by Kylie Meyermann

“We did this last year and found that everyone really enjoyed themselves. Toronto is one of Florida Citrus’ largest markets. You can’t grow oranges within a 100 miles of Toronto. So, here we are again this year.” Nancy Brown, the International Marketing Manager of Florida Citrus, is talking about the Pulp Kitchen: Rising Chef Florida Citrus Cook-Off, which is associated with the Winterlicious 2011 Culinary Events.

Contestants begin to cook for the Pulp Kitchen: Rising Chef Florida Citrus Cook-Off, part of Winterlicious 2011 Culinary Events.

The event was held on February 8, at Mildred’s Temple Kitchen. The Cook-Off is a battle of ability and creativity. In at tight timed deadline, the three contestants must create one appetizer (25 minutes), entrée (35 minutes), and a dessert (25 minutes) based on a not-so-secret ingredient: Florida grapefruits and 100% Florida grapefruit juice and 100% Florida Orange juice. (90% of Florida oranges are used for making juice.) A panel of five judges critique each chef’s dishes based on taste (40 points), originality and creativity (25 points), presentation (25 points) and simplicity (10 points). One chef is then awarded a grand prize of $2,000.00 for their culinary genius.

Contestants begining left: Ale Sielmann, Lauren Van Dixhoorn and Michael Baskerville

The Florida Citrus Cook-Off features budding talent from three Ontario culinary colleges, Lauren Van DixHoorn from Niagara College, Alex Sielmann from Stratford Chef School, and Michael Baskerville from Humber College. The “Rising Chefs” will cook in front of a live audience and a panel of Toronto’s hottest chefs.

Judges beginning left: Christine Cushing, Anthony Walsh, Ivana Raca, Anne Yarymowich and Daniel Muia.

The event was MC’d by Hosted by Good Food Revolution’s Malcolm Jolley and the judging panel included Christine Cushing (Fearless in the Kitchen, W and Oprah Winfrey Network), Anthony Walsh (Executive Chef, Canoe), Ivana Raca (Executive Chef, McEwan), Anne Yarymowich (Executive Chef, Frank @ the AGO) and Daniel Muia (Chef and Owner, Mogette Bistro).

Lauren puts the finishing touch on her Salmon-Orange

In between dishes, I was able to speak to the contestants. Lauren said that her teachers at Niagara College were great mentors and helped her fuse together her citrus – inspired recipes. “My teachers at Niagara College told me to simply cook Good Food.” She submitted her cook-off recipes in Christmas and has been practicing the coming weeks. For an appetizer, Lauren served a Grapefuit Endive and Arugula Salad. Her entree was Salmon-Orange, and for dessert she served Donuts. Chef Anthony Walsh would later say that Lauren’s simple approach to dessert is what convinced him to reward her his vote for Best Chef.

Alex chops celery for his Citrus-Celery Salad

Alex served for his appetizer a Turbot Escabeche with Orange-Carrot Emulsion and Tossed Greens. For his entree, he served Glazed Duck Breast with Herbed Potatoes and Citrus-Celery Salad. For dessert Alex made Warm Crepes with Mascarpone, Grapefruit Salsa and Vanilla Whipped Cream.

Michael uses the heat from the blow torch to help caramelize the sugar on the grapefruit wheel

For his appetizer, Michael served a Frisee Salad with Florida grapefruit – Truffle Vinaigrette, Pan Seared Sablefish with Butter Braised Brussels Sprouts, Baby Fennel and Orange and Grapefruit Beurre Nantais. For dessert Michael served Orange Chantilly Cream with Brulee Florida Grapefruit Fillets.

While the Rising Chef’s prepared their meals, a citrus sampling menu was created for the audience under the supervision of Taylor McMeekin of Mildred’s Temple Kitchen. First to leave the kitchen was a Carbonated Grapefruit Salad with Avocado and Chilies. To follow: an Orange Gnocchi with Jalapeno Grapefruit Beurre Blanc. The third small plate was a Ceviche of Scallop Lettuce Wrap with Grapefruit Granita and Scallions

Pan Roasted Halibut with Grapefruit and Roquette and Herb Salad with Mustard Grapefruit Sabayon

There were two main courses. First, a Pan Roasted Halibut with Bruleed Grapefruit and Roquette and Herb Salad with Mustard Grapefruit Sabayon. The second was a Chocolate and Coffee Dusted Hanger Steak with Burnt Orange Glaze and Sweet Potato Galette. For dessert there was a Tasting of Orange Rooibos Creme Brulee, Orange, Almond Biscotti and Grapefruit, Chili Sorbet.

Lauran Van Dixhoorn was awarded a cheque for $2,000.00 by Nancy Brown.

At the end of the evening, after the judges and the audience had sampled each of the citrus-inspired dishes, the judging panel deliberated and crowned Lauren Van Dixhoorn the winner of the Rising Chef Citrus Cook-Off. Chef Ivana Raca addressed Lauren in the judges public deliberating session, “You had your head down and concentrated on what you were doing. It’s great to see that in someone at such a young age.”

All of the chefs proved to the audience that citrus is an inspiring ingredient and can be used to make more than mimosas.

Kylie Meyermann is the newest addition to Good Food Revolution. She is looking forward to continuing her reporting on the food and wine industry.