Don’t you just love adventitious meetings? When the universe and chance come together creating an unexpected opportunity resulting in something you wouldn’t have otherwise been able to experience. It doesn’t happen often but it did to me this past weekend while attending the Gold Medal Plates, Canadian Culinary Championships, where some of Canada’s best chefs compete for gold while raising funds for Canadian Olympic athletes.
This prestigious culinary event is held in Kelowna, British Columbia and has been renewed as the host city for another 5 years. Amazingly, my hometown beat out places like Whistler and Banff! Yet another reason to visit this popular wine and food region of Canada.
I was happy to attend the kick off event, the mystery wine paring competition which coincided with the opening of the Sochi Winter Olympics, where guests were treated to oysters, locally produced Okanagan wines and became the judges themselves. The room was packed with Canadian foodies who rushed from chef station to station in order to taste what chefs had created with the mystery wine in mind. Due to limited time and a large amount of people some, including myself, were not able to try all of the dishes. However, I made better use of my time.
While guarding my party’s table (the entire event is standing only and tables are valuable real estate) a man placed his plate down where my sister would normally be positioned. My sister’s boyfriend, Ben Calder of CollegePodcast.ca, began a conversation with him. After introductions and shameless plugging of both podcast and blog, we discovered that we were talking to CEO and co-founder of Gold Medal Plates, Stephen Leckie.
Politely asking for a card, which neither of us could produce thinking that we wouldn’t strike gold that night, Leckie invited us to the mystery box challenge the next morning. He instructed us that we were to arrive at 7:45 am at the back door of the Okanagan College venue with 4 national papers. If we were to succeed he would allow us to interview the competing Canadian chefs.
Little did Ben and I realize what we were agreeing to at 9:00 pm after more than a few glasses of wine.
Waking up at 6:00 am I downed as much coffee as I could and ventured into the dark morning with Ben in my passenger seat. We first hit the Starbucks, asked for more coffee and 4 Globe & Mail papers. They only had one.
What about the Canada Post? Only two.
On we went on our scavenger hunt depleting a corner store around the corner from the college of their last 4 Globe & Mail papers.
“We like the news,” Ben had explained to the clerks raised eyebrow.
Ben, being a current college student knew where the backdoor of the college cafeteria was and without any hesitation we were let in but Leckie was not yet there. With my DSLR hanging around my neck and appearing a bit haggard we got a few looks. The local media members wondering who are the newbies and how did they get in?
After 15 minutes of guarding the papers Leckie emerged from a crowd of media hawks and pointed to us.
“Leave the papers. Let’s go.” We followed.
We got a quick tour of the culinary stage where the chefs would be cooking with every angle covered by a high tech camera that made my DSLR look like a child’s toy. We then were led to a room with all of the competing chefs sitting nervously awaiting the black box challenge to begin.
Leckie introduced us and asked for a few volunteers interested in being interviewed. After a few moments of silence Chef Kelly Cattani of Elements restaurant in Winnipeg graciously lent her time to us first. As you’ll see in the video our position in the hallway was less than ideal amongst the chaos and it seems as though a couple of people were less than thrilled to have us present but thankfully we had Stephen Leckie on our side. Check out our video below!
Thank you to all the chefs who took the time to be interviewed.
And thank you to Stephen Leckie for taking a chance on us!
See who won the Gold Medal Plates 2014, Canadian Culinary Championships
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