Grand Winner Andrew Eade with Judges John Placko, Christine Cushing, and Ted Reader.

Grand Winner Andrew Eade with Judges John Placko, Christine Cushing, and Ted Reader.

So we did it… we finally did it.

After a hard-fought 19 weeks… Yes… 19 WEEKS! we reached the grand final of the Nella Cucina Discovered Culinary Competition. All four of our finalists were undoubtedly skilled fellows, but only one could take the prize on this final night. Having much admiration for all four of them it was extremely sad to have to say goodbye to three of them, but awarding the genial Andrew Eades of Pusateri’s his grand prize was most rewarding.

Third time is certainly the charm, as Andrew had competed unsuccessfully in the two previous years of this competition, and so it was most heartening to see him triumph this time around. Well done that man. And what a lovely finacée and family he had to cheer him on.

Andrew will be starting off his honeymoon with an all-expenses-paid stage at Massana restaurant in Girona, Catalonia, a one Michelin star establishment. That is quite the prize.

Andrew also received a Wüsthof knife set valued at $1,700 and a special 200th anniversary set valued at $400, as well as a special box of products from Powder for Texture, and a bottle of Cazetta Olive Oil.

Our thanks to all the enthusiastic competitors, our wonderful sponsors, our expert judges, and our great audiences for a thrilling for almost five months of what turned out to be a fantastic competition.

See you all next year!

The Grand Final’s Contestants:

Jasper Wuwinner of semifinal 1 – Sous Chef @ Miss Thing’s Restaurant

Andrea Boliswinner of semifinal 2 – Line Cook @ Vertical Restaurant

Andrew Eadewinner of semifinal 3 – Sous Chef @ Pusateri’s

Kyle Deleary winner of semifinal 4 Sous Chef @ Bannock

Our Grand Final Judges:

John Placko – Powder For Texture

Christine Cushing – Star of stage and screen

Ted Reader – Canada’s Mister Barbecue

The Grand Final’s Mystery Ingredients:

Appetizer: Live lobster, Vanilla, Avocado (from Hilite)

Entrée: Teres Major (from Liberterre), Tomatillo (from Hilite), Lunchable, Scotch Bonnet (from Hilite)

Dessert: Dulce de leche, Donuts, Passion fruit (from Hilite), Pink peppercorns

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Photos of this week’s semi-finals courtesy of Tony Cicero Photography.

Colin Rayner Wallace Wong Kyle Deleary Trent Weldon  at Nella Cucina

Competitors (l-r) Colin Rayner (La Société), Wallace Wong (Rosedale Golf Club), Kyle Deleary (Bannock) and Trent Weldon (Ritz Carlton).

It’s Malcolm here reporting for Jamie once more, as I had the pleasure to return to Nella Cucina this week to M.C. the last semi-final of the Discovered Culinary Competition. At the judges table this week were Olivier Le Calvez, chef at El Catrin, and celebrity chefs and broadcasters Mike Ward and Christian Pritchard.

Olivier Le Calvez, Mike Ward and Christian Pritchard judge at Nella Cucina

Olivier Le Calvez, Mike Ward and Christian Pritchard judge at Nella Cucina

Competing were four winners from previous weeks’ contests: Kyle Deleary, winner from April 13 and Sous Chef at Bannock, Colin Rayner, winner from March 16 and a cook at La Societe, Trent Weldon, winner from May 25 and a Senior Cook at The Ritz Carlton Toronto, and Wallace Wong, winner from May 19 and Chef de Partie at the Rosedale Golf Club. This was a strong line-up, and each cook brought the skills and adaptability that earned them a victory beforehand, as well as the determination to be the last cook standing after three courses and three eliminations and be one just four remaining cooks vying for the ultimate prize as champion at next week’s finals! Chef Brianne Nash, of Nella Cucina (and a past Discovered champion) showed her creative (and maybe slightly cruel) side in the ingredient selections for Monday night: MYSTERY BOX INGREDIENTS Appetizer: Spam Roasted Red Pepper Corn Entrée: Chicken Thighs Trail Mix Vegan Cheese Chayote Dessert: Lemongrass Dragon Fruit Palm Sugar Pretzels

Kyle Deleary defends his dish at Nella Cucina.

Kyle Deleary defends his dish at Nella Cucina.

