Exhibitor award winners and a culinary champion among highlights of CRFA Show

In addition to attracting thousands of industry professionals to network and see new products, services and trends, the CRFA Show awarded exhibitor excellence and crowned a new culinary champion. Held March 4-6 in Toronto, the CRFA Show is the biggest event of the year for Canada’s $63-billion restaurant industry:
  • 12,000 visitors
  • More than 1,200 exhibit booths
  • 5 exhibitor awards
  • 1 winner among 16 chefs in the Discovered Culinary Competition
  • 5 high-level industry executive panelists and Keynote Speaker Ron MacLean at the Breakfast with Champions
  • 32 educational seminars
  • 6 chef demos
  • 12 VIP government visitors
  • 1 Stanley Cup
  • Industry Night Out featuring debut of “I am a Restaurant” film
Awarding exhibitor excellence
The CRFA Show awarded Bunn-O-Matic Corporation of Canada with the loyalty award, recognizing its 50 years at the show.
Four exhibitors won best booth awards: Gala Bakery for best small booth, Rational for best traffic-building booth, Embassy of Mexico Agricultural office for best large booth and Delicious World Corp for best first-year exhibitor.

“The entire restaurant and hospitality community came together to make this the most exciting CRFA Show ever,” says CRFA President and CEO Garth Whyte. “There were more opportunities than ever to do business, network and learn about the latest trends and innovation in Canada’s dynamic restaurant industry.”

Culinary champion crowned
Chef Brianne Nash won the Discovered Culinary Competition, beating out 15 finalists chosen over four months of preliminary competitions that involved more than 50 competitors and 23 judges. Chef Nash will take time off work at Saucy restaurant in Mississauga to enjoy her grand prize – a trip to Spain to train in the kitchen of Casa Gerardo, a Michelin-star restaurant.

Government VIPs tour the show
The Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association was pleased to welcome several special visitors to the show:
  • Mexican Ambassador Francisco J. Barrio-Terrazas
  • Mexican Agriculture Minister Counsellor Ernesto Maldonado
  • Illinois Governor Pat Quinn
  • Federal Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism Maxime Bernier
  • Provincial Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities Glen Murray
  • MP Michelle Rempel
  • MP Blake Richards
  • Toronto City Councillor Doug Ford
  • Senator Frank Mahovlich
  • New Zealand High Commissioner Andrew Needs
  • New Zealand Trade Commissioner Melissa Trochon
  • U.S. Consul General Kevin Johnson
Giving back to the community
The Stanley Cup toured the show on March 5, giving fans a photo opportunity in exchange for donations to Friends of We Care, which assists Canadian children with physical disabilities.

Second Harvest collected 22,622 pounds of food from CRFA Show exhibitors, including fresh fruit and vegetables, canned goods and sauces, fruit juice, crackers and snack foods, breads, fresh salad and dips, meat and cheese.

The 2013 CRFA Show will return to Toronto’s Direct Energy Centre on March 3-5, 2013.

The CRFA Show is owned and operated by the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association, one of the country’s leading business associations with more than 30,000 members. Proceeds from the shows are directed to CRFA’s advocacy, research and member services in support of a growing and prosperous Canadian restaurant industry.

Chef Brianne Nash wins the 2012 Discovered Culinary Competition

Brianne Nash, head chef at Saucy restaurant in Mississauga, won the 2012 Discovered Culinary Competition at the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association (CRFA) Show in Toronto. The Discovered Culinary Competition features Canada’s up-and-coming culinary stars competing against the clock in a mystery box challenge.
Chef Nash was eliminated in round 8 of the preliminaries, but later became one of two fan favourites eligible to compete in the semi-finals after receiving the most votes on the competition’s Facebook page.

The grand prize is the opportunity of a lifetime for Chef Nash: an all-expenses-paid trip to spend a week cooking at Casa Gerardo, a Michelin-star restaurant in northern Spain.

About Chef Nash
Born and raised in Mississauga, Chef Nash studied at Humber College in the culinary apprentice program, graduating in 2009. Her apprenticeship placement led to a full-time job at Saucy restaurant where she has worked ever since. Two trips to Europe, one as part of her Humber program, convinced her that food and flavour would remain her career path.
“The Discovered Culinary Competition has opened my eyes to future career ideas,” said Chef Nash. “It’s made me take risks. I’m ready to keep climbing this ladder I’ve been building.”

Mystery box ingredients
The ingredients the chefs were required to use in each dish were revealed only when they opened the mystery box on the cooking stage. With the clock ticking, they had only a few seconds to come up with a recipe that would "wow" the judges.

Appetizer round ingredients: Blood orange, Camembert, prosciutto and white wine.
Nash wrapped the prosciutto around asparagus and stuffed it with the Camembert cheese, then served it with a blood orange and white wine butter sauce.

Entrée round ingredients: Cilantro, flat iron steak, fresh corn and instant coffee.
Nash rubbed instant coffee and grainy mustard into the flat iron steak and created a boiled corn salsa with cilantro, red onion, green pepper, vinegar, salt, pepper and fresh garlic. To go alongside, she made a hash with caramelized onions, potatoes and prosciutto, and added poached asparagus with butter, salt and pepper.

