Beechwood Farmers Market cookoff

A few weeks ago, we received an email from Chris Penton, manager of the Beechwood Farmers Market inviting us to be a judge in the 3rd annual cook-off. We love supporting local farmers, producers, and businesses so this was most certainly of interest to us. I was happy to join fellow judges Elizabeth Kilvert, owner of the Unrefined Olive, and Councillor Mathieu Fleury this past Saturday.

The Beechwood Farmers Market is located at 135 Barrette Street (Corner of Beechwood and St. Charles) on the grounds of the historic St. Charles Church. The market is open every Saturday from 9am-2pm from June 11th to October 8th . Featuring over 30 vendors from a wide variety of areas including: farm fresh, baking, prepared foods, wines, arts and crafts, health, honey, home, jars, bottles and even desserts. For a full list of vendors, click here. The market is a meeting place for the community and is family-friendly offering up activities for kids and even live music.

I showed up a little early for the cook-off and walking around the market. I was hoping to meet some of the vendors that we’ve connected with on social media. It was great to finally meet Samantha of Bez Gluten-Free and Matt from The Great British Pastry & Pie Co. I wanted to stop by and put a face to the name. I was even lucky enough to try a sample (it was delicious).

Back to the cook-off… This is the third year for the cook-off and every year it brings in local-area chefs. This year the three chefs competing were Chef Warren Sutherland (Yet to be opened restaurant, Sutherland), Chef Bryan Marcus Raja (Private residence chef with international experience, Cordon Bleu trained), and returning champion Chef Resa Solomon-St. Lewis – (Baccanalle, Beechwood Market pop-up breakfast).

The rules were as follows:

  1. Each chef is permitted to bring up to 3 ingredients from their pantry.
  2. Chefs must create a vegetarian dish.
  3. Chefs much shop the market for their items.

Unfortunately, the weather was not on our side but the cook-off was able to move indoors. I found the chefs walking around the market shopping for their items. Once they gathered their items they moved inside to their cook stations and waited for the cook-
off to start. Each chef was allowed to bring whatever equipment they wanted. I saw here a Vitamix, sous vide machine, and inversion blender just to name a few. Each chef was also given a bottle of olive oil courtesy of the Unrefined Olive to use.

Judges were given four areas to critique, each worth 5 points.

  1. Execution - craft, technique, attitude.
  2. Formulation - ingredients, recipe, and adherence to rules.
  3. Interpretation - style, creativity.
  4. Taste - subjective.

After Chris introduced the chefs and judges table the chefs were able to start! Chefs are given only 35 minutes to prepare and plate their creations. During this time, the judges had a chance to walk around and chat with the chefs about what ingredients they chose from the market and what they were preparing.

At the end of the 35 minutes, each chef was asked to describe their plates and then serve the judges.

Here’s a look at the creations:

Chef Bryan's gazpacho

Chef Warren's tortilla with a warm corn salsa topped with a soft poached egg with salsa verde

Chef Resa's vegetable pakora with a cucumber and tomato salad. Not pictured: Sparkling apple cider with squashed fruit 

Each chef created very different and unique dishes. In Chef Bryan’s gazpacho you could taste the freshest of the vegetables. It had great flavour and he added a bit of heat that you could taste at the end. He used the Vitamix but also chopped up the veggies in a way that added texture to the soup. Chef Resa created a vegetarian pakora with a side salad. Chef Resa’s preparation was not only vegetarian but also vegan and gluten free. She was also only competitor to create an accompanying drink with her plate. Chef Warren prepared homemade tortillas with a corn salsa that was full of colour and tasted so fresh. He even used a sous vide machine for his eggs, they were perfection in only 13 minutes and were used to top off the dish.

The judges scores were tallied and this year’s winner was Chef Warren Sutherland!

Big thanks to the Beechwood Farmers Market inviting me to be a judge. Everyone did a great job and I was lucky to learn more about the chefs and the market. Make sure to head to the farmer’s market to pick up from ingredients for your own cook-off. You won’t be disappointed with the great things that you will find and the wonderful people that you will meet.

See more pictures on our Facebook page, here.