The judges had a rough night of it, too, since the competitors were evenly matched. Except for one round where Colin Rayner was doomed. Somehow, in the heat of the last minute of the entrée course he didn’t manage to get all of his dish, using all of the ingredients, onto all of his plates. The judges had no choice but to disqualify and eliminate him by the strict rules of the competition. The tragedy of the situation was only enhanced, the judges each explained to Rayner, because they unanimously thought his dish was the best of the round. Rayner’s elimination left Deleary and Wong to battle it out. The judges thought it was close. They deliberated in private about who would win for well over 15 minutes (usually it’s about five). I can’t report on what they said to each other, but I can say that there were arguments and back and forths and genuine anguish about which cook was ever so slightly ahead enough to win. In the end Kyle Deleary edged out Walace Wong and will compete next week, in what will have to be the tightest competition ever. Tickets are limited: contact Nella Cucina to reserve them. * * *


Our Semi-Final’s Competitors:

Tuba Tuncwinner of April 20 – Cook @ 7 Enoteca

Theodore Michael Page winner of March 30Verses and formely at The Spoke Club

Markos Lissanuwinner of February 23 – Sous Chef @ La Societe

Andrew Ryan Eade Fan Favorite – Sous Chef @ Pusateri’s

Our Judges for the night:

Chef Albert Ponzo (Le Select)

Marco Santaguida (Santaguida Fine Foods)

Chef John Butler (Rational Canada)

The night’s ingredients:

Appetizers: Bagel, Tamarind, Chicken Wings (from Liberterre)

Entrée: Pork Tenderloin (from Liberterre), Rice-A-Roni, Red Swiss Chard (from Hilite), Sweet Potato (from Hilite)

Dessert: Tim Tams, Mascarpone, Peanuts

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The second semi-final winner Andrea Bolis (Vertical Restaurant) with the night’s judges: Craig Harding (Campagnolo), Matthew Hickey (Holt Renfrew), and Carolyn Cohen (Delicious Nutrition)

Another great semi-final took place on Monday night, with Vertical’s Andrea Bolis taking the prize and making his way to our final on Tuesday the 30th of June. With only two more semi-finals to go at the Nella Cucina Discovered Culinary Competition, the heat is certainly on! Our Competitors:

Andrea Boliswinner of May 4 – Line Cook @ Vertical Restaurant

Jacky Lo winner of May 11 – Junior Sous Chef @ Cluny Bistro

Lucas Smithwinner of March 23 – former Sous Chef @ Magwyers Pub

Joseph Man Fan Favorite – Sous Chef @ Omni King Edward

Our Judges:

Craig Harding (Campagnolo)

Carolyn Cohen (Delicious Nutrition)

Matthew Hickey (Holt Renfrew)

Our Black Box Ingredients:

Appetizers: Watercress (from Hilite), Makerel Cucumber (from Hilite)

Entrée: String Cheese, Wieners, Whole Chicken (from Liberterre), Arugula (from Hilite)

Dessert: Lotus Root (from Hilite), Cinnamon Buns, Ricotta Cheese, Grapefruit (from Hilite)

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Winner Jasper Yu of the soon-to-be-opened Miss Thing's with our judges for the night: Giacomo Pasquini (Vertical), Stella Yu (foodjunkiechronicles.cnet), and Adrian Forte (Dirty Bird Chicken and Waffles)

Winner Jasper Wu of the soon-to-be-opened Miss Thing’s with our judges for the night: Giacomo Pasquini (Vertical), Stella Yu (foodjunkiechronicles.cnet), and Adrian Forte (Dirty Bird Chicken and Waffles)

And so we reach the first semi-final of the Nella Cucina Discovered Culinary Competition… and that was a nailbiter, with a bit of controversy sprinkled on top. At the end of the day the ridiculously-skilled Jasper Wu of the opening-soon Miss Thing’s (in Parkdale’s old Wrongbar space) showed the judges that he has what it takes, beating out the rest of the competition quite soundly. Although I am not taking part in the judging process this year, my money is on Mr. Wu for the final, such are his kitchen smarts. He’s a delight to watch in the kitchen. Unfortunately we lost Simon Wigglesworth in the first round due to his unorthodox smashing of the whole coconut on the ground, and all three judges refusing to taste his dish due to the coconut having been on the floor. “That just shows disrespect for the ingredients” said judge Giacomo Pasquini from Vertical. We also had to say goodbye to crowd favourite Magda Sylvester Louis-Jean due to a technical detail, as the rice in her beautifully aromatic main course was seriously undercooked. In the final round Jasper Wu beat out The Ritz-Carlton’s John Ngo, and so we’ll be seeing Jasper again on the 30th of this month for our GRAND FINAL! Our semi-finalists were: Jasper Wu from Miss Thing’s (Nav Sangha’s new project in the old Wrongbar space in Parkdale) John Ngo from The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Magda Sylvester Louis-Jean from La Creole Simon Wigglesworth from The Citizen Our Judges for the evening were: Giacomo Pasquini from Vertical Stella Yu from website Food Junkie Chronicles Adrian Forte from Dirty Bird Chicken and Waffles And our mystery ingredients were: Appetiser: Kimchi, Wonton Wrappers, Coconut (from Hilite) Entrée: Miso Paste, Snap Peas (from Hilite), Chicken Drumsticks (from Liberterre), Beef Jerky (ugh!) Dessert: Corn Bread, Kaffir Lime Leaves, Buttermilk, Corn Nuts

