NAV Centre chef Jessica Neville and Kent Phillips, executive chef at Ivey Spencer Leadership Centre in London, ON, took the top spots in the International Association of Conference Centres (IACC) Canadian Copper Skillet Competition, which has held earlier this month at the NAV Centre in Cornwall, ON.
Neville took the Junior Category Canada Copper Skillet Award in the cook-off, serving up a dish of Asian noodles with duck vegetable stir fry and red wine tahini paste. Phillips won the Senior Category Copper Skillet Award. His winning dish included garlic shrimp, duck confit potato hash, sun-dried tomato Brussels sprouts, green apple-gooseberry slaw and quick-pickle golden beets.
(l-r) Chef Michael Smith (commentator and judge), Junior Category winner Jessica Neville, Senior Category winner Kent Phillips, Chef Javier Alarco (judge) and Peter Hum (food critic and judge); Senior Category winning dish by Kent Phillips; and Junior Category winning dish by Jessica Neville.
The competition saw seven chefs from IACC-member conference centres face the challenge of creating a dish using basic pantry items and a mystery basket of proteins. They were given 30 minutes to conceive, cook and present their creations to local area judges.
Renowned PEI-based chef Michael Smith served as the competition’s commentator. As the cooks prepared their dishes, he explained the importance of tasting. “Watch how many chefs are tasting their food,” he said. “We often like to say a cook’s single best tool is their tongue… [tasting] it’s a basic skill but a skill that’s often overlooked.”
Smith also pointed out that the competition challenges weren’t meant to trip up the contestants. “This is what chefs can expect to face every day. Any chef worth their salt should be able to come up with a meal on the fly when presented with an ingredient.”
The Copper Skillet Competition was introduced in 2004. Its mandate is to highlight the artistry and skill of the best chefs from IACC-member conference venues around the world. It also honors their culinary contributions to the shared goal of providing an outstanding conference venue experience.
The winners of the US and Canadian cook-off competition will go on to compete with other chefs from IACC chapters around the world at the International Copper Skillet Competition, which will be held in April at the IACC-Americas Connect conference in Los Angeles, CA.