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Local chefs compete at Similkameen BBQ King
Three chefs from Osoyoos and Oliver area restaurants competed Saturday in the 2014 Similkameen BBQ King competition, but the winners came from elsewhere.
Adair Scott, the new executive chef at Watermark Beach Resort; Justin Paakkunainen, the veteran head chef at Walnut Beach Resort; and Jeff Van Geest of Miradoro Restaurant at Tinhorn Creek were among the nine competing chefs.
The annual event at the Grist Mill and Gardens in Keremeos is sponsored by the Similkameen Wineries Association to showcase local wines paired with culinary creations.
Competing chefs receive a “black box” the week before, which this year provided them with a whole pig, cherries, carrots, sorrel, zucchini and country pepper. They are allowed to add some ingredients of their own, but they are expected to use the provided items from the “black box.”
Guests went from booth to booth sampling the small food items with a paired wine before voting on winners.
This year’s winner of both the People’s Choice and Media Choice was Chef Lee Humphries from Local Lounge and Grill, of Summerland, paired with Seven Stones Winery.
The runner up for People’s Choice was Natasha Schooten from the Grist Mill, paired with Sage Bush Winery and for Media Choice was Shayna Merritt of Shayna and Shulman Culinary Adventures, paired with Orofino Winery.
Scott, from Watermark, made a black pepper cherry sausage topped with pork hock ragout on a grilled zucchini cornbread.
The challenge, he said, is getting a whole pig, with different cuts, to feed 400 people.
“I think there’s a few of us doing sausages,” he said. “With all these guys and how good we all are, you always know we kind of think alike.”
Van Geest, from Miradoro, said chefs need to appeal to both the judges and the public.
“You need to stand out, but you can’t go too crazy,” he said. “At the same time, you want to showcase some skill and creativity as well.”
He made suckling pig mortadella along with coppa de testa, or headcheese, with a smoked carrot and cherry agri-dolce, meaning sour and sweet.
“I love mortadella,” he said of the food that North Americans refer to as baloney in its bastardized form. “I wanted to do something a little bit different that stuck out and we are an Italian-Spanish influenced restaurant. I wanted to showcase some of our charcuterie skills.”
Paakkunainen of Walnut Beach made a pepper and juniper seasoned pork sausage with a cherry and sorrel mostarda, carrot ketchup on a zucchini hoagie bun.
“It’s a challenge,” he said, noting that this is the third year he has competed in the event. “I wanted to try to do something to be a little different from everybody else. I always do that.”
The smoked juniper berries gave the dish a unique taste.
Is there a secret to winning?
“I don’t know,” said Paakkunainen. “I haven’t won yet. I don’t have a secret.”