A cool win for Fanshawe

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The competition got served as Fanshawe dished out top plates at the Canadian Culinary Federation (CCFCC) Culinary Arts Salon 2012 on March 4 in Toronto.

Fanshawe's team beat out three other culinary schools and around 50 competitors from across the country to take home five gold medals, four silver and one bronze medal, along with several “best of” awards and Grand Gold — top honours at the competition.

A cold salon competition serves up cold food, and judges look for presentation in addition to the food being cooked right. “Hot competitions are physical cooking competitions where you see the chefs on stage and they each have their own little kitchenette and they're physically cooking in front of an audience — that's something we practice on a daily basis,” explained team coach and Fanshawe Professor Chef Scott Baechler. “With cold-show competing, it takes months and months of practice, mental and physical conditioning. (The competitors) need to be conditioned enough that they can do it in their sleep. If they're not feeling well, if they're sick or tired or whatever the case may be, they need to be able to produce. I think it's a lot more methodical.”

It feels “fantastic” to do so well this year, he continued. “We wanted to shoot as high as last year, or at least try to keep up to last year ... The (students) were very adamant. They were like, ‘Nope, we're going to beat it. We're going to do better than last year.'” Fanshawe has performed very well in the past, but the students were right: last year, Fanshawe students brought home Grand Gold, four gold and three silver medals — more than any other college in Canada. The year prior, Fanshawe students and faculty won a total of nine gold, silver, and bronze medals.

Fanshawe's medal winners were: team captain Mitchell Brown, who took home gold for his three-course lunch and won best use of cheese; Johan Akeung won gold for his three-course lunch; Wesley Bach won gold for his four-plated entre; Kevyn Swift won silver for his three-course lunch; Mehak Chatrath won silver for her chocolate show piece; Nicole Fairbairn won silver for her wedding cake; Jayme-Lyn Saunders won silver for her wedding cake; Allen Ashley won bronze for his three-course lunch and took home honours for best use of turkey; Terrance Tew won gold for his four-plated entre, gold for his chocolate show piece, best use of vanilla and Grand Gold (best overall).

The wins represent months of hard work put in by nine secondyear Culinary Management students and a number of first-year students who assisted them. “There was probably just as much stress” working as a first-year assistant and then as a second-year competitor, said team captain Brown. “They're not just our plates, they're their plates too. Each of us is assigned two support members to help them get ready for next year. They get to learn the process of going through the plate design, fundraising and then right to the practical cooking. As a first-year, they have to take a lot of pride in the plates because they have helped with them.”

The competitors and their assistants spent 40 sleepless hours cooking and preserving up to five plates per entry in the competition — one day per plate is considered normal in the industry — but the students are used to the hard work, said Brown. “The one Sunday we were there for almost 16 (or 17) hours. It's a lot of dedication.” He added that he wanted to thank Chef Baechler and Chef Roland Hofner for all their hard work as well. “It starts off with them. We really wouldn't be able to do it without the help from the chefs, because this is extra for them too, this is their free time also.”

“It's a huge benefit to the students,” said Baechler. “Someone did it for me a long time ago and they made me promise that I would do it for other students. That's all I ask of these guys. It's not just the gold, it really is about the experience. They learn to work under pressure, they learn to work under fatigue. They truly get more out of themselves than they believe they can.”

Check out a video of the Fanshawe team's experience in the CCFCC salon at tinyurl.com/fanshaweccfcc2012.