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Last year’s Gold Medal Plates finale could have turned out differently had it not been for one savvy student assistant.
Okanagan College apprentice chef Stephanie Huff was assisting Toronto Chef Lorenzo Loseto as he was creating his gold medal winning plate, which featured gently fried potato-wrapped ahi tuna.
When a key cooking tool was nowhere to be found, Huff knew she’d have to think on her feet.
“My chef didn’t have the proper thermometer he needed to be able to calibrate the oil to the right temperature and get the right cook on the tuna,” she said. “He was going to have to wing it.”
With most of the cooking supply stores closed for the day, Huff phoned a local restaurant and jumped in her car. Her competitive spirit kicked in and she made it back in time to hand the thermometer over to the chef just when he needed it to complete his winning dish.
Huff is one of several Okanagan College student chefs returning to assist Canada’s top 11 chefs during this year’s Gold Medal Plates competition, which runs from Feb. 6-7 in support of the Canadian Olympic Foundation.
The student chefs are tasked with everything from slicing and peeling to plating dishes for the public during the course of three competition events.
The highly-anticipated black box challenge, held at Okanagan College’s Kelowna Campus, sees chefs produce and finish 14 plates for the judges in 50 minutes using six of 10 mystery ingredients revealed at the start of the hour.
For many Okanagan College student chefs, participating in the challenges alongside the competing chefs gives them valuable hands-on experience and the ability to expand their industry network.
The recipient of a 2014 Gold Medal Plates Best Student Assistant Award, Melissa Masters, compares the experience to a job interview.
“Local chefs watch how you interact with your team and the public and they get feedback from the competing chefs,” she said. “If you put yourself out there and work hard, it opens a lot of doors.”
Masters is currently working as a cook at a local mental health facility, but has decided to participate again this year for the learning experience.
“Every time you learn something new,” she said. “I’m there to watch the chefs and learn as much as I can from them.”
Those interested in watching the black box competition live can log in to www.okanagan.bc.ca/gmp2015 on Saturday morning at 8:15.
For more information or to purchase tickets to attend the Gold Medal Plates events, visit: www.goldmedalplates.com.