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Winner Trent Weldon (Ritz Carlton) with judges Peter Sanagan (Sanagan's Meat Locker), Paul Banallick (Cluny Bistro), and Andrew Walker (Natural Markets Food Group)

Winner Trent Weldon (Ritz Carlton) with judges Peter Sanagan (Sanagan’s Meat Locker), Paul Banallick (Cluny Bistro), and Andrew Walker (Natural Markets Food Group)

Back in the land of the beaver after a quick jaunt to the hills and valleys of Veneto, I’m glad to hear that my colleague Malcolm Job did a great job MCing last weeks qualifying round. I still cannot believe that we are not up to round 14 of the Nella Cucina Discovered Culinary Competition. This round was a corker, with four very talented young men competing for the night’s prize: Scott A. Smith – Sous Chef at Pure Spirits Alvin Viguilla – Chef de Partie at The Royal Canadian Yacht Club Brendan Slaven – Cook at 7 Enoteca Trent Weldon – Senior Cook at The Ritz Carlton Toronto Our judges were: Butcher Peter Sanagan of Sanagan’s Meat Locker Chef Paul Benallick of Cluny Bistro Chef Andrew Walker of Natural Markets Food Group And our “Black Box” ingredients: Appetizer Round: Chorizo, Croissants, Hot House Tomatoes (from Hilite) Main Course Round: Chicken Breast (from Liberterre), Watermelon Radish (from Hilite), Campbell’s Tomato Soup, Dry Rigatoni Pasta (from Rita foods) Dessert Round: Pop Tarts, Asian Gooseberries (from Hilite), Greek Yogurt, Almonds

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Wallace Wong at Nella Cucina by Tony Cicero

Round 13 winner Wallace Wong in action. Photo: Tony Cicero.

Once again, with Jamie working very hard for GFR in  Italy, it was my pleasure to run the stop watch at Nella Cucina for another round of their amazing black box contest for young cooks. Here’s my report. – Malcolm. Photos by Tony Cicero. See is entire album of photographs from the evening here. It was lucky Round 13 of Nella Cucina’s Discovered Culinary Competition last Tuesday night for the at capacity crowd who got to watch some of the fiercest competitive cooking yet. Maybe it was the esteemed panel of judges, who alternated between criticism and praise throughout the evening that spurned on the contestants (each vying for the ultimate prize of a stage at a Michelin starred restaurant in Spain) to try that little bit more. Judging last Tuesday were:

  • Chef Jordan Barnett, who runs the kitchens at Toronto’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel;
  • Celebrity chef, broadcaster, author, olive oil importer and sauce maker Christine Cushing; and
  • Chef Christopher ‘Sandy’ Sanderson of the Rose & Sons growing portfolio of restaurants.
Jordan Barnett, Christine Cushing and Sany Sanderson make one of the hardest working judging panels yet. Photo: Tony Cicero.

Jordan Barnett, Christine Cushing and Sandy Sanderson make one of the hardest working judging panels yet. Photo: Tony Cicero.

And judge they did, each asking questions at every round, each being brutally honest about what they didn’t like, each taking care to mention what they did like, and each explaining why they voted on every round of elimination. The four young cooks trying to keep in competition through three black box rounds were:

As is always the case, Nella Cucina Chef Brianne Nash (the 2012 Discovered Culinary Competition champion), came up with three black boxes of exquisite dissonance:

  • Appetizers: Ginger Beer, Clams, and Kumquats.
  • Entrée: Pork Loin (from LiberTerre), Patty Pan squash (from Hilite Fine Foods), Popcorn and Brie Cheese.
  • Dessert: Firm Tofu, Oatmeal, Dates, and Cardamom.

Rising to to win this thirteenth round, and go on to vye against other round winners was Wallace Wong, who impressed the judges with tricks like clams served two ways and a soy ice cream made from liquid nitrogen. Watch for Jamie’s report from Round 14 at GFR next week! * * *


The night’s competitors: Laurel Prentice (Milestones), Joseph Man (Omni King Edward), Jacky Lo (Cluny Bistro), and Guillermo S. Herbertson (Turf Lounge)

Who can believe that we have now completed 12 qualifying rounds of the Nella Cucina Discovered Culinary Competition? Time really does fly when you are having fun… and perhaps last night, in my usual role of MC, I had a little too much fun. My profuse apologies to the assembled audience for my, quite frankly, terrible patter. After working from 7am onwards at the 9th annual Terroir Symposium, running three sold-out wine masterclasses and giving a mainstage introduction, by the time I arrived at Nella for the night’s competition I was rather full of delicious Ontario and Beaujolais Gamay. Hence the sequence of terribly inappropriate attempts at humour. Despite the MC’s awful banter, the night went incredibly well, with another superb audience. All four competitors put on a jolly good show, and impressed our judges no end with their both their kitchen skills and surprising talent for improvisation. A “black box” competition is a real challenge for even the most experienced of Cooks, and so it’s always a real treat to see these young women and men show off their culinary talents in the environment of the Nella Cucina kitchen. Nella Cucina Chef Brianne Nash really put the competitors through their paces with a couple of seriously difficult sets of ingredients… I seriously have no idea what I would do with the following! Black Box Ingredients:

