Mixers whirred, pots clanged, aromas wafted, and elite chefs bustled about Humber’s multifunctional culinary and baking labs on Saturday, May 25 as Humber hosted the semifinal competition for the Worldchefs Americas Semifinal Competition. This was the first time a Canadian college hosted the competition.
The prestigious event, organized by The Canadian Culinary Federation, was comprised of three semifinal competitions: Pastry Chef, Young Chef, and Global Chef. Competitors traveled from far and wide to compete: teams from Mexico, Chile and Ecuador all entered. Competition was stiff, but Team Canada managed to take the gold in the Global Chef semifinal, and now advances to the Worldchefs Global Chefs Challenge Finals in Saint Petersburg, Russia, next July.
Team USA took home the first-place finish in both the Global Pastry Chefs Challenge and Global Young Chefs Challenge.
Chefs spent hours preparing in advance of the competition, organizing their stations and ingredients and preparing mentally for a full day in the kitchen. The challenges began at 8 a.m., and finished at 3 p.m. Winners were announced at an awards ceremony at the end of the day.
Tony Fernandes, a judge in the Pastry Chef competition and Executive Chef at Crowne Plaza Toronto Airport, explains that entering competitions gives chefs an opportunity to not only hone their craft, but also to spark their creativity and fuel their drive to excel in the industry. “Beautiful presentation, menu composition, timing—those are all very important factors in competition,” Fernandes explained. “But the more you compete, the more experience and feedback you get. The feedback is very important. We all want competitors to improve.”
A panel internationally-renowned judges watched the steps of each challenge, noting everything from sanitation and work habits to timing and proper use of ingredients. Final dishes were scored on timing, presentation and taste.
Humber’s own Shonah Chalmers, program coordinator of Culinary Programs was the host during the event. She says the opportunity to have the competition at Humber is an incredible honour. “It’s amazing to be able to showcase our facilities on a global level, be a part of something that’s much bigger, and have our Humber culinary students here with us,” she said. She’ll be able to bring value right back to the classroom, too, after watching the challenges. “How things are plated is changing all the time. It’s something we can bring back in our menu development and plating classes.”
Chef Peter Dewar, Global Americas Semifinal Competition Chair and faculty at Nova Scotia Community College, explains that the college system across Canada is very supportive of competitions. “In a way, colleges are a foundation of the industry in Canada—and Humber is a leader in that,” he says. “It’s important to host these competitions, making sure chefs have a chance to excel. With Humber’s help and foresight, The Culinary Federation is better off.”
Dewar says his new kitchen back in Nova Scotia is actually modeled on Humber’s culinary labs. “I came here to Humber to see what cutting edge of culinary labs. My new kitchen is modeled after some of your labs here.”
Canadian Culinary Federation National President Simon Smotkowicz echoed the sentiment. “The facility—I don’t think we can find any better,” he said. “All of the competitors commented on it. All of these people will take back an impression of Canada, and of the college. And it’s a very, very good impression.”
Worldchef President and Global Chef judge Thomas Gugler said he was pleased with how the event went. “Humber is a fantastic college,” he said. “The facilities are outstanding, the organization was perfect, and I’m impressed by the kitchen layout, the equipment, and the setup.”
“It’s very important that we’re further enhancing young, talented culinary minds from North to South America. It was a fantastic atmosphere among the contestants, even under pressure and under stress they were still very fair to each other, very humble, and I believe this is because they have good teachers, a good background, and they’re motivated to respect other cultures,” he said.
For now, Team Canada is basking in their win, but not for long. “It’s mixed emotions right now,” Team Canada’s Francis Derick Flores said with a laugh. “We are so happy, but there’s more work to do for Russia—thankfully we have a year to work on it.”
To learn more about the Global Chefs Challenge, visit www.globalchefschallenge.org.