by Jo Dickins

On the evening of July 26, Chef Michael Stadtländer swooped down to Toronto’s Drake Hotel from Grey County and hosted a fundraiser for his new ‘Eager Beaver’ scholarship. (Click here for Kristina Groeger’s article on the scholarship from GFR0229.) Not only did chef roast a pig, he assembled an all-star panel of judges to determine the winner of a ‘black-box-Iron-Chef-style’ chef battle between four of the city’s hottest young talents: Steve Gonzales (sous chef, Origin), Nick Liu (chef, Niagara Street Café), Kevin McKenna (chef, Globe Bistro) and Alida Solomon (chef, Tutti Matti). The winner got a trip to September’s Canadian Chefs Congress in BC. And here are the pictures to prove it*…

Chef Michael Stadtländer visits his table at the reception, upon which was placed this centrepiece. Team Stadtländer 1, Team Cute Baby Piggy 0.

Babe alert:  Bettina Schormann of Ancaster Mill enjoys the wooded area of the restaurant where several chefs were paired with wineries …she is accompanied by two assistant chefs from her kitchen.

Official judge Chef Anthony Walsh chats with a guest; a feather-capped raffle ticket agent made the rounds.

Thirsty? Lovely (organic) Malivoire Chardonnay from Niagara.

Another of the three official judges, James Chatto, chats with Ivy Knight, not on her usual hostess duty on this particular Monday at the Drake;  while goodies are preapred in the reception area.

Chef Jeremy Charles made the trip from St. Johns, Newfoundland.

A mountain of cheese;  the Stadtländer crew broke the piggy down into manageable portions.

Beautiful scalllops and chanterelles served atop Miro-like pools of sauces.

Mingling in the reception area were The Drake’s Chef Anthony Rose (right) and Food Day Canada organizer Anita Stewart.

Sliders circulate; Anthony Walsh’s team offered steam buns with brisket.

M.C. Sheldon Jaffine announces the way is is going to go down.

The four competing chefs started at five minute intervals so their dishes could be sampled at the correct temperature;  two impossibly stylish gents, writer Jacob Richler and Jeff Stober, proprietor and founder of The Drake Hotel.

Chef Stadtländer explains the surprise ingredients to each contender as it is revealed.  One thing to try to work in: pig brains.

After serving his dishes to the judges (with minutes to spare) Chef Steve Gonzalez of Origin explains what he did with his ingredients.

Nick Liu of Niagara Street Cafe plates his dishes while to his left, Chef Kevin McKenna of Globe Bistro + Earth works away; a close up of his beautiful plating: dig the julienne of striped radish on top and a final squirt of oil!

Serious contemplation going on at the judges table; the third judge was Chef John Higgins of George Brown College;  in the background Renée Bellefeuille takes a peak at Chatto’s notes.

Chef McKenna races to the finish, Chef Alida Solomon of Tutti Matti was the fourth and final contender to serve the judges.

And as you can see, it looks like she found her 25 minutes of preparation to be pretty intense!

Walsh, Higgins and Stadtländer, Christian Morrison and Noboyu Stadtlander listen as James Chatto (seen on the screen in the background) announces the winner.  By unanimous decision, Alida Solomon.  Along with the glory came a free ticket to the upcoming Canadian Chef’s Congress in Cowichan Bay, B.C. this September.

*[For a blow by blow, insiders account of the evening, see James Chatto’s blog post here.]

Jo Dickins is a Toronto-based professional photographer. Find out more about Jo Dickins at

[Photo: John Gundy.]