Niagara Winery Chef Wins Ontario’s Gold Medal Plates


TORONTO — Frank Dodd, chef of Hillebrand Winery Restaurant in Niagara-on-the-Lake, walked away with top honours at this year’s Ontario Gold Medal Plates Competition.

The event, which marries food and sport may seem like an odd pairing of two different worlds, but, in this case, the synergies work. The annual fundraiser, which spans eight cities across the country, has already raised more than $4.1 million to fund Canada’s Olympic athletes.

Last night’s Ontario competition, held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in Toronto, attracted 775 foodies who sampled a creative range of dishes from the tasting stations of 10 of the province’s most recognized culinary names, including Jamie Kennedy, Michael Steh, Jonathan Gushue, Frank Dodd and Lora Kirk.   

Dodd stole the show with his playful trio of pork prepared in three ways: hot, cold and frozen. The creative entry featured a broth made from ham hocks and prosciutto, served in a demitasse and topped with pastry and containing diced yellow squash; head cheese wrapped in prosciutto, contrasting light and dark meat and a scoop of bacon ice cream, artfully served on a teaspoon, to finish. The meal was paired with a Hillebrand wine — the 2008 Trius Red.

The winning menu created quite a buzz in the long queue of guests, who could be heard commenting on the unusual ice cream, while the judging panel sampled the food ringside. The judging panel was comprised of James Chatto, Lucy Waverman, John Higgins, Christine Cushing, Sasha Chapamn and Anita Stewart as well as last year’s Ontario Gold Medal Plate winner, David Lee from Nota Bene Restaurant.

This year’s silver medal was awarded to chef Lorenzo Loseto of George, who won silver in 2007. His dish featured a slice of Tamworth pork belly, cooked crisp on the surface, paired with baby artichokes and Matsutake mushrooms ricotta cavatelli.

And, rounding out the top three was Michael Steh of Reds Bistro & Wine Bar whose dish highlighted rabbit served in a number of ways. Steh made a ballontine of the saddle, stuffed with a spicy blood sausage, set against a slice of firm, garlic-smoked rabbit kolbasa. A confit of rillettes, coated in breadcrumbs and then fried, completed the offerings. Chef Steh’s chosen wine was the 2007 Baco Noir Reserve from Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery in Niagara, Ont.

In addition to tasting an exceptional array of vintages from the Niagara region, guests were also able to bid on a stellar representation of fine wines from around the world as well as silent auction items such as a four-day tour of Napa with Catriona Le May Doan and a culinary and cycling tour of Tuscany with Blue Rodeo frontman, Jim Cuddy.   

Alex Bilodeau, the first Canadian Olympian to score gold on home turf, at this year’s Vancouver Olympics, was the keynote speaker. Guests were also treated to performances by Cuddy, Barnie Bentall and Holly Cole, capping an evening of culinary excellence.

With the regional competitions now complete in Edmonton, Vancouver, Saskatchewan and Toronto three cities remain to compete: Calgary, Ottawa-Gatineau and St. John’s.  

Each of the winners will vie for the national title, at the Canadian Culinary Championships, to be held in Kelowna, B.C, from Feb. 18 to 19.


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