Lee Hosts Wine Pairing Contest Winners


TORONTO — As most chefs who compete in culinary competitions know, a great deal of effort is required to create a dish that wins top marks for taste, creativity and presentation. And, when you’re also asked to pair wines to complement those creations, the challenge becomes that much greater. Last week, nine of Toronto’s top chefs stepped up to that challenge competing in the Vanguards of Culinary Fusion and Wine Pairing Contest. 

Last night, Oct. 25, contest participants and special guests attended a celebratory dinner to find out who took top honours in the contest, organized by Sopexa, as a celebration of France’s Alsace and Rhone regions.

After an intense competition that saw nine chefs from some of Toronto’s most well-known eateries go plate to plate, a judging panel of industry insiders, led by world-renowned restaurateur and chef, Susur Lee, chose Toronto’s Misha Nesterenko from Marben and Shane Straiko from Pantages Hotel as winners.

Nesterenko’s winning menu included an appetizer of Pig Head Presskopf, celeriac remoulade, Granny Smith apple purée, endive and autumn leaf salad (paired with Alsace Pinot Gris, Leon Beyer 2009) as well as an entrée of braised short ribs, curly kale, horseradish pomme purée and butter-glazed vegetables (paired with a Cotes de Rhone Villages Rasteau, M. Chaptoutier, 2009).

Straiko won for his Chilean sea bass, citrus saffron fondant potato, baby spinach and strawberry balsamic salsa (paired with a Alsace Gewurztraminer, Pierre Sparr, 2009) and his dessert of cinnamon-citrus crème caramel, hickory chocolate ice cream and maple foie-gras reduction (paired with a Gigondas, Ogier, Marquis de Valclair, 2009).   

“I am honoured to be involved in this competition and was impressed by the level of culinary innovation displayed by Toronto’s talented chefs,” said Lee, upon welcoming guests to Lee Restaurant, where the winning dishes were replicated for guests. “Competitions like these highlight the sophistication and breadth of the food scene in Canada and the food and wine pairing was a wonderful challenge for these talented chefs; it was a great way to explore new tastes and learn more about Alsace and Rhone wines.”

According to event organizers, the competition was tight. Food and wine pairing was a decisive factor in selecting the winners, and judges evaluated the chefs on creativity and presentation, taste and texture, quality of food and wine pairing as well as justification of wine pairing.

“This is a great opportunity to showcase my restaurant,” said co-winner, Nesterenko of Marben. “The recreation of my dishes, paired with these exceptional wines from France, will offer my guests a truly unique experience.” Co-winning challenger, chef Straiko of Pantages Hotel said, “It’s exciting to know guests in our restaurants will be able to indulge in the creations made here today.”

Chefs participating in the competition included Gaetano Ferrara, Ultra Supper Club; Craig Madore, Le Canard Mort; Stephanie Guth, Toca; Jason Maw, The Bowery; Benjamin Denham, Veritas; David Sider, Langdon Hall and Scott Bailey, Ancaster Mill. 

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