Appetizers: Oysters, Animal Crackers, Fennel Seeds

Entrée: Kielbasa (from Liberterre) Portobello Mushrooms (from Hilite), 2 Yukon Potatoes (from Hilite), Pistachios

Dessert: Dunk-a-roos, Goat Cheese, Blackberries (from Hilite), Coffee

The Competitors:

Laurel Prentice – Head Chef at Milestone’s Grill and Bar

Jacky Lo – Jr. Sous Chef at Cluny Bistro

Joseph Man – Sous Chef at Omni King Edward Hotel

Guillermo S. Herbertson Senior Sous Chef at Turf Lounge

And our judges:

Chef Joe Friday – Via Vai

Carolyn Cohen – The brains and beauty behind Delicious Nutrition and Delicious Dish Cooking School

Chef Giacomo Pasquale from Vertical

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Round 11's winner, Andrea Bolis from Vertical restaurant with our judges for the night: John Butler (Rational), Danny McCallum (Jacobs and Co.), and Luis Valenzuela (Carmen restaurant).

Round 11’s winner, Andrea Bolis from Vertical restaurant with our judges for the night: John Butler (Rational), Danny McCallum (Jacobs and Co.), and Luis Valenzuela (Carmen restaurant).

And so we reach Round 11 of the Nella Cucina Discovered Culinary Competition, and it was another night of surprises. Competition stalwart Sean Davidson, who has been in the audience for almost every single round thus far, was competing and brough with him a sizeable fanbase who cheered him on through the night. The first round was a bit of a heartbreaker, with two of our contestants having real trouble working against the clock. Bent’s Nobuyuki Nakamori literally threw his charred Tilapia roll onto the plate as the clock reached zero, and first-timer Jaejun Kim from Mercatto Tavern (and a George Brown student) only managed to present a slice of eggplant to the judges, such was his battle with the mighty countdown clock. He was a great sport though, and promised to come back next year. Contestants:

Jaejun Kim – Line cook at Taverna Mercatto

Andrea Bolis – Line Cook at Vertical Restaurant

Sean Davidson – Senior Cook at Bannock

Nobuyuki Nakamori – Chef at Bent

Mystery BlackBox Ingredients: 

Appetiser: Tilapia, English breakfast tea, Crunchy peanut butter

Main Course: Chicken cutlets (from Liberterre), Muesli, Hard boiled eggs (from Hilite), Escarole (from Hilite)

Dessert: Waffles, Rhubarb (from Hilite), Hemp seeds, Raspberries (from Hilite)

Our Judges For The Night:

Chef John Butler – Executive Chef Rational Canada

Chef Danny McCallum – Executive Chef Jacobs & Co.

Chef Luis Valenzuela – Executive Chef Carmen

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Magda Sylvestre Loius-Jean from La Creole took home the prize and makes it through to the semi-finals.

Another round of the Nella Cucina Discovered Culinary Competition, another night of thrills, spills, and bellyaches. It was round ten as a matter of fact, and the crowds were out in force again. I was delighted to see La Creole’s Magda Sylvestre Loius-Jean win the night as not only was her cooking really rather special, but it also means that she is the second woman to make it to the semi-finals… and this is a great thing as it was beginning to look like a bit of a sausage party. Even although I am quite partial to sausages, I do like to see strong female talent like Magda showing the boys who’s the real boss in the kitchen. Well done that woman!

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Tuba Tunc's cuisine reigned supreme at Nella Cucina on April 20.

Tuba Tunc’s cuisine reigned supreme at Nella Cucina on April 20. Photo: Tony Cicero.

Because Jamie is working hard for GFR this week tasting wine in the South of France, I had the honour of once again playing MC in his stead at Nella Cucina, and am happy to file the report below. – Malcolm The glory belonged to cook Tuba Tunc from Oakville’s 7 Enoteca at the end of round nine Nella Cucina’s Chef’s Discovered Competition, last Monday, April 20. Drawing inspiration from her Turkish heritage, Tunc managed to convince a panel made up of hardcore chefs consisting of the legendary Chris McDonald (lately of Cava), Romain Avril (who heads up the kitchen at La Societé) and The Drake Hotel’s Alexandra Feswick. Just: the judges admitted to the standing room only audience that runner-up Jordan Robinson, chef de partie at Bestellen actually won the last (dessert) meal round, but Tunc had managed to accumulate more points on with her appetizer and main course. Also in competition were Andrew Elijah Hajjar of King City’s Kingsbridge Centre, and Chris McGregor who is the chef at The Auld Spot.

These judges look friendly enough, but don't let looks... Photo: Tony Cicero.

These judges look friendly enough, but don’t let looks… Photo: Tony Cicero.

