11 of Canada’s top chefs land in Kelowna

Find out who is competiting at this year’s Canadian Culinary Championships, taking place this weekend

With the Culinary Championships right around the corner, chefs from across the country will be arriving this week in Kelowna.

There will be 11 chefs competing in the championships and more than 30 Canadian wineries represented.

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From Vancouver, and representing B.C. at the event is classically French-trained chef Alex Chen of Boulevard Kitchen and Oyster Bar.

Chen has worked in several high-class restaurants over the years from the Beverly Hills Hotel and Polo Lounge to his roles at the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto and the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago.

The Malaysian-born chef is no stranger to the industry as he grew up in restaurants where he worked as a dishwasher and busboy at the age of 13 after his family emigrated to Canada.

Chen is also the winner of the 2015 Gold Medal Plates.

Moving east, it will be a B.C. born chef representing Canmore, Alberta. Blake Flann was born in Prince Rupert and also started his culinary career early washing dishes, before moving up the industry ladder in the Bow Valley.

After training at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts and traveling much of South East Asia, Flann teamed up with his father Norm Flann to create Alberta’s number one food truck PD3 by Blake. However, after two years Flann decided to open his open restaurant BLAKE.

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Also from Alberta, chef Shane Chartrand will represent Edmonton and the restaurant Sage. This isn’t Chartrand’s first Gold Medal Plates either, he is the holder of two bronze medals and one silver medal from past competitions.

Not only a master in the kitchen, Chartrand helps out at community events cooking for such charities as Cancer, MAKE-A-WISH, CNIB, and with aboriginal groups around Alberta and B.C. Chartrand has taught cooking classes to aboriginal youth, written for several food columns for such publications as SAY Magazine and Native People Magazine, and appeared on Chopped Canada.

He is currently writing his own cookbook Called: MARROW, progressive Indigenous Cuisine.

Cooking since the age of 12, David Vinoya will be representing Regina, Saskatchewan and the restaurant Wild Sage Kitchen and Bar.

Born and raised in the Philippines, Vinoya completed his apprenticeship in 2004 and 2005 and went on to work in a number of Philippines hotel restaurants before moving to Canada.

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From the University of Saskatchewan, Executive Chef James McFarland will represent Saskatoon at the Culinary Championships.

Since taking his position at the University McFarland has been integral in developing and leading one of the province’s largest food service operations, transitioning it from a once very institutional cafeteria to one of the most innovative culinary operations in Canada. His team has served many political dignitaries including Prime Ministers, the Supreme Court of Canada, the Governor General and the Queen of England on her Royal visit.

From Sous Sol in Winnipeg, Michael Robins will be the only chef from Manitoba.

Robins started in the kitchen at the age of 16 and quickly climbed the ladder of greasy spoon and chain restaurants. After high school he decided to take on the role of a professional cook at the Chateau Lake Louise in Alberta.

