In a brief phone interview yesterday, chef Antonio Park predicted he would win the Montreal leg of Gold Medal Plates, the Canada-wide culinary competition that supports Olympic and Paralympic athletes.
"If I don't win tonight, there's a problem."
Park had twice placed second and felt confident that his Korean-French dish of bibimbab in boudin blanc with quail egg, Gochujang sauce sheet, quinoa and wild rice puffs and winter truffles was a winner.
As it happens, Park had reason to be sanguine. He took home the top score from judges Martin Juneau, Mathieu Cloutier, Danny St-Pierre, Rollande DesBois, Robert Beauchemin, James Chatto and Gildas Meneu.
Michele Forgione of Impasto came in second with this octopus and 'nduja dish.
New Micro Resto La Famille chef Simon Mathys earned a top three finish for his dish of pumpkin purée with raw salmon, carrot pickles, pumpkin seeds roasted in butter and cheese curds.
Other participants included Hôtel Herman chef Marc-Alexandre Mercier, who made venison with mushrooms and Japanese artichokes. BarBounya chef Fisun Ercan presented a lamb tataki dish with pomegranate molasses, sausage and kale chips.
As per the rules, chefs had to pair dishes with a Canadian beer, wine or spirit. For Forgione it was Cheval Blanc. Mercier chose a martini made with Quebec gin for his game dish.
The progressive-style dinner had not only the expert panel of judges in attendance but four limos full of donors, each of whom paid $1,000 a ticket. Most of the diners were corporate types (Saputo is a big Gold Medal Plates supporter) or members of law, audit or consultancy firms.
There is a sense, among some observers and participants past and present, that Gold Medal Plates can do much more to boost the organization's profile in Montreal and Quebec. It seems like a no-brainer, especially given the fact that many chefs from Montreal have done well in the past, such as Juneau, Cloutier and St-Pierre, and that some regard the competition, flaws and all, as the most important in the country. Still, organizers reportedly had a hard time convincing Montreal chefs to take part this year.
Co-founder Karen Blair says that Gold Medal Plates wants to make advances in the province but has found it tricky thus far. To accomplish that goal, the organization's brass may want to alert the francophone media and translate their website.