Inspired by the harvests of B.C.’s land and sea, a group of dynamic chefs will be cooking for gold at the World Culinary Olympics in Germany
By Samantha McLeod
Culinary Team British Columbia, a group of dynamic young chefs, is all set to cook for gold at next month’s World Culinary Olympics in Germany.
“This is the youngest Olympic team I have ever worked with, and I am impressed by their dedication and eagerness to learn,” said team manager John Carlo Felicella (feature image), a multi-award winning chef with an illustrious career in the realm of international culinary competitions.
The menu to wow the judges at the 2020 IKA World Culinary Olympics that begins on Valentine’s Day in Stuttgart, include farmed B.C. salmon and Gindara sablefish, Alberta Triple-A beef, and an array of produce from micro businesses in British Columbia.
The plates will be primed with purees and wine, broth and vinaigrettes, stews, sauces and sorbets, all created with the bounty of Canada’s land and sea.
“We are proudly British Columbian and we love our local products,” Felicella told SeaWestNews.com, as his team prepped for their trip, where they will vie for honours alongside 2,000 chefs at the world’s largest and oldest culinary competition.
Over the past year, the team has been honing their menu at public and private events all across B.C. with the final practice run slated to be held at the Holt Renfrew’s Colette Grand Café in Vancouver, this week.
Felicella said seasonal availability and sustainability are the key components in the creation of the menu for the Olympics.
“We choose the ingredients that we love, then we develop and hone our menu…after that we approach the companies which have the best products for our creations,” said Felicella.
On their quest for culinary supremacy, the team found that farmed salmon was the best fit for their confit.
“We had been working on this dish for months and B.C. farmed salmon consistently came out on top for this dish…the higher fat content works great in a confit, and it holds its form well in the presentation…collectively, we love working with this fish for easy handling, taste, sustainability and of course, it is always seasonal” said Felicella.
Dismissing claims, that farmed B.C. salmon is inferior to its wild counterparts, Felicella said his team sees nothing wrong with this product.
“Farmed fish is the future, it’s happening everywhere. Did you know almost all the fish served in Europe is farmed?
“In fact, many chefs serve BC farmed salmon, and they love it, they just won’t come out publicly and say it and I don’t know why.
“After this competition, we want to move further with B.C. farmed salmon…we would like to showcase it even more, like in the Luxembourg competition coming up later this year,” he said.
The other seafood the team will be using is Gindara sablefish, farmed in the oceanic waters of Kyuquot Sound off Vancouver Island.
The entry is being described as Miso Glazed SableFish with Ginger Broth, Shrimp Gyoza, Braised Romaine Lettuce with Shiitake Mushrooms, Edamame and Pickled Daikon.
“We love it and we think it represents our region well and so it should be showcased on the culinary world stage,” said Felicella.
“In addition to B.C.’s farmed seafood, all our specialty items will be travelling with us, like the local wines and alcohol we will be using in our dishes.”
Felicella said Team B.C.’s participation in the Olympics will further enhance British Columbia and Canada’s enviable reputation in the culinary world.
“I have worked in a lot of places, in Canada and abroad, and I can say without a moment’s hesitation, we have it together…. Chefs in B.C. love to work together…We are all passionate about our work, and we are all competitive too, but we respect each other and love to work together,” he said.
As for his team, Felicella said: “This is the youngest Regional Olympic team in Canada and they are basically going in to play with the big boys…They are ready…They know what it took to get here, and what it takes to bring home a gold.”
To find out more about the World Culinary Olympics go here
Left to Right: Tina Tang, Aaron Hoffman, Natasha Norton, Kurt Waddington and Heejo Jung
Team Captain Aaron began cooking at the Harbour House Hotel near his home on Salt Spring Island, where he learned the fundamentals of French cuisine. He moved to Vancouver to attend the one-year Culinary Arts Program at Vancouver Community College. Upon completion of his studies, he began an apprenticeship at the Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel, training in all aspects of the kitchen. During his time at the Fairmont Airport Hotel Aaron became a support member for Culinary Team Canada and accompanied them to the IKA Culinary Olympics in Erfurt, Germany in 2016. Most recently, Aaron assisted with the rebranding of Colette Grand Café, in Holt Renfrew Vancouver, where he continues to gain valuable experience while honing his culinary skills under the expert eye of Chef Jason Harris.