And competition was fierce. Partly because the judges were serious, took lots of notes, and asked uncomfortable questions (like “do you expect me to eat this?” or “did you intend this to be like this?). And partly because the “black box” ingredients were brutal: Appetizers: Fiddleheads Pickled Onions Yellow Perch Entrée Zucchini Pepperoni Ground Chicken Purple Grapes Dessert Durian Orange Blossom Water Black Wild Rice Mint It’s almost as though produce sponsor, Hilite Fine Foods, had it in for the poor cooks! For an amazing gallery of professional photos taken at the event by Tony Cicero, check out Nella Cucina’s Facebook page here. * * *

A very modest-looking Kyle Deleary from Bannock before his qualifying round win.

A very modest-looking Kyle Deleary from Bannock before his qualifying round win.

I have to say that it was a bit of a shocker, this ninth round of the Nella Cucina Discovered Culinary Competition. The boisterous crowd managed to drink the bar dry! We’ll have to get on to our sponsors Wines Of Ontario and Amsterdam Brewery to replenish our stocks. It was a noisy night… I was in a great mood, having recovered from my blow to the head and olive-oil-destroyed tweed suit… the competitors each brought out sizeable fan contingents, particularly the crew from Bannock who were there to support Chef Kyle Deleary. Kyle is an old friend (we harvested oysters together in New Brunswick two years back, but seeing as I have no say whatsoever over the judging this year, my partiality towards the young fellow was of no consequence. He did, however, go on to win his qualifying round, and so I will very much look forward to seeing him compete in the semi-finals. He put on a really terrific show, as did all of the contestants, who were:

Rommel Guevara – Chef De Commis at The Omni King Edward

Kyle Deleary – Sous Chef at Bannock

Peter Wong – Line Cook at La Societe

Kirk Massicotte – A lovely ginger bloke who has attended a few of the qualifying rounds and is opening a new business summer 2015

Our Judges for the night were:

Alexa Clark – Foodblogger and Co-chair of Taste Toronto

Chef Jamie Kennedy – A gentleman who needs no introduction

Carolyn Cohen – The brains and beauty behind Delicious Nutrition and Delicious Dish Cooking School


Appetizers: Paté, Jalapenos (from Hilite), Polenta

Entrée: Squid, Kale from Hilite, Honey, Roasted Garlic from Hilite

Dessert: Slice of Cherry Pie, Vanilla Bean, Condensed Milk, Bacon

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Our terrific Judges and our winner of round seven, Jevin Ngo of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel

Our terrific Judges and our winner of round seven, John Ngo of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Well done that man!

Another thrilling night of the Nella Cucina Discovered Culinary Competition went down last night… Round Seven of the qualifying rounds, and what a night it was. In the very first round competitor Ivan Kuuts from the Emerson managed to shower my poor Walker Slater tweed suit in olive oil… trousers, jacket, and waistcoat. After getting home I followed someone’s advice a put talcum powder on the stains, but alas, this morning it looked even worse (see the pics below). That’ll teach me to dress up like that again. Hopefully our drycleaner will be able to sort things out! So thrown was I by the wanton destruction of my clothes I went on to have what some would refer to as a brainfart when asked what salsify was by an audience member, and mixed it up with sorrel. Oh dear. Our smashing competitors were:

Ivan Kuuts – Senior Cook at The Emerson

John Ngo – Junior Cook at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Toronto

Tanay Kishore – Entremetier at Gusto 101

Joe Lee – Line Cook at Far Niente

And our lovely, lovely, lovely judges were:

Giacomo Pasquale from Vertical

Matt “Fidel Gastro” Basile from Lisa Marie and his Priscilla food truck

And Mister Gelato himself… Alessandro Buccianti from Punto Gelato/Simply Italian.


Appetizers: Escargot, Marsala Wine, Box Stuffing

Entrée: Salmon, Salsify – from Hilite, Green Olives, Licorice… woof! This round was tough.

Dessert: Pizza Dough, Walnuts, Dark Rum, Nutella

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Claudio Aprile, Zane Caplansky, Theodore Michael Page, and Ted Reader.

Claudio Aprile, Zane Caplansky, Theodore Michael Page, and Ted Reader.

And so we get to round six of the Nella Cucina Discovered Culinary Competition, and goodness me, it was a heated competition. All four competitors put up a brave fight, but at the end of the day Theodore Michael Page came out on top (despite managing to injure himself rather badly with a knife!) In my roll as MC I managed to make a couple of little screw-ups: 1) In the first round, when I started the timer it started counting UPWARDS… not ideal 2) I had the incorrect list of mystery ingredients for the third box… and so when I read it out the final two competitors looked at me most strangely. Our competitors were:

Jeremy Fowler – Sous Chef at Le Select Bistro

Wonkeun Lim – Line Cook at Oliver & Bonacini Café Grill

Theodore Micheal Page – Chef De Partie at The Spoke Club

Chris Wilkinson – Tournout at The Drake Hotel

And our very chatty judges were:

Claudio Aprile

Zane Caplansky

Ted Reader

  If you are having trouble viewing this video please click here.

