TORONTO — The San Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef competition has crowned a Canadian regional winner in Toronto.“I’m on cloud nine right now — I’m very happy I’m going to the finals,” Jean Christophe Comtois told F&H after winning the heat. Comtois, who says he “wanted to showcase nice produce from Quebec,” cooked milk veal tenderloin with polenta, butternut squash and fresh vegetables in the two-hour time limit.
Christophe, a student at École hôtelière de la Capitale and cook at Le Clocher Penché Restaurant in Quebec, has been cooking for nearly two years and is looking forward to culinary travels one day. “I’d like to move around a bit to gather some techniques and experience around the world.”
Kellie Callender from Vancouver, B.C., won the people’s choice award for his slow-poached salmon, sunchoke purée and crab-stuffed leeks. “During the last half hour there were a few hiccups with my station, but I put my head down, worked hard and it came out good. I was happy with my dish.”
Toronto chefs Mark McEwan and Rob Gentile mentored the competitors prior to the event. McEwan gave sage advice to young cooks looking for a solid career. “Number 1: you must develop really good habits at a young age. Bouncing around in the business is one of the worst things you can do,” he said. “Find a great kitchen to work in, spend five years there and learn the front door and the back door — the ins and outs of the business.”
McEwan was pleased with the event. “It was an interesting group today — seven very focused young chefs. They all did a very good job,” said the chef who’ll judge the upcoming finals in Napa, Calif., where nine competitors will compete next week.