TORONTO — East Side Mario held its annual pasta challenge last week, partnering with Barilla Canada. The second annual competition, held at George Brown’s Chef’s House, was open to all East Side Mario’s back-of-the-house staff nationwide with the aim to give young talent from various backgrounds the opportunity to be mentored by industry experts from East Side Mario’s and Barilla, who share passion for Italian gastronomy and the art of choosing, cooking, and eating good food.
Vying for the title of the East Side Mario’s & Barilla Pasta Challenge champion, the six competitors were tasked with creating an original recipe featuring pasta and providing an Italian-inspired eating experience for the panel of judges, which featured Foodservice and Hospitality’s editor/publisher Rosanna Caira; Sean Denney, director of Marketing, East Side Mario’s; Rob Carmichael, vice-president, East Side Mario’s; chef Lorenzo Boni, executive chef, Barilla Americas; Gino Rulli, vice-president and general manager, Barilla Canada; and Chef John Higgins, director, Corporate Chef, George Brown College.
When all was said and done, Miranda McLaughlin from East Side Mario’s Pembroke location was chosen as this year’s winner for her recipe of Lemon Shrimp Spaghettini. McLaughlin’s dish will now be showcased as a new menu item at East Side restaurants across Canada. The rest of the contestants included Alex Domingo, Calgary Shawnessy; Megan Nicolaidis, Brantford, Ont.; Chloé Dutremble, Bromont, Que; Cory Hemington, Pembroke, Ont.; and Melissa Gangl, Waterloo University, Waterloo, Ont.
With pasta representing 90 per cent of the plate coverage and product cost remaining 10 per cent of the overall ingredient expense, the young chefs were also tasked with keeping their signature dishes under a 30-per-cent food cost.