The “Black Box” ingredients:

Appetizers: Pre seared and braised Pig Tail (Liberterre), Blood Orange (Hilite), and Ritz Crackers

Entrée: Italian Sausage (Liberterre), Dr. Pepper, Spinach (Hilite), Yukon Potatoes (Hilite)

Dessert: Pound Cake, Stout Beer (Amsterdam), Rose Water, Semi sweet chocolate


Round Five Winner Lucas Smith from Magwyers Pub in Ajax with Judges Rodney Bowers,  Carolyn Cohen, and Mark Wilson.

Round Five Winner Lucas Smith from Magwyers Pub in Ajax with Judges Rodney Bowers, Carolyn Cohen, and Mark Wilson.

Well, I cannot believe that we are already in the fifth week of the Nella Cucina Discovered Culinary Competition. Last night’s Battle Royale was certainly a tense one, with four talented cooks opening up the black boxes and taking a stab at the title of the evening’s champion and in doing so winning a place in the semi-finals. The competitors were:

Eric Marle – Cook, Grand Café Colette

Charles Kalfayan –Chef, Panino Cappuccino

Lucas Smith – Sous Chef, Magwyers Pub, Ajax

Rumuna Hirmez – Sous Chef, Holiday Inn Yorkdale

The mystery Black Box Ingredients were:

Round One (App): Fennel, Prosciutto, Orange Marmalade

Round Two (Main Course): Pork Belly, Carrot Baby Food (Yum!), Mustard Greens, Golden Raisins

Round Three (Dessert): Marshmallows, Crescent Roll Dough, Cranberries, Allspice

And the evening’s Judges were:

Rodney BowersHey Meatball

Carolyn CohenDelicious Dish Cooking School

Mark WilsonMark Wilson Culinary Consulting Inc.


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Another semi-finalist from La Societe! Cook Colin Rayner put on a mighty fine performance in Round Four.

Another semi-finalist from La Societe! Cook Colin Rayner put on a mighty fine performanceto win in Round Four.

After returning from a brief jaunt to New Orleans and having had GFR’s Malcolm Jolley fill in for me last week, I was back at Nella Cucina, MCing the night’s proceedings as we went through the qualifying Round Four of the Discovered Culinary Competition. It was a seriously packed house, with lots of fans showing up to cheer on the evening’s four contestants…

Phillip Del Grosso – Chef @ Panevittoria

Greg Laird – Sous Chef @ Mercatto Bay st.

Colin Rayner – Cook @ La Societe

Deepak Singh – Cook @ Royal Canadian Military Institute

The three rounds’ “black box” ingredients were as follows:

Round One (App): Shrimp, Cheez Wiz, Asparagus

Round Two (Main Course): Chicken Thighs, Apricots, Chai Masala, Sunflower Seeds

Round Three (Dessert): Phyllo Pastry, Cloves, White Chocolate, Canned Pumpkin

Hmmmm… I cannot stomach Cheez Wiz myself, so I had some trouble even looking at the first courses!

Our superb Judges for the evening were:

Marco Santaguida of Santaguida Fine Foods

Chef Lesley Mattina of OMG Baked Goodness

Chef Rodney Bowers of Hey Meatball

At the end of the the night Colin Rayner reigned supreme, which makes things extremely interesting as that means that three of our semi-finalists are from La Societe!!!

But if you are one of the contestants eliminated, all is not lost.

In 2013 Chef Brianne Nash was eliminated in her qualifying round but was then voted back in as a “fan favourite” through the Discovered Facebook Page, and went on to win the competition, go on a paid stage in Spain, and then get a job at Nella Cucina!

If you are having trouble viewing this video please click here.

If you are interested in being in the audience for any of the upcoming rounds please contact

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John Bil and Massimo Capra at Nella Cucina

John Bil and Massimo Capra step up to the counter and ask contestants questions. Photo by Tony Cicero.

This is Malcolm, not Jamie, reporting on this week’s Round Three of Nella Cucina’s Discovered Culinary Competition. I had the honour (and pleasure!) of taking over Jamie’s MC duties for this round, on behalf of Good Food Revolution, and witnessing two hours of amazing gastronomic competition. Round Three was competed by Andrea di Mauro, a line Cook at Gusto 101, Luis Sanchez, a The Ritz Carlton Hotel, Christian Perron, a line cook Los Colibris, and Simon Wigglesworth, a morning sous chef at La Société. At the judges table were restaurateur and fishmonger John Bil from Honest Weight, Chef and broadcaster Massimo Capra from Mistura and various TV shows, and Darren Glew the Executive Chef at The Drake Hotel. The breadth and depth of kitchen and tasting knowledge among the three industry veterans turned out to be a very good thing, as competition was extremely close, with each elimination made by only by deep deliberation. The judging panel also turned to be a very good thing for me. The kitchen at Nella was packed with supporters and spectators (it’s a great show, watching live is much more exciting than anything on TV). The judges helped me out immensely by chatting among themselves, engaging with the crowd and asking the contestants all manner of questions, as the latter madly cooked down the clock.

