Chef Lindsay Porter has created some of the best pasta dishes in Canada and she’s planning to export some of her hometown know-how to the World Food Championships Nov. 3 to 10 in Kissimmee, Fla.
It’s the ultimate food fight where hundreds of competitors from across the globe compete for the $100,000 grand prize.
As executive chef at El Cortez, a busy Mexican-inspired restaurant in Edmonton, Porter displays versatile kitchen skills and menu planning at the popular tequila bar.
A keen challenger in food competitions, the former St. Albert resident competed in the Canadian Food Championships held in conjunction with Taste of Edmonton from July 22 to 25.
She qualified for the world championships winning a golden ticket in the pasta competition and silver in seafood. But because she is only permitted to compete in one category, Porter has chosen to test her skills in the World Pasta Championships.
“I was shocked about the seafood as I originally came into the finals in fourth place. There were a lot of really good chefs in the seafood. But I felt a lot better in pasta. I went into the finals in second place and everything went smoothly. There was no burnt food or delays. Everything went perfectly,” said Porter.
Working with sous chef Alex Murray, she whipped up a pasta dish that consisted of truffle corn Reggiano, feta and candied Brazil nuts tortellini, and feta stuffed squash blossoms.
In the seafood competition, Porter presented seared black cod, shrimp and scallops served with a zucchini and tomato pico de gallo infused with saskatoon berries.
Unlike the early qualifying rounds, the finals included a mystery ingredient. Feta cheese was the mystery ingredient for pasta and saskatoon berries were the surprise element for seafood.
“Feta is pretty easy to work with. But saskatoons kind of threw me. But recently I went to Los Angeles on a culinary trip. In four days I must have eaten at about 30 restaurants. I tried a lot of guacamole. I tasted this one spicy strawberry and papaya one. I saw what they did in Los Angeles and did the same thing with an Alberta twist.”
Porter adds the support from other chefs and foodies has been tremendous.
“I’ve received a lot of congratulations – nothing but good wishes. I couldn’t be happier as a chef in Edmonton.”
In the last few days, the soft-spoken, high-energy chef has taken to watching Chef’s Table and other television cooking shows for inspiration.
“And maybe I’ll be doing some research in Italy – combined with a vacation,” she laughs.
The other first place finishers at the Canadian Food Championships were: Bacon – Sumit Kumar, Calgary chef at Sheraton Suites Eau Claire; Sandwich – Sheshorna John, home cook at Radisson Hotel Edmonton; Dessert – Arnaud Valade, Edmonton chef at Arno’s Fine French Pastry; Seafood – Edmonton chef Doreen Prei; and Burger – Port Moody home cook Rusty Johnson.
First place winners received $2,500 in cash and a $1,500 travel voucher to Florida where they automatically qualify for the world championships. Second place winners also win $1,000 and an automatic qualification.
The top three finishers in each world category will receive prizes of $10,000, $5,000 and $2,500 respectively. Only the first place finishers advance to the “final table” where they compete against each other for the title and $100,000.
“Lindsay has a good shot. She has proven she can kill it in different categories,” said Shereen Zink, media co-ordinator for Events Edmonton and the Canadian Food Championships.
“We’re just so super-happy with the way everything turned out. The levels of skills were incredible. Everyone exceeded our expectations. This is our first round and next year we’re hoping it will be seen even more as the big deal it is.”