Also published in The Vancouver Observer.
After an intense bout of preliminary heats on Tuesday, and a sweat inducing semi finals and finals, the winner of the Whistler Chef’s Challenge has been chosen.
Stefan Vagelatos of The Brew Creek Centre won the challenge with a dish that cleverly infused the secret ingredient of foraged mint in the broth that coated the soba noodles. The steak was pan-seared beautifully, moist, flavourful and vibrant red, and was complemented by the mound of soba noodles, kelp, chili peppers and sesame seeds. Stefan wowed the judges (myself and Alexandra Gill) with his cohesion of unique flavours in the dishes he prepared throughout the challenge. He has a knack for using bold flavours appropriately, while understanding the importance of letting some ingredients speak for themselves. His Japanese-inspired dish was speculated to be in honour of his lovely wife who was cheering him on in the audience.
Andres Gonzalez of Four Seasons Whistler prepared an impeccable looking salmon dish that fell short of taking the win solely because of the subtlety of the secret ingredient. His enthusiasm, technical skills, creativity and personality made it an extremely difficult decision that was determined by half a point.
It was a tight competition throughout, with some of Whistler’s finest chefs competing for the accolade, as well as the cash prize. The second place winner received $500, while the winner received $1000 and the title of Whistler’s “Top Chef”.
Last year’s winner was from the esteemed Araxi restaurant, which was represented by two Chefs this year that went head-to-head (Dustin Goertzen and Patrick Cantin). The challenge is part of the annual Cornucopia festival and after concluding Wednesday it will be entering its sixth year.
For more photos from the challenge, check out my Whistler Chef’s Challenge set on Flickr.