By Elizabeth Mabie

Four employees from Algonquin’s food services won the grand prize in a Master Chef-formatted competition held at the college this past spring.

The 4th Annual Canadian Culinary Federation Ottawa Chapter Culinary Competition and Gala was held on June 8 in the college’s hospitality building. Professional chefs from various food establishments across the city formed teams and competed against each other to cook meals for the attendees of the gala and had them judged.

Algonquin’s team consisted of Brendan Kobzan, Israel d’Loyo, Tyler Devine, and Jason Countryman. Kobzan was the sous-chef, d’Loyo was the butcher and head prep, Devine took care of garnishes, and Countryman acted as the team manager and timekeeper.

“I was nervous at first,” said Countryman. “But as the day went on that went away and I focused on my job at hand and kept everything rolling.”

Their dishes, an appetizer and a main course won them the grand prize of $1000. The appetizer was a shrimp and cod tower with a croquette, lemon aioli, and a garnish of candied lemon rind. The main course consisted of chicken duxelle coins in a confit, potato pavé made with Kraft Dinner cheese powder, a slaw made of pickled asparagus and whipped carrots, pork belly crackling, and a blueberry and wine reduction.

Countryman said the team was shocked when the results were announced later that day at the gala, but they were happy that all their hard work had paid off.

“Having two great mentors like sous-chef Brendan and cook-butcher Israel and using their years of service experience and having Brendan’s experience in competitions really helped,” said Countryman.

Maple Leaf Foods and Highliner Foods provided the ingredients for the teams to use, but a surprise twist from the Ottawa Mission gave the teams a new challenge by supplying ingredients categorized as ‘Mission style’ products, such as canned foods and jams, that the teams could incorporate into their dishes to accumulate extra points for creativity. Team Algonquin used Kraft Dinner cheese powder, blueberry jam, chicken stock, and canned potatoes from the Mission.

Other competitors included chefs from the Marriott Hotel, the National Arts Centre, and Café 327. Team Algonquin felt their biggest competition came from the Marriott Hotel. Mark Steele, the sous-chef of the Marriot Hotel team, has won a number of competitions, but has worked with Chef Kobzan on occasion in some of those competitions.

“We felt that he had an inside look on how Chef Brendan thinks and operates,” said Countryman.

“Everyone worked hard to see that Algonquin was well-represented,” said Devine. “Through the teamwork and dedication we succeeded.”