There is only one thing better in this world than absolutely loving what you do at every second. That is sharing the love and passion with other people who want to reach the same goal.
When I first joined Culinary Youth Team Canada, I had an image in my head of what I wanted, and that was to have medals around my neck 11 months later. What I didn’t really expect was how much it would truly take to get there. From day one we got right down to business. In my previous blog post I talked about the whole process it took from when I first joined, to when Chef Gert Klotzke visited, but then never talked about the process after that.
We completely threw out our entire food program and started over. The hardest part of being on this team was the trial and error process. Many ideas were tested; most of the time wasn’t good enough, but we kept pushing. We were practicing making terrines with octopus, turning potatoes into glass, using baking soda and red cabbage to make things turn blue (yes, that works), and many other new ideas that I had never heard of. The difference between competing in international competitions and working in restaurants is things must be so perfect that if something is even 3mm off, it needs to be done over again until perfect. I mean, yes you will find restaurants in this world (most likely in the Michelin rating) where everything needs to be perfect but I’m talking about the average kitchen in this world. I’m sure that if I went to one of the previous restaurants I worked in and pulled out a ruler, they’d laugh at me.
After a solid 2–3 months of heavy trial and error, we finally got our food program set in stone. It was a sigh of relief but what we faced next was unlike anything I had ever seen before. Our official practices. We had to have equipment lists for each of our tasks, timelines down to the minute, labels perfectly printed for our mise en place. There was so much more work than originally anticipated from when I first joined. Our coaches pushed us so hard in the kitchen, but that’s why we did so well in Luxembourg.
Our team consisted of nine members from five different provinces. Our team captain, Logan Rafuse from Nova Scotia, Pastry Chef, Isabelle Chevarie from Quebec, Brother’s Andre and Guy Pratt From Nova Scotia, Shae-lyn Phillips from Saskatchewan, Shane Robicheau from Nova Scotia, Hannah Eisner from Nova Scotia and finally Jacob Brandt and myself from Ontario. Watching this team grow into the family that we did was a true privilege. We were all faced with adversity throughout the entire process, but overcame it as a team, and that’s what made us stronger.
On November 19th, the official day came. We were on route to Luxembourg. Between the ten days we were together there, only one of those days were used to explore the beautiful city. We were lent a practice facility just outside the city called Kaempff-Kohler. The owner and staff were very welcoming there and made us all feel like we were practicing in Canada. We used the first few days there to prepare our stocks, testing the cooking process for lobsters in Europe, breaking down squabs with the heads and feet on, shucking scallops, butchering veal tenderloins, etc. We were also using those days to weigh out our food that we would be bringing into the first day of competition.
Day 1: Opening Ceremony
I was so fired up, we all were. I got the honor to carry the flag and wave it obnoxiously in the crowd; that felt good. Seeing all the teams there was special. You could see how anxious, nervous, and excited everyone was. There were 14 different countries that we were up against. Slovakia, South Korea, Hong Kong, Austria, Belgium, Norway, Luxembourg, United Arab Emirates, Switzerland, Sweden, Germany, Thailand, England, and Denmark.
Day 2: Restaurant of Nations three course for 70 guests.
Knives are sharp, jackets and pants ironed, neck ties on, food and equipment packed, we were ready to go. So much practice went into this moment. From the very start of the day we were on point. Clean, organized and fast. There were a few hiccups that we faced during the day like our pressure cooker not getting up to heat because of the burners and having to braise our beef cheeks in the oven instead. We overcame it all in the end. As soon as the final plate went out, it was a sigh of relief.
On our appetizer was a lobster herb bar, seared salmon, sun choke puree, beet sauce and a corn cake with pickled zucchini.
Main course consisted of beef tenderloin torchon, beef fat potato pave, braised beef cheeks, rosemary beef jus, squash puree, glazed vegetables and a truffle braised cipollini onion.
Dessert was a lavender cheese cake, raspberry donut, avocado ganache, sorbet and different varieties of sauces and garnishes.
The results were in and the next day we were awarded the silver medal for our performance. We were all very happy but knew it wasn’t done yet.
Two days later: The final day, Buffet for twelve people.
Again, another stand out performance. When others were in the juice (aka a major rush), some had to step into roles that they weren’t used to. That’s what being a team is all about though, being there for one another.
It started with four h’or doeuvres (my responsibility). Our two hot which were corn soup, surf/turf torchon, two cold which were shrimp taco, and beef tartare.
A buffet platter; Crab/spinach terrine, smoked salmon torchon, lobster bar.
A main course of squab and foie gras terrine, prosciutto croquette, glazed vegetables.
A dessert of chocolate tubes filled with Canadian maple mousse, cranberry lava cake and different sauces/garnishes.
At the end of the long day we were awarded with our second silver medal.
This whole journey was a memory that will stick with me throughout my entire life. The friendships I made, the amount of support and learning experience I got from the coaches, the endless support we got from sponsors, words can’t describe how incredibly humbling and honorable this was. A big thank you to all the family, friends, readers, supporters; everyone back home. Thank you for believing in me and supporting us from Canada.
We did it. Two Silver Medals.
I have decided to end my journey with Culinary Youth Team Canada. Best of luck to them in 2020 as the compete in Stuttgart, Germany at the Culinary Olympics. I know they have what it takes to land on gold.
As for myself, I am moving back home to Ottawa to take on my next step. I am not done yet. See you soon; cheers.