Malcolm and Simon Wigglesworth 614 x 511

GFR’s Malcolm Jolley congratulates Round Three winner Simon Wigglesworth from La Société. Photo by Tony Cicero.

In the end Simon Wigglesworth prevailed over Luis Sanchez, but just barely. Sanchez won the dessert round, but the judges had given Wigglesworth more points over the entirety of the round. Round Four starts at 7pm at Nella Cucina on Monday, March 16, with Jamie back as host. Click here for details. Round Two…

Round 2 Winner Jasper Wu of Bent presents to the evening's judges

Round 2 Winner Jasper Wu of Bent presents to the evening’s judges

Last night saw round two of Nella Cucina’s Discovered Culinary Competition, with Jasper Wu, Sous Chef at Bent restaurant taking home the evening’s prize and moving on to the next stage.

He saw off some stalwart competition from Jun Won Jang (a cook at The Ritz Carlton Hotel), Isabel Sanchez Montoya (a line cook at Buca Yorkville & Lisa Marie), and Irem Basaran (a line cook at La Societe).

Our judges for the night were Doug Niegel (Executive Chef of the Mercatto Group), Lesley Mattina (Owner of OMG Baked Goodness), and Alexandra Feswick (Chef at The Drake Hotel)

Enjoy our photo gallery of the night below (Pics by Jamie Drummond and Malcolm Jolley)

If you would be interested in attending the next round of Nella Cucina’s Discovered Culinary Competition contact

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Jude Daniel Mezzolo, Winner Markos Lissana (Sous Chef, La Societa), Judge John Placko (Powder For Texture), Runner Up Andrew Eade (Sous Chef, Pusateri’s), and Judge Rodney Bowers (Hey Meatball).

Wow… what a night that was… I’m still recovering from my first stint as MC. Congratulations to the first round winner, Markos Lissana from La Societe.

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The hours are counting down to the very first round of the Nella Cucina Discovered Culinary Competition, MC’d by Good Food Revolution’s Jamie Drummond.

Our Liveblog should go LIVE at around 5pm

Tonight’s contestants are:

  1. John James Fridman (Cook, Fanny Chadwick’s)
  2. Corey Burgan (Sous Chef, Mistura)
  3. Markos Lissana (Sous Chef, La Societa)
  4. Simon Wigglesworth (Morning Sous Chef, La Societa)

And tonight’s panel of esteemed judges are:

  1. Chef Rodney Bowers (Hey Meatball)
  2. Chef John Placko (Powder For Texture)
  3. Chef Daniel Mezzolo (Soho House)

Proceedings begin at 7pm tonight at Nella Cucina, 876 Bathurst Street, Toronto.


Discovered Culinary Competition Rules and Regulations FORMAT: Each competition will be held at Nella Cucina (876 Bathurst Street, Toronto). Each competition will be 2 hours long beginning at 7pm and ending at 9pm. The competition will begin with four contestants. Each contestant will be provided with a basket of mystery ingredients as well as a stocked pantry. Once the timer begins the contestants will have 20 minutes to prepare an appetizer using all of the mystery ingredients. Each contestant must have a completed plate as the buzzer goes at the 20 minute mark. Whatever is on the plate will be judged by the judges. After judging, one contestant will be eliminated. The remaining three contestants will then be given another basket of ingredients and 30 minutes to complete an entrée using all of the mystery ingredients. After the entrée judging, one more contestant will be eliminated. The final two contestants will then be given their final basket of mystery ingredients and a final 20 minutes to prepare a dessert using all their mystery ingredients. After judging the winner of the competition will be revealed. Start Date: February 23 2015 COOKING RULES:

  • –  Each of the contestant’s dishes must contain all of the provided mystery ingredients
  • –  Contestants can use any of the ingredients provided in the pantry, they may not bring inany of their own ingredients
  • –  Contestants must use only equipment provided by Nella Cucina ̧ except for the use ofpersonal knives
  • –  Each contestant must complete one presentation plate in the allotted time
  • –  The presentation plate completed at the sound of the buzzer will be judged
  • –  Upon inspection of the presentation plates by the judges, each contestant will preparethree tasting plates for the judgesJUDGING:

– The judges will judge each plate using the following criteria: Use of the mystery ingredients, Creativity, Skill, Visual Appearance, & Taste APPLICANT REQUIRMENTS: Contestants are selected based on work experience, application, creativity and knowledge of the food industry. UPON SELECTION: All selected applicants must agree to appear for the competition at Nella Cucina on the scheduled date of their appearance. Failure to do so will result in disqualification. Selected applicants may bring up to 10 guests with them to their scheduled competition date (RSVP required). Each selected applicant must sign a Release Form upon selection. This Release Form will confirm, among other things, compliance with the Competition Rules and Regulations as well as including a publicity release.



