The Thousand Islands region will, in 2016, have an Olympian!
David Ross, who will graduate from Niagara College this April, will spend the next two years honing his skills for the 2016 World Junior Culinary Olympics – held every four years in Erfurt, Germany – where he, and his mates, will compete against teams from more than 30 countries.
I met David over Christmas and learned that his team, from Niagara College’s Canadian Food and Wine Institute, has recently won the title of Junior Culinary Team Canada.
This is a big deal and the Thousand Islands area has played a small role in his success: First, he is an islander, following his parents, grandparents, and several generations before them, on Hay Island, in the Admiralty Group. When I asked David what sparked his culinary interests, he said, “When my Dad (Graeme) was barbequing at the cottage, I loved to sit and watch the process,” and second, David worked for three summers at the Gananoque McDonald’s.
His winter home is in Peterborough, Ontario, where he attended Saint Peter’s Catholic High School; when the High School started a culinary arts program, David enrolled and soon discovered his culinary passion.
He chose Niagara College’s Canadian Food and Wine Institute, as the Niagara region is the education center for Canada’s food and wine industry. With the College’s Teaching Restaurant, Teaching Winery, and Teaching Brewery, this was a fine place to start.
He continued his working career at the Peterborough Golf and Country Club, at a restaurant called the Shish Kabob Hut which was featured on the Food Network’s "You Gotta Eat Here.” He also served part of his college program working in Toronto for Top Chef Canada Season 2 winner, Carl Heinrich, at the renowned restaurant, Richmond Station.
When I asked how he was selected to be on the Niagara College team he admitted that his professors put him on the original team as they thought he quite simply, “had what it took to be a culinary Olympian.”
Last fall the Niagara team prepared for the Olympic qualifier against other Canadian teams, by practicing and doing recipe development. “We would meet on the weekends for practice and the teammates and I would work our jobs during the week. When I was not working in Toronto I would be commuting to Niagara to practice. All the team members would do this seven days a week for six months, with some living as far away as Windsor.”
The final round of competition lasted three days. On the first day we did all our preparations for the next two days of the competition. The second day consisted of running the Cold Program: we prepared hot food to be served cold: three appetizers, a five-course meal, four desserts, and a Festive platter. All were prepared within an eight-hour time limit. On the third day we ran the Hot Program: we were given four hours to prepare a three-course lunch for 30 people.
Team members include current students and recent graduates who must meet the under 25 age requirement at the October competition, including lead members Wes Lund (St. Catharines), Ian Dawson (Coldwater/St. Catharines), Daniella Germond (St. Catharines), and Brittany Calsavara (Windsor); and their teammates David Ross (Peterborough), Jeremy Gilligan (St. Catharines), Katrina Young (Hamilton), Megan Proper (Burford), Rebekka Schmitt (Silverdale), Scott McInerney (Peterborough/St. Catharines) and Trevor Littlejohn (Paisley).
The team has also earned the right to represent Canada at international competitions for the next three years, including the World Culinary Championships in Luxembourg (2014) and Singapore (2015).
“The competition was something I will never forget and am looking forward to the next three years being with the team.” says David. We, on the other hand, look forward to the next BBQ on Hay Island, when David is home for the summer holidays.
Question: David, what is your favorite, or an easy recipe that you would share with us?
Answer: One of my favorites is “Polenta Fries”, as it is both easy to make and inexpensive.
- 1800 ml Water
- 250g Grated Parmesan Cheese
- 1/4 lb Cubed butter
- 15g Salt
- 750g Cornmeal
- Boil water; once your water is up to boil, add salt
- Lower the heat and gradually whisk in the cornmeal, so there are no lumps
- Stir the cornmeal and let cook for 3 minutes
- Add butter and when melted add the cheese
- When the cheese is melted, place on a half baking sheet and flatten out
- Put in fridge to cool; once cool cut into fries
- Deep fry at 350 F until golden or put in oven at 425 F until golden, or the outside of the fry is crisp.
For the food junkies: SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2013, Food for Thought with Alex Bielak- Going for (culinary) Gold Link
By Susan W. Smith, email@example.com