfaces. On top of the pork we found a small quenelle of a smooth greeny-brown purée that Chef described as a Yucatan-style salsa of ground pumpkin seed spiked with habanero chilies and garlic. “Spread it over the meat,” she advised and we obeyed. Too fiery to eat on its own, it was a perfectly judged amount to work as a condiment when carefully spread, adding delightful heat and complexity. Talking of complexity, Chef created a Oaxacan-style mole negro as the dish’s sauce; smooth and almost black it seethed with the dark, smoky flavours of various chilies and bitter chocolate. The pork sat on a slice of corn tamal, its texture turned from a polenta into something as smooth as a mousseline by the addition of pork fat. Cutting these riches was a supreme of fresh orange marinated in orange flower water and a suggestion of cinnamon. Tiny drops of pumpkin seed oil seasoned with ancho and chapulin added a finishing touch. It’s always exciting when a chef cooks from the heart, offering food he or she is passionate about rather than some anonymous competition dish. “The more of this you eat, the more you enjoy it,” pointed out one of the judges. Chef’s chosen wine was a good choice, adding fruity reinforcement to the refreshing orange on the plate: dry but full of red berry flavours, it was the 2016 Estate Cabernet Ros´from Southbrook Vineyards in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Chef Herrera won and will come to Kelowna in February – but really the entire evening was a triumph, a testament to the extraordinary thought and planning that goes into every Great Kitchen Party. Up next, on Thursday, it’s Calgary’s turn to experience all the fun.

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Wine/Beer/Spirits Report

Niagara Rieslings Shine in Toronto

By David Lawrason, National Wine Advisor

One of the most illustrious Rieslings of Niagara took top honours at the grand and glitzy Toronto version of Canada’s Great Kitchen Party, but another came a very close third. The winner was Charles Baker 2014 Picone Vineyard Riesling, a racy, complex, maturing example with all kinds of complexity and depth.

As the victory was announced chef Ryan Crawford from Backhouse in Niagara-on-the-Lake rushed the stage holding a magnum of the Charles Baker Riesling aloft. Charles Baker, who works with Stratus Vineyard, makes riesling only under his own label

In second place, literally one vote behind, came Mission Hill Family Estate’s 2013 Quatrain from B.C.’s Okanagan Valley, a premium blend of merlot, cabernet and shiraz that showed great depth, complexity and elegance as it matures toward it’s peak.

In third spot, the riveting, dry Hidden Bench 2016 Riesling from the Beamsville Bench showed great energy and minerality. It was paired by silver medal winning Chef Gian Nicola Colucci from the Four Seasons.

More on the winners and other wines in a moment, but first an explanation of the judging.

Within each city event we conduct a separate Best of Show competition for wines, ciders, beers and spirits to highlight the generous donation of the producers. We gather local wine media, sommeliers, retailers and aficionados to taste all the wines and rank their top five. The winning wine goes on to the Canadian Culinary Championship in Kelowna to compete for Canada’s Great Kitchen Party Wine of the Year.

Each chef is responsible for selecting their wine and soliciting a donation, as the wine and food pairing is very much part of the culinary judges’ considerations. The wines served on tables during the Celebration are donated to the Kitchen Party by winery sponsors.

Mission Hill Family Estate winery from B.C.s Okanagan Valley is our national sponsor this year, donating to seven cities. And they came up huge in Toronto with their delicious 2015 Reserve Merlot (which I have ranked in the top five of every competition) plus an extra donation of their super-premium Compendium and Quatrain Bordeaux-style blends for our VIP guests.

Mission Hill is one of the largest, most dynamic wine companies in Canada, and from their Five Vineyard wines, through their Reserves and new super-premium wineries like Checkmate and Martin’s Lane they making some of the best wines in B.C. under winemaker Darryl Brooker.

We also had a new regional sponsor as well. Niagara’s A Foreign Affair donated its intriguing 2016 Conspiracy Ripasso to Ottawa and Toronto, a red made from partially dried grapes in the tradition of Italy’s Amarone, giving it a smoother texture than often achieved in Ontario reds.  It too is based largely on cabernet franc.

Cave Spring Cellars joined the VIP Reception and Celebration once again donating their unique Chardonnay Musque 2016, a bright, unoaked chardonnay from the more floral musque clone. And Chateau des Charmes generously donated their deeply flavored 2015 Old Vines Riesling, as well as their spiffy 2017 Gamay Droit that was poured by Chef Jason Ozoli from Oliver & Bonacini

This year local brewers from each city also participate in the Craft Brewers Showcase.  From Toronto, many thanks to People’s Pint Brewing, Town Brewery and Godspeed, which made a fine Yuzu Saison with Japanese Citrus that I ranked in my top five for Best of Show.

Four Toronto wine authorities assisted me in judging. WineAlign colleague and National Wine Awards judges Sara d’Amato is also president of the Canadian Society of Professional Sommeliers. Michael Godel is a regular contributor to WineAlign and also a NWAC Judge. Michael Vaughan is author of Vintage Assessments, and exhaustive review of Vintages releases. Tim Appelt operates a wine review website at WineDiscovery.ca.

Other wines enjoyed this evening included three from Southbrook Vineyards, a truly magnanimous contribution by owner Bill Redelmeier. Southbrook donated it’s 2016 Estate Cabernet Franc Rose, which went to the podium with gold medal winning chef Elia Herrera of Los Colibris.  Southbrook 2017 Estate Orange Vidal was nicely matched to a dish by Amira Becarevic of Mira Mira; and Southbrook 2017 Connect Organic white was paired with Rob Toppan of The Fifth Grill and Terrace.

Other “chef” wines included Trius 2016 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay paired with bronze medalist Keith Pears of Delta Toronto. Two Niagara pinot noirs were also on the floor – Leaning Post 2015 paired with Jeff Kang of Canis, and The Farm 2015 Pinot Noir matched to Jesse Vallins of Maple Leaf Tavern.  And from Prince Edward County The Old Third poured their snappy Golden Russet Sparkling Cider alongside a dish by Albert Ponzo of The Royal York Provisions.

Congratulations to all the winners, and many thanks again to our sponsors for making the Toronto Kitchen Party truly great experience.

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Sponsors

Thank you to the "Kitchen Party" sponsors and supporters who provide vital support to the project!

Contact

Robin Turnbull
Robin Turnbull Event Management
35 Maher Ave
Toronto, ON M6P 1S7
P: 416-604-0310
E: toronto@greatkitchenparty.com