Dessert round ingredients: Buttermilk, dried apricots, ground clove and mint.
Chef Nash pureed buttermilk with boiled apricots, strawberries, honey and a pinch of the ground cloves. She marinated strawberries, blueberries and sliced dried apricots with honey and ground cloves, and served the whole dessert with a whipped mint and honey cream.

Other finalists and judges
Other competitors in the final round were Dan Craig, chef at Ebo at the Delta in Burnaby, BC; William Serre, cook at Acadia Restaurant in Toronto; and Alejandro Winzer, chef at Ristorante Verdicchio in Sudbury.

The final judging panel included Donna Dooher, executive chef/proprietor at Mildred’s Temple Kitchen in Toronto; Jamie Drummond, sommelier and senior editor at GoodFoodRevolution.com in Toronto; and Eric B. LeVine, a New York chef, caterer and cookbook author.

For a complete list of competitors and winners, as well as photos, go to www.discoveredchefs.ca. The competition is sponsored by Discover and presented by Nella Cucina and the CRFA Show.

Vote now for your favourite chef!

The Discovered Culinary Competition is finishing up its preliminary series of competitions. Twelve winning chefs will join two chefs from our sister show, the BC Foodservice Expo, and we need two more chefs for the semi-finals. You can choose who makes it there by voting for your favourite chef - click here to vote. The two chefs with the most votes by March 1 will compete in the semi-finals at the CRFA Show. 

George Riedel brings a special seminar - and his wineglasses - to the CRFA Show

Georg Riedel, a 10th generation glassmaker and CEO of Riedel Glassworks in Austria, will conduct a special seminar on how the shape of the bowl affects the taste of the wine. Riedel wine glasses are considered the best glasses in the world to help connoisseurs experience wine.

The Riedel tasting is a paid session ($40) with limited seating on Sunday, March 4. Those interested should be sure to include this seminar when registering. All attendees will be given a tasting set and a special price on Riedel restaurant lines.

If you appreciate wines and want to learn how to enjoy them even more, then you won't want to miss this fascinating seminar!

Fridge Whisperer: Hogtown’s Rachel Ray…

National food writer, Deborah A. Rankine, has covered the food scene in Canada for the past 15 years. As her alter ego, “Chef Deb,” Rankine captains the catering kitchen at http://www.culinarycaravan.com/. Her culinary world travels provide inspiration for her ethnic-themed cooking classes she teaches at professional cooking schools throughout Toronto’s GTA and beyond. Chef Deb was brave enough to compete in round 9 of the Discovered Culinary Competition, and talented enough to write this fabulous article about it. Find out more about Deb Rankine at http://www.thefridgewhisperer.com/.

It was with good reason I didn’t tell many about my sojourn into Iron Chefland last Monday night at Toronto’s Nella Cucina. I knew I’d be out of the running after the first round.
I wasn’t wrong.

Four chefs, three timed black box challenges, one round-9 winner moved forward to the semi-finals/finals at the Discovered Culinary Competition being held during the CRFA Show, March 4 – 6, 2012 at the Direct Energy Centre in Toronto.
Chef Bruno Elsier — executive chef at the Toronto French School — won the night (see Chef in action). And rightly so. This guy was firing on all cylinders. I should know, I shared a station with him.

A force to be reckoned with in front of and behind the line, Elsier moved through each course with practiced finesse, hardly breaking a sweat, his plates dressed, wiped and ready for the judges with minutes to spare. It was an honour to meet him and a joy to watch the judges critique his beautifully presented, multi-flavoured dishes.
The four-month-long Discovered Culinary Competition aims to bring out the best of Canada’s yet-to-be-discovered culinary phenoms; the payday for the winner, an all-expenses-paid trip to Spain for a week’s worth of cooking at a Michelin-star restaurant.
In addition to Chef Elsier, I had the pleasure of cooking with Claudio Giganti, chef/owner of Giganti Event Planning and Catering in Grimsby, and the oh-so-lovely and generous Jorge Delarosa, first cook at Torito Tapas Bar in Toronto’s Kensington Market neighbourhood.

Monday night’s judging panel consisted of Hogtown’s best: chef Matt Blondin from Acadia; executive chef Daniel Mezzolo from Gusto 101; and executive chef Luca Stracquadanio, executive chef at La Bettola di Terroni/Osteria Ciceri e Tria.
The black box of mystery ingredients for the starter round comprised raw, shell-on shrimp, dried kaffir lime leaves, Roma tomatoes and, of all things, corn chips. As I searched the pantry for other flavours to marry with the must-use ingredients I changed my mind five times. And lost valuable minutes. I spied a tub of Thai green curry paste and the decision was made.

The only good decision I made about that dish.

Surely the culinary gods know why I chose heavy cream and butter in favour of coconut milk and fish sauce to go with the dried rice vermicelli I used at the base for this appetizer. All I do know is that I was totally out of my element.
And that makes total sense.

