Heather Alford has been cooking since she was little, but this weekend was one of the first times she’d been judged by top caliber chefs.
The 21-year-old Saskatoon native was among five young chefs from around the province who sliced, diced and cooked up a storm at the Farmers Market Sunday for a chance at a scholarship to commence their culinary career.
“I was pretty focused. I was nervous before, just waiting, but it was fun. It went by fast,” Alford, who took first place, said.
Ayden Kitchen owner and Top Chef Canada winner Dale McKay organized the competition.
“It’s just really to promote young chefs, to engage to get them a little bit competitive and kind of thinking outside the box and making working a little bit harder to be a professional chef.
Most of the ingredients came from Co-op and contestants were each given $20 to buy local foods from around the market. McKay said he wanted the contestants to engage with farmers and know where their food is coming from.
The mystery ingredient was Diefenbaker Trout.
“I thought how many times have I cooked trout; zero. So that was kind of nerve-racking, but I have friends who use it so they helped me out,” Alford said.
Her dish consisted of a cream broccoli sauce as a base, baked trout, shaved raw broccoli, romaine lettuce tossed in a lemon vinaigrette, and butter and champagne poached broccoli florets.
Even though she forgot to plate one element, judges Lynn Crawford, Connie DeSousa and Trevor Bird still thought her meal was the best.
“To get to be judged or cook for these chefs really doesn’t happen in your career until you generally have a restaurant and you’re head chef so I think it’s pretty special alone getting to cook for these people, and win or lose it’s a good experience,” McKay said.
On top of the scholarship, Alford gets to travel to Calgary to briefly train at the award-winning restaurants CHARCUT Roasthouse and Charbar under chefs Connie DeSousa and John Jackson.
Alford said she is excited and still has the passion for cooking.
“It’s just so exciting every day. There’s so much to learn and so many people to learn from,” she said.