Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Prince Edward Island Cook-Off Challenge

With rolling hills, long white sand beaches, red sandstone cliffs and ocean coves, Prince Edward Island has a reputation as a province of lush landscape and magnificent natural beauty. Aside from being Canada's largest producer of potatoes, the small island thanks to its long coast line, also boosts an abundance of fresh fish and a variety of shellfish such as lobsters, oysters and mussels. Incredible. I love seafood. And did you know that last year, Zagat ranked PEI as one of its eight top off-the-beaten-track locations in the world? PEI, the only location named in Canada, was ranked second in a list of eight dining locations all over the world from Cornwall, England, to Vieques, Puerto Rico, and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This is very impressive guys. I know my heart skipped a beat upon finding that out... I now want to book a culinary trip to PEI pronto!

A very close second to actually being in PEI was the opportunity to be one of four judges for the Prince Edward Island Cook-Off Challenge on Tuesday (#TasteofPEI). Held at Mildred's Temple Kitchen, students of four culinary schools from across Ontario went head-to-head in a culinary competition using fresh ingredients from PEI and foraged ingredients like fiddleheads, dulse, cattails and spruce shoots.

Michael Smith, Prince Edward Island's food ambassador and celebrity chef, was the host of the PEI Cook-Off Challenge. Chef Michael Smith is one of Canada's best-known chefs and is a passionate advocate for simple, sustainable home cooking. He is the host of Chef Micheals Kitchen, Chef Abroad, Chef at Home and Chef at Large seen on Food Network Canada. 

Before the competition, guests indulged in delicious oysters and appetizers made from local and foraged ingredients from PEI such as:
- Oysters
- Chilled pea puree with lobster, shrimp and crab cakes
- Green tea and fennel infused salmon with a fennel and citrus slaw, mussels, seared beef and mashed potatoes
- Strawberry and rhubarb soup

There was also an assortment of beautiful cheeses, fresh fruits and vegetables. 

Robert Ferguson of Tourism PEI 

Here is an introduction from each of the four students: 
Keith Hubbard, Lorelei Simbulan, Trevlor Littlejohn, Chrystalla Papachristou


1) Each student is to create an appetizer that includes all of the following PEI ingredients: 
Beef, mussels and potatoes 
2) The appetizer must also include a minimum of two of the following foraged ingredients:  
Fiddleheads, dulse, cattails and spruce shoots 
 3) Students have 30 minutes to prep, cook and plate their appetizers. 
4) The appetizers were judged on:
Taste: 40%
Use of PEI Ingredients: 30%
Creativity and Presentation: 30%

What an intense competition. Cooking against the clock is no easy task.

Watch as Michael Smith counts down the final 60 seconds!

THE JUDGING PANEL (left to right)

Irene Ngo (@IreneNgo), Assistant Food Editor of Chatelaine
Me (@foodieyu)
Jamie Drummond of Good Food Revolution (@GoodFoodRev
Michael Smith (@chefmichaelsmth)

(Photo credit: Instagram - @herbanknight)


Trevor Littlejohn, Niagara College, Culinary Management (recent graduate)
Sesame grilled strip loin with spruce shoots and Sriracha served with a fiddlehead and
potato puree, carrot and green apple citrus slaw with bacon, sticky soy and beer
braised mussels and topped with dulse potato hickory sticks.

Lorelei Simbulan, Liaison College, Chef de Cuisine Program
Pan seared medallion of beef seasoned with salt, pepper and spruce shoots served
over Dijon and chive mashed potatoes with Panko and dusle mussels and a garlic
butter sauce.

Chrystalla Papachristou, Humber College, Culinary Management
Grilled strip loin steak marinated with spruce shoots and grape seed oil served with
fiddleheads sweetened with honey, orange juice and orange zest and potatoes
sautéed with mussels, coconut milk, a hint of cream and dulse, garnished with cattails
marinated in white wine vinegar and grape seed oil.

Keith Hubbard, Fanshawe College, Cook II Apprentice
Grilled strip loin with apple cider vinegar and smashed garlic served with fiddlehead,
spruce shoots and potato soup, apple and blue cheese mussels and crispy waffle

My goodness, judging is hard work. All four students did a terrific job and it was definitely a close call. However, there can only be one winner and after much deliberation - taking in consideration taste, use of PEI ingredients, creativity and presentation - we agreed that Lorelei executed her dish the best.

Congratulations Lorelei!

Excellent work. Kudos to all four students!

For more information on Prince Edward Island, please visit:

For all you foodies out there, make sure to check out Fall Flavours Festival happening in PEI from September 6-29. It's an amazing month-long event featuring an outstanding lineup of Food Network celebrities hosting a wide range of unique culinary experiences.