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Tin Chef 2014

Earlier this month I attended the Tin Chef competition hosted by Donna Dooher, chef and proprietor of Mildred’s Temple Kitchen. Some of the competitors had already arrived. { “Breathe Jill, breathe…”  } TinChef2014-0556There were five competitors in total, and we had already been given the heads up that the secret ingredient would be either arctic char, duck or quail. After practicing my deboning skills just hours before, I prayed it wouldn’t be quail.  { “What am I doing here?”  } TinChef2014-0557This was my prep station. No backing out now. { “It’ll be okay, just relax and have fun.”  } TinChef2014-7105Friends and family came from near and far on this snowy night to cheer me on, thank you!  {“Please not quail, please not quail.” } TinChef2014-0565A harvest table full of produce, dairy and pantry ingredients was set up at one end of the restaurant. We were allowed to bring one secret ingredient from home. I brought three as backup. Dried seaweed if it was arctic char, star anise if it was duck, and homemade hot peppers if it was quail. { “Arctic Char in Seaweed Batter!” } TinChef2014-0566Everyone was given one hour to prepare four servings. Judging was based on wow factor, taste, and use of local ingredients. TinChef2014-7080The three superstar judges were:  Alida Soloman, Chef/Owner of Tutti Matti, Paul Brans, Chef de Cuisine at Oliver & Bonacini Restaurants, and Saverio Macri, Executive Chef at Cibo Wine Bar. TinChef2014-7081 TinChef2014-17Chef Paul, dramatically revealed the secret ingredient…it was duck! { “hooray it’s NOT quail!” } TinChef2014-11-2I immediately went to work, scoring the fat and marinating the duck in some red wine and seasonings. I wasted a lot of running back and forth between the prep station, cook station and food table. Mental note, next time gather as much as I can and keep it with me. { “Nervous? Noooo, not at all…” } TinChef2014-18Rolling out my wraps as Chef Paul asks me what’s in the dough. { “Help! I can’t focus! huh? what? flour, it’s FLOUR!” } TinChef2014-26Chef Donna offers me words of encouragement as I slice up the duck, ready for plating. Luckily she gave us all an extra five minutes. Boy did that hour fly by! { “Darn it! it’s too rare! oh well! keeping going!” }

TinChef2014-28The crowd was cheering and counting down, talk about STRESS! { “OMG! OMG! OMG!” }


My duck taco consisted of seared muscovy duck breast, a slaw of heirloom carrots & beets, crispy fried kale frizzle, with a reduction of red wine, duck fat/stock, soy sauce, honey and star anise. { “Ouch, the tacos are too hot to separate, running out of time, too thick!” }


I can’t believe I nearly forgot the sauce! Too bad there wasn’t quite enough! It had reduced too much. Tasty but not enough! 8-7-6-5… { “help! help! help!’}


It was VERY tense, the crowd was counting down the seconds…4-3-2…I could hear my kids yelling “hurry mommy! hurry!” { “Oh Sh*t! oh Sh*t!” }


Done. No. More. Time. I wanted so much to fold those babies and secure with a skewer, but it’s hands off! { “It’s over, I did it!” }

TinChef2014-0568What a mess! I just threw it together in the final seconds. Not enough kale, not enough sauce, but cilantro will fix it! TinChef2014-37-2

High fives all around!

TinChef2014-37 TinChef2014-39

Now we wait for the verdict. { “I need a drink.” }


See that smile on Chef Saverio’s face? My neighbour Janet was flirting with him. { “Work it Janet! Sway him on over to Team Jill!” }


Well? Even though there wasn’t enough sauce, did it make you swoon? { “Ugh! I needed more sauce.” }


I bet they were wishing for more sauce…


…and hoping for more kale frizzle for that crunch element. { “Sorry I didn’t make enough of that either!”  }


After tasting everyone’s dish, they were ready to announce the winner!


Now don’t get all excited even though Chef Paul clearly was…


The winner was not me. { “Really, I’m okay.” }


Congratulations, kisses, and prizes for all! As Chef Paul said, “you are all winners!”.  {“I love him  He’s so contagious.” }


Chef Paul being so sweet, telling us that it was very close and it came down to seasoning. { “I know! Not enough sauce!” }

TinChef2014-15Thank you my lovely cottage friends who drove two hours in heavy snow to be here. { “What are you whispering Ali? Tell me later.” }

TinChef2014-0578My friend Lynn won the lucky draw to sit and taste all the duck dishes. Coincidentally, my two Cayuga ducks were hatched by Lynn, which makes her sort of a duck expert.

As terrifying as this was, would I do it again?  { “Most definitely.” }

  • Stephanie - Congratulations! The dish looked lovely and I’m sure it tasted wonderful (even without the extra sauce). 🙂 And, while you may have been posing, you looked quite calm and professional in all the photos.ReplyCancel

  • Angela - Jill Im sooo very proud of you! Your dish looks as well as tasted, Im sure, AWESOME! I say your a winner in more ways than one!ReplyCancel

  • Beth Minto - Jiill That was Wonderful. I live next to a celebrity. Do more.ReplyCancel

  • Mary - Jill,

    Again, you never cease to amaze me with your ingenuity and creativity. That looked like so much fun and you prepared a most delicious looking duck taco while under a tremendous amount of pressure. It must have been such a fun experience and you are a winner in all you do!ReplyCancel

  • Denise - What a fun evening, and experience. I found myself cheering you on during the whole post as I read it. Sigh … I was bummed you didn’t win and your duck looked amazing and I LOVE duck!!!ReplyCancel

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