Despite a chilly Tuesday evening, February 3rd 2015, the city of Toronto made their way into the warm embrace of MILDRED’S Temple Kitchen. The spectacle of the night? The Tin Chef competition, a Winterlicious culinary event . It was a night when food lovers united to see who would win the coveted title of Tin Chef. The Tin Chef is a competition all about home cooks who prove they have a passion for food, as they cook in a professional kitchen for everyone to see.
This year’s contestants were Christine Emerson, Sean Kay, Roman Kliotzkin, Eugena Kwon and Laura Wright. Contestants were handpicked based on their audition videos when Mildred sent her casting call. All 5 contestants came in early to get themselves ready. Not only did they prep their stations, but they also took the time to mentally focus on their game plan and ask any last minute questions to help ease their beating hearts.
Shortly after, our Celebrity Judges arrived. Joining us once again, Paul Brans (O&B), Saverio Macri (Ciao Wine Bar/Cibo Wine Bar) and Alida Solomon (Tutti Matti) took their rightful positions at the Celebrity Judges panel. We were also joined by last year’s contestants, Deborah Brewster, Jill Chen, Ronn Reaman Meghan Legere, and winner Gav Martell. Last year these five put on a great competition, but this year they joined us as our People’s Choice Award Judges. We figured, who would be the best people to give this award? Why, the people who were in their shoes not too long ago.
As the clocked ticked 7, Chef Donna Dooher, Master of Ceremony, took the stage. Introductions were made and one by one contestants were called out to their stations with matching aprons and smiles. Finally, a silver platter was presented and hidden under that silver platter was the secret ingredient. After a much requested drumroll, Donna Dooher revealed the secret ingredient: Rack of Lamb! One rule is that the secret ingredient must be used as the main component of each contestant’s delicious dish.
With a crowd countdown of ‘3, 2, 1…’ all 5 contestants rushed to the pantry stocked with a selection of fresh ingredients, from greens and vegetables, from herbs to oils, dairies and more. The contestants sliced, diced and mixed their ingredients at their stations, then flambéed and sautéed their dishes on the open kitchen line. On the line, contestants were joined by their helpful Kitchen Chefs, Chef Michael Leary, Matt and Philip. Throughout the event, the Kitchen Chefs guided on how to properly use the equipment, assured no one got hurt, and did NOT help the contestants with their cooking. Contestants are all on their own with that one!
It didn’t take long for the space to fill with beautiful aromas. Clearly, the contestants have been practicing at home. Guests filled up the areas and crowded the kitchen line to see the contestants in action. What was Laura doing? What is Roman slicing? What is Eugena putting in her dish? Check out Christine’s cheesy lamb. Oh, look at Sean buy some judges shots of tequila. Everyone knew what was going on. No pressure added. None whatsoever. Yes. That was sarcasm.
While watching the kitchen heat up, a spur of grumbling stomachs started and that was the cue for passed hors d’oeuvres and food stations. The MILDRED team created and passed some scrumptious bites such as chicken and waffle, flatbreads, our famous sliders accompanied by a fresh oyster station presented by our friends at Oyster Boy. The bar was also a hot spot. Guests enjoyed some great wines, a favourite being Southbrook Vineyards, along with flavourful brews from Liberty Village Brewing Company, including crowd favourite, Black Blessing, a delicious dark chocolate stout.
There was a surprise presented by Chef Alida Solomon. Another ingredient was added to the pantry: kohlrabi. Contestants had the option to add kohlrabi, a beautiful green annual vegetable of the cabbage variety.
Now, usually 60 minutes can take an awfully long time to pass on a regular cold Tuesday evening. However, that isn’t the case when you’re cooking in front of a large group of people, cameras and bright lights. Within the 60 minutes, contestants had cooked and beautifully presented 4 plates to the judges to evaluate. One by one judges talked amongst themselves about each dish. Judges considered presentation, taste and use of local ingredients, with the option to give extra wild card points for that extra wow factor. In addition to Celebrity Judges, two members of the audience were randomly picked to also enjoy the dishes prepared by the contestants.
The People’s Choice Award Judges first came up and gave the award for People’s Choice to Laura Wright praising for her cool, calm and collected composure and for her highly raved tots. Recipe, please!
Finally, it all comes down to that one moment. After 60 minutes, whose dish reigned most flavourful and creative above all? Chefs Paul, Saverio and Alida took centre stage and praised everyone for their talent and great work. A rain of coloured streams and glitter filled the air with a well-deserved applause for Roman Kliotzkin and all contestants who participated. A big grin was only extended even more with a hug and kiss from Romans wife and adorable baby girl.
All of our contestants received a gift package that included gifts from our friends at West Elm, Kitchen Stuff Plus, a gift card to MILDRED’S and tickets to various exciting events throughout the city.
Everyone slowly took their pictures with the contestants, judges and MC, Mildred’s very own Donna Dooher. It’s not everyday when you get to experience a food competition up close and personal. One by one as guests left with their senses entertained, they received a package that included Donna Dooher’s Award-Winning ‘Out to Brunch’ cookbook. The cookbook includes some of our own recipes that are tried, tested and true.
The night was clear, and the room was left with great memories and experiences to last a lifetime.
Have a look at the rest of the shots at #TheTinChef taken by 135mm Photography here
Want to have your own Tin Chef experience? Book your Tin Chef event today! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Thank you to our contestants, judges, sponsors, donations, media and the MILDRED family for making this years Tin Chef competition a great success.