Last Monday night I was the Rachel Ray in a sea of Iron Chefs. All these guys worked the line day in and day out. And then there’s me, your humble neighbourhood Fridge Whisperer, in her little homey test kitchen working out sixth-draft kinks to perfect one recipe. No sweat, no elevated blood pressure. Just me, humming away in my happy place.
I was so relived when they lifted the lid to reveal my pitiful-looking plate. Three sad little Thai curried pan-fried shrimps wobbling atop a mass of over-cooked, over-sauced rice noodles, apexed with brown butter corn chip breadcrumbs.

The judges were too kind in their critique of my dish. All agreed that the shrimp were perfectly cooked but that I should have done the whole thing as a cold starter. Too right they were! And I would have come to that conclusion on my own, in my own test kitchen, likely by the fourth or fifth draft of the recipe.

It’s easy to decide what to make from the black box ingredients when you’re sitting in the audience with a cold beer in your hand. And I was for the second round; lamb chops, niçoise olives, Israeli couscous and eggplant.

MOROCCAN! I screamed inside my head; I’d spied a jar of preserved lemons in the pantry.
I try to channel my inner thoughts Jorge’s way, MAKE A KILLER LAMB TAJINE! THEY’VE GOT PRESERVED LEMONS! GO-TO-THE-PANTRY!

Apparently my telepathic skill set is on par with my timed creative whimsy. The preserved lemons went untouched by all the chefs.

I know! When the pressure’s off it’s so easy to come up with the most perfect recipe.
Alas, my darling Jorge was eliminated though I thought his plate looked stunning.
Chef Elsier’s offering was magnificent, of course. As he told me previously, this wasn’t his first rodeo. He competes in cooking competitions a few times every year. For the fun of it!

Elsier’s passion for food and cooking comes through on the plate, his garlic-rosemary infused grilled lamb chops set atop fennel studded couscous, grilled eggplant, roasted tomatoes and panned-to-perfection mushrooms a symphony of colour and, no doubt, flavour. A flourish of julienne niçoise to finish.

With the third round, dessert, Elsier won the night, his balsamic-basil macerated sliced strawberry tower set gently on a pillow of soft pastry cream fashioned using mascarpone, vanilla and buttermilk wowed all three judges. Bravo, Chef Elsier!

To give you an idea of the caliber of talent that came before, here’s the list of winners from previous Discovered Culinary Competition rounds:
Round 1: Chef Arron Carley of Volos restaurant, Toronto
Round 2: Chef Trish Gill of Beast restaurant, Toronto
Round 3: Chef William Tolentino of Celestin restaurant, Toronto
Round 4: Chef John Koplimae of the Drake Hotel, Toronto
Round 5: Chef Alejandro Winzer of Ristorante Verdicchio, Sudbury
Round 6: Chef Glenn Sheridan of Le Bon Marché, North Bay
Round 7: Chef George Tyminski of Annona restaurant, Park Hyatt Hotel, Toronto
Round 8: Chef Mitchell Lamb of Stone House in Burlington and the Lake House in Vineland,

For me? I’m thrilled to have been given the opportunity to compete.
I’m equally thrilled to continue to be Hogtown’s own Rachel Ray.

Have Breakfast with Champions - and Ron MacLean!

Ron MacLean of Hockey Night in Canada will be the keynote speaker at the new Breakfast with Champions event at the CRFA Show, March 6 from 8 – 10 a.m. at the Direct Energy Centre, Toronto. This inaugural event brings together restaurant and hospitality industry professionals for a morning of inspiration and networking.

In addition to MacLean, several well-known industry leaders are in the starting lineup and will share their insights panel-style, with business lessons for real-life situations:
  • Mark Pacinda, President and CEO of Boston Pizza International
  • Donna Dooher, President of the Mildred Pierce Group
  • John Betts, President of McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada
  • Kevin Friesen, Chief Operating Officer of Scores Rotisserie, Imvescor Restaurant Group
  • Warren Erhart, President and CEO of White Spot Hospitality
Sportscaster Ron MacLean has won ten Gemini awards for broadcasting and is best known for being the host of Hockey Night in Canada on CBC. He co-wrote the new book Cornered with Kirstie McLellan Day. Ron’s quick wit, thoughtful insights and humorous, engaging style will entertain and inspire.

This is a ticketed event with limited seating. Registration (trade only) is now open at http://www.crfashow.ca/.

This year's CRFA Show has so much to see and do!

Restaurant and hospitality professionals should register now for the CRFA Show. In less than a month, attendees can expect to see a wide range of exhibitors from the foodservice industry, as well as:
·         the new Breakfast with Champions event featuring keynote speaker Ron MacLean
·         the new Discovered Culinary Competition
·         roving show ambassador Chef David Adjey
·         George Riedel glassware + wine tasting
·         SAXibition accommodation show
·         i.Menu Expo with all the latest in restaurant technology
·         dozens of inspiring seminars, presentations and demos
·         pavilions and lounges showcasing innovative products and services

With over 1,200 exhibit booths and ongoing chef demos, seminars and events, the CRFA Show offers restaurant and hospitality owners, managers, chefs and executives a variety of fresh ideas to help promote, grow and manage their business.

Registration is open now at www.crfashow.ca.