A handful of local culinary artists are hoping their finest efforts will earn them the title of Thunder Bay’s best.
More than a dozen restaurants were represented at the second annual Top Chef Thunder Bay, which was contested at the Victoria Inn on Saturday.
Event organizer Sharla Brown said it is clear the city is in the middle of a local restaurant renaissance, and there is no shortage of options for diners.
“A lot of people came last year and hadn’t seen or been to some of the restaurants that were here, so it’s a nice way to showcase a little taste of what each restaurant does here,” Brown said.
“It’s exciting to see all the restaurants popping up all over the city over the last year to five years. It’s exciting to see the new movement of food in the city, and people are going out and trying new things.”
Organizers have more demand than they do space for the event, as 13 restaurants were showing off their talents while others were relegated to a waitlist.
For the second straight year, a Food Network personality was brought in as a special guest.
This year Chuck Hughes was the invited chef. In addition to his television persona, Hughes owns two Montreal restaurants and has authored cookbooks.
Having Hughes meeting with different chefs in the city will hopefully provide them with some inspiration, and maybe pick up some new techniques.
“It’s nice to bring in a Canadian chef who is doing so well out in the world,” Brown said. “He’s got all kinds of exciting things going on so it’s nice to bring him to Thunder Bay and show what Canadian chefs can do.”
Hughes, who had a spike in notoriety after defeating famed chef Bobby Flay on the Iron Chef, said the experience has paid significant dividends in growing his brand.
“It’s given us great visibility on a world-wide scale,” Hughes said. “It’s a whole new different set of people learned about the restaurants, so in the end it was very positive.”
One of the keystones of Hughes’ cooking style is to respect the ingredients he selects.
He explained simplicity does not necessarily mean being plain, but rather means not going overboard and drastically taking away from each component of the dish.
“I’m a guy who loves to cook and loves food,” Hughes described.
“I like to focus on using good ingredients and not doing too much. Restraint is sometimes the hardest thing. It’s all about using the ingredients wisely and showcasing them.”
He also urges aspiring chefs to make cooking fun and have creativity.
The champion of the inaugural event was The Sovereign Room.
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