Originally from Vancouver Island, Tina relocated to the Okanagan Valley five years ago and now calls the area home. Since her arrival in the valley, Tina has worked at some of the top wineries and has catered for small businesses. She is currently employed as the Pastry Chef at the Predator Ridge Golf Resort in Vernon. She is a member of the Canadian Culinary Federation and active on both locally and nationally having held executive board positions. Tina is currently the World Chefs Young Chefs Ambassador for Canada and was recently voted CCFCC Western Chef of the Year. Tina has garnered success and experience in a number of local, provincial and national competitions.
The latest chef to join Culinary Team B.C., Heejo Jung, began his career in the hospitality industry as a part time bartender and cook while attending university in his native Seoul, Korea. In 2011 Heejo immigrated to Toronto to continue his studies. It was during this time he further developed his Asian culinary skills by working at Sumo Sushi Restaurant. Next on the agenda was the addition of Western cuisine to his repertoire. He enlisted in an externship at the renown Nota Bene Restaurant in Toronto. After alternating between a series of Eastern and Western style restaurants, Heejo eventually landed a Chef de Parti position in the luxurious La Germain Hotel in 2013. In 2016 Heejo accepted the head chef’s position at Mo Ramyun Korean Fusion Restaurant but soon thereafter was wooed away by his former chef to join the brigade of the Holiday Inn Yorkdale as Sous Chef. In 2017 Heejo ventured west to Vancouver where he took a Chef de Parti position at C restaurant followed by his current engagement at International Hotel as Junior Sous Chef. As well as possessing an extensive knowledge of both Asian and western cuisines, Heejo also holds a Culinary Management Diploma from George Brown College in Toronto and an English Linguistics Degree from the College of Liberal Arts in Korea.
Originally from South Africa, Natasha started her culinary journey in 2008 where she completed a 2 year culinary program at HTA School of Culinary Arts, Johannesburg. She worked her way up the ranks in various hotels throughout South Africa as well as returning to her old culinary school to experience teaching culinary arts and pastry arts. In 2011, she was selected to be a member of the South African Junior Culinary Team and went on the compete in the IKA Culinary Olympics in Erfurt, Germany in 2012 and was awarded double bronze medals. She was then promoted to the National Culinary Team South Africa and competed in the Salon Culinaire Mondial in Basel, Switzerland in 2013 and received a bronze medal. Natasha joined Four Seasons, The Westcliff in 2015, the first Four Seasons hotel to open in South Africa. She worked her way up to Pastry Sous Chef when she was offered an opportunity to work in Canada. She transferred to Four Seasons in Whistler and enjoyed the mountain life Canada had to offer. However coming from the city, she decided to return to the urban lifestyle and relocated to Vancouver where she has also returned to culinary education as an instructor in Baking and Pastry at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts.
Born in Prince George, Kurt moved to Vancouver Island when three years old and developed an early fascination for food. At the ripe old age of fourteen Kurt started his first job in the kitchen of Just Jakes / the Craig Street Brew Pub in Duncan and having decided to pursue a career in cooking he later enrolled in the culinary program at Vancouver Island University. He did a co-op at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise where he developed a variety of valuable skills and a dedicated work ethic. Upon his return to Nanaimo for graduation he received VIU’s 2014 Award for Culinary Excellence followed by three years at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel and the completion of his red seal schooling at Camosun College. Kurt also answered the call of the Okanagan and is now junior sous chef under the tutelage of Chef David Foot at the Delta Grand Hotel in Kelowna.