Title Sponsors:


Wusthof has set up each competitor station with the following Classic Ikon Knives! Retail value of about $1800 at each station.

Classic Ikon 8″ Chef

Classic Ikon Santoku

Classic Ikon 3 1/2″ Paring

Classic Ikon Boning

Classic Ikon Filet

Classic Ikon Peeling

Classic Ikon Double Serrated Bread

Classic Ikon​ 9″ Carving

+ Honing Steel

+ Knife Block

+ Knife Roll

HILITE FINE FOODS  Nobody does it fresher!

Hilite Fine Foods Inc. is dedicated to providing consistently high quality produce. That, along with first-rate customer service, has resulted in a successful business in the tough world of produce.

CAZZETTA – Olive Oil

Extra Vergine Olive Oil Quattro Macine

The extra virgin olive oil Masseria Quattromacine is of valuable quality, obtained from the wise blend of olives from Cazzetta family’s olive groves in addition to local producers of ancient Terra d’Otranto.

Production area: Olive trees of Terra d’Otranto.

Cultivar: Cellina di Nardò – Ogliarola Salentina.

Olives picking: Picked directly from the plant in November and December so as to preserve the aroma of fresh olives.

Flavor: Sweet flavour, with the full taste of mature olives.

Colour: Yellow with green tints

Recommended: Ideal to season meat dishes, salads, soups, risotto, sauces. It’s ideal also in cooking and for frying.

LIBERTERRE – Retail Ready – “Food you can Trust”

LiberTerre is a family of premium proteins sourced from farmers in Canada and the U.S. that delivers an exceptional eating experience that everyone can feel good about. LiberTerre strongly believes people should know where their food comes from and ensures high-standards from farm to store. Their goal is to allow all consumers to enjoy the superior taste of meat that has been traditionally raised, fed a healthy diet and treated well. LiberTerre offers a taste you can trust!



Gastrolux Biotan Sauté Pans are well known in over 25 countries for their unique and durable “Biotan” non-stick coating and quality base, designed for “healthy, fat free cooking” – you can cook completely without oil; however, you may choose to add a little oil for taste reasons. Ideal for sautéing vegetables, meat, poultry and fish. 20 Year warranty – Made in Denmark

Unique features:

Gastrolux BIOTAN Non-Stick Coating Technology

8mm thick, non-warping base according to DIN

Optimal heat distribution and retention

Patented, handle fixation according to DIN

Stable pouring edge

Ergonomic handles and knobs. Oven-safe up to 500°F

Each product has unique quality control number

PFOA and PFOS free


Has supplied Discovered Chefs Competition with Stand Mixers, Immersion Blenders and Food Processors!


Powder for Texture is our range of powdered ingredients that are used to create a vast array of unique textures with foods and beverages. These ingredients are the basis for many molecular cuisine and mixology techniques. Available at Nella Cucina.


ESKA Natural Spring Water, one of the purest waters in the world.

It comes from a perfectly preserved historic source for water – an esker in Northern Quebec, Canada. It emerges from the ground 100% microbiologically pure and is bottled directly from the source thus preserving its taste and purity.  Not chlorinated, not ozonated, not “anything-ated”.

Additional Sponsors include:

Wine Country Ontario, Wine Country Ontario, Amsterdam Brewery

Are you Nella Cucina’s next Discovered chef? 

In its third year running, the Nella Cucina Discovered Culinary Competition will continue to give up-and-coming

Canadian chefs the opportunity to showcase their culinary talents as they work against the clock in

a high energy, black box competition. Bringing fresh talent together with industry

leaders, the Discovered Chefs challenge will commence February 2015 at Nella Cucina.

Apply today for your chance to win a stage in a Michelin star restaurant in Spain!

Download your application form here.

This year the Discovered Culinary competition will be run by Nella Cucina's General Manager Brae Mason, and Nella Cucina's Event Coordinator Tanya Vicoli.

This year the Discovered Culinary competition will be run by Nella Cucina’s General Manager Brae Mason, and Nella Cucina’s Event Coordinator Tanya Vicoli.

Please fill out this application and fax (416 922 6346) or email it to

The Discovered Culinary Competition will be held on Monday nights February through June at

Nella Cucina 876 Bathurst Street, Toronto ON M5R 3G3  | 416 922 9055


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Nella Cucina Discovered judges: Daniel Mezzolo (Gusto 101), Rodney Bowers (Hey Meatball), and Donna Dooher (Mildred's Temple Kitchen)

Nella Cucina Discovered judges: Daniel Mezzolo (Gusto 101), Rodney Bowers (Hey Meatball), and Donna Dooher (Mildred’s Temple Kitchen)

Nella Cucina is a Good Food Fighter.

Please support the businesses and organizations

that support Good Food Revolution.

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