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College students hungry for Gold Medal Plate Competition

Okanagan College Media Release

Eighteen students enrolled in Okanagan College’s Culinary Arts program are gearing up for what is expected to be a round-the-clock effort assisting the best chefs in the country when they arrive in Kelowna for the Gold Medal Plate Competition Thursday.

“It’s going to be a madhouse, but an entertaining madhouse in an Iron Chef professional sort of way,” said Jon Garratt, a third-year Culinary Arts student and junior president of the Okanagan Chefs Association, who is organizing the students’ role in the event.

First year student Nigel Tearle is handling it all with a certain style of confidence only a budding chef could offer up.

“They know what they’re doing, I just have to watch them,” he laughed.

“And he’s going to get run over,” said Garratt, who watched the Gold Medal Plate competition unfold when it was held for the first time in Kelowna last year. “The truth is you really can’t prepare for anything like this, because there is nothing like this.”

The participating students will hit the ground running on Thursday night when they will be paired with their competing chef at the special opening reception at Quail’s Gate Winery in West Kelowna. There they’ll taste wine with their chef in preparation for the Mystery Wine Pairing Friday night.

The next morning, students in each team will help their chef scour the Okanagan countryside for ingredients worthy of a gold plate, presented before a sold-out crowd at the Hotel Eldorado.

“They’ll probably get back to the College in the morning, and then everything will be shipped out from the College kitchen around 4 p.m., and then they’ll assist with the plating at the Eldorado,” Garratt said.

The following day the Black Box competition gets underway and students get a chance to watch the chefs and sous chefs in action before the evening when an additional 18 Okanagan College Culinary Arts students plus another 38 students from Thompson Rivers University assist with the Grand Finale at the Delta Grand.

“The experience is huge for our students to be able to work with and watch these high caliber chefs and learn about the different flavours and styles they work with. Last year’s winner was from Montreal, and they have a very different style of cooking out there,” Garratt said.

“It’s also a great opportunity for students to make contacts and network. Last year two of our juniors ended up working with the second place winner – Jeremy Charles from Raymonds restaurant in Nova Scotia, which was just named best new restaurant in Canada. You can’t beat that.”

Okanagan College will be one of the host venues for the three-day high profile event through to 2015.

For more information about the Culinary Arts program, visit and click on trades and apprentice and follow the links to Culinary Arts.

Gold Medal Plates is a national celebration of Canadian excellence in cuisine, wine, entertainment and athletic achievement. Net proceeds from Gold Medal Plates, which is currently at $5-million, are given to the Canadian Olympic Foundation which supports Olympic and Paralympic athletes and high performance programs such as Own the Podium.