By: Kane Van Ee

Cory Haskin, left, and Matthew Carmichael judge taste and presentation. Haskin, a professor at Algonquin, is executive chef at the Rideau Club and Caramichael is a national award-winning chef.

It was a busy morning at Restaurant International as menus were meshed and teams were randomly tossed together in a challenge that not only emphasized cooking prowess but the ability for a team to collaborate.

The kitchens and dining room in H-building were filled with the sight of cameras and hurried chefs with the Battle of Knives competition Nov. 24.

“The interesting thing is how they start combining menus and how they were able to say ‘this is my strength, this is my weakness,’” said Mario Ramsay, the culinary professor and originator of the contest.

The culinary students were judged based upon a wide variety of skills: taste, presentation, organization and team cohesion. Not only did school faculty judge their performances, but so did some of Ottawa’s most successful chefs such as Matthew Carmichael, a two-time gold plates winner and Duane Lepine, executive-chef of the Parliamentary House of Commons.

The dishes were also viewed, but not judged, by former food editor of the Ottawa Citizen and Omnivore Ottawa blog writer, Ron Eade. Eade is also being honoured with a bursary in his name for the culinary program at Algonquin. Eade said, “most plates were colourful, creative,” but also added that some were over-complicated and would be difficult to take a first bite of.

Patricia Grey, Brenda Kubanowski and Nathalie St-Onge took home the gold with their vegetable terrine, a creamy leek sauce and savoury herb biscuits appetizer. Their dish was followed by a baked trout roulade with orange beurre blanc, crispy rice cakes and bundled vegetables. For dessert they sautéed pears folded in brown batter crepes with a cinnamon ginger honey sauce.

“We didn’t think we’d do this well but we had confidence in ourselves,” said Grey, a second-year culinary management student and captain of the Algonquin Thunder women’s basketball team. “Understanding teamwork is important and it shows in the kitchen as well, you can’t be an individual, you have to work together, you have to communicate with each other and you have to understand that everyone is different.”

Kalpesh Jain, Amy Brown and Mankirat Bhullar took silver and the bronze went to Jeremy Tapp, Alana Awad and Duo Song.
After their judge’s table dishes were completed, it was on to a lunch service for four guests per table as guests were presented with wine pairings and cocktails made by front of house competitors. The dozen or so organizers and judges looked on for any slip-ups as the small selection of guests were served their luncheon.

Video broadcasting students were also in on the action recording every competitors slice, chop, breath and drop of sweat as their equipment and wires adorned half of the H-building and provided a live feed of interviews and chefs-in-action to big-screen TVs in the dining room of Restaurant International.