Chefs off to Culinary Olympics
Patrick Gayler and Peter Keith eager to compete
By: Kevin Ma
| Posted: Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 06:00 am
Two Paul Kane graduates are off to Germany next week to take on the world during the international Culinary Olympics.
Patrick Gayler and Peter Keith are headed to Erfurt, Germany to take part in the International Culinary Exhibition, or the Culinary Olympics. Held once every four years, the event draws hundreds of competitors from around the world, and is considered one of the most prestigious events in competitive cuisine.
It’s pretty crazy that two kids from Paul Kane are headed for the world stage, said Randy Kozak, who taught both students as head of the school’s culinary arts program.
“They’re both tremendous kids and now they’re flourishing into incredibly talented culinary experts,” he said.
Hot and cold challenge
Gayler graduated from Paul Kane in 2002 and is now second-in-command of the kitchen at the Inn at Laurel Point in Victoria, B.C. He’s previously won three gold medals at the Culinary Olympics as a member of Team Alberta, and returns to the event this year as a member of Team Canada.
The Culinary Olympics is probably the second most prestigious cooking challenge in the world after the Bocuse d’Or, Gayler said. You’ll typically have 70 regional teams and 30 national ones competing against each other under tight time limits, all before the watchful eyes of judges and thousands of guests.
“It gets pretty intense,” he said.
Keith graduated in 2009 and won silver in cooking/cuisine at the Skills Canada National Competition earlier this year. This will be his first time at the Olympics, and his first outing as a member of Team Alberta.
“I’ve been practicing since December,” he said, speaking from his training kitchen at the Shaw Conference Centre. “There’s a lot on the line for us.”
Keith said he’ll be taking part in the “cold kitchen” competition. Unlike the “hot” events, food prepped in the cold kitchen is not actually eaten. Instead, it’s preserved in gelatine and judged based on everything but taste.
“It’s the original style of competition,” he said.
A good judge can tell a lot about a dish from its looks, Keith said. He’ll be cooking poached salmon, halibut, tiger prawns and other seafood dishes as part of a buffet spread for eight.
“I would have really liked to use some classic Alberta ingredients (such as elk) … but in this style of food, colour is very important.”
Cold food events are slightly easier than hot ones, said Gayler, who will have to do both as a member of Team Canada, as they all but require you to do most of your cooking in advance.
“Cold kitchen really comes down to how much time you can put into it,” he said. If you’ve got the time to do two weeks of prep beforehand, you can.
The hot food contest is done in a glassed-in kitchen under constant supervision by the judges. Gayler said he and his six teammates will have just six hours to make a three-course meal for 100 people, and will be judged on both what they cook and how they cook it.
“You’ve never worked in this kitchen before,” he said of the event’s greatest challenge, and you may run into missing ingredients or busted gear. The audience isn’t a big concern, he adds, as you usually tune them out once you get started.
Gayler said he hopes his team makes the top three, but knows they face stiff competition from juggernauts like Norway.
Keith is hoping for gold, but said he expects to make some rookie mistakes this time out. Still, he said, it’s a chance to build his skills and meet the top chefs in the world.
“Any type of competition, it’s a personal challenge,” he said. “You’re learning exactly what you’re capable of.”
The Olympics run from Oct. 6 to 9. For details, visit culinaryolympics.com.