by Malcolm Jolley (with photos by Zoltan Szabo and Jamie Drummond)

Chefs and partners in Cava, Chris McDonald and Doug Penfold. Photo: Zoltan Szabo.

Never mind the rodents and their shadows, in Toronto the second day of February now means its time for the Ground Hog Invitational Chefs Challenge hosted at Cava by proprietors and chefs Chris McDonald and Doug Penfold. Their all-star chefs competition, which they bill as an alternative to the city of Toronto’s Winterlicious festival, pits some of the city and region’s most ambitious young chefs against each other in a battle of artinasanally-processed pork. This month marked the second meeting of chefs, who were to be judged by an intimidating panel of judges comprising of uber-food writer James Chatto, Chef Robert Bartley from Maple Leaf Sprots and Entertainment, Spotlight Toronto’s Suresh Dosh and Good Food Revolution’s very own Jamie Drummond. I just came along for fun, and it was. We punters got eight amazing piggy dishes that evening, paired with Henry of Pelham wines.

The revered Ground Hog trophy above the bar at Cava. Photo: Zoltan Szabo

Competing this year were: returning champion Michael Steh (Reds Bistro), Matty Matheson and Matt deMille (Parts & Labour), Niagara-on-the-Laker Ryan Crawford (Stone Road Grille), Ted Corrado (c5), Ryan Donavan (Marben), Teo Paul (Union), Albert Ponzo (Le Select) and Geoff O’Connor (Nota Bene). Jamie Drummond’s photos below testify to their diverse and delicious dishes. In the end it was Nota Bene’s Chef de Cuisine Geoff O’Connor who went home with the trophy for a “galantine” stuffed inside a suckling pig. He basically made a giant and delicious sausage out of the piglet. Inspired. Not far behind placed Michael Steh for a heaping Slovenian charcute and showing were Matheson and deMille for their wild boar head cheese. I tried to capture some of the energy and delight that evening in the video below.

Jamie Drummond’s judges view of the dishes as they came that night…


Cava's special bonus dish of posole (Mexican corn and pork soup)

Groundhog Challenge Dish #1

Groundhog Challenge Dish #2

Groundhog Challenge Dish #3

Groundhog Challenge Dish #4

Groundhog Challenge Dish #5 (after a few bites)

Groundhog Challenge Dish #6

Groundhog Challenge Dish #7

Groundhog Challenge Dish #8

Where the winning dish came from...

Malcolm Jolley and Jamie Drummond

Jamie Drummond and Malcolm Jolley are the Good Food Revolutionaries who publish GFR, Canada’s good food and wine weekly news site.