As most people know I have retired my chef’s coat and now I wear many hats, I guess that’s what comes with owning your own business. Some days I truly miss my time in the kitchen. The “good old days” high intensity, fast paced, warm days and late nights. Other days I am more than happy to be “retired”. On February 8th during the Black Box portion of the Canadian Culinary Championships I found myself very happy to be a retired cook.

We had traveled to Kelowna with our team to compete in 3 competitions over two days. The first being the Mystery Wine Pairing, details on this event can be found on our previous blog post.

Day two of competition was the Black Box. It begins with all the chefs meeting very early at Okanogan College giving up their cell phones and sitting in a private room waiting to be called into the kitchen to have their six mystery ingredients revealed.

Each chef and their Sous Chef was brought into the kitchen at random and given a box of unknown ingredients from across the country. They then had ten minutes to plan out 2 dishes using all six ingredients in at least one dish. Once they had decided what they were going to prepare each team submits their menu items and they have 50 minutes to cook and plate 24 dishes for the judges.

As if the mystery ingredients and time restraints are not enough the chefs are being filmed with live commentary for a live online feed and the kitchen was filled with 20-30 spectators.
The ingredients are made public via the live feed as well as multiple social media sites. As I was preparing to head to the event (as a spectator) the ingredients were revealed. The ingredients were; Lamb neck & shoulder, Black Kale, Goat Gruyere, Caviar, Pears and Red Fife Flour. Up to this point I was truly missing my chef’s coat, but when I saw the ingredient list and was already aware of the time restraints, I was happy to be in “retirement”.  I had a few hours to process the list of ingredients and try to figure out what I would do and I could hardly think of anything. I can’t imagine being one of the competitors. That’s where Shaun and our Sous Chef Tyler Gallant worked their magic.

I was front and center in the kitchen waiting for their turn to come up, which is never good on the nerves. They came into the kitchen very calm and ready to represent. As soon as they began to menu plan I knew they’d be fine (not that I doubted them, but again the nerves were getting the better of me). They planned their 2 dishes in about five minutes, which gave them an extra 5 minutes to cook. Once they started cooking I slowly started feeling more relaxed. I’m not sure they were relaxed but they seemed to just be in a zone, very focused on their dishes.
In true Chinched Bistro style, Shaun and Tyler managed to have fun while hustling around the kitchen. They both worked at a steady pace, never looking nervous and always with smile on their faces. With the commentary coming from the kitchen judge, there were some jokes being directed at Shaun for his laid back attitude and love of beer which Shaun was happy to confirm. He would have been happy to have a beer when the final plate left the kitchen but he settled for a confidant pose and hug from Tyler. Spectators were impressed to see how the guys worked together and seemed to enjoy each other’s company. Comments were made within the kitchen about how they were the only ones smiling during the black box. We certainly know how to have fun!

The hour came to an end quite quickly and even with the short window to produce 24 plates they managed to finish each plate and send them off to be judged with 1 minute and 30 seconds to spare (the record for the most time to spare in the event).

Dish number one (above) was roasted lamb shoulder served with braised black kale and a pear and caviar compote. For their second dish (below) Shaun and Tyler prepared braised lamb neck served over top if a red fife and gruyere pancake and finished the plate with a tomato jam. Both the dishes looked amazing and made the crowd of spectators hungry for the Grand Finale later that evening.

CCC2013_blackbox_Shaun Hussey - S tjohn's 2

The dishes Shaun and Tyler presented look great and I’m sure they have the flavor to match. It was a wonderful day to be a spectator and to have the opportunity to cheer on our team. They did us proud and I think everyone was very happy with our experience at the Black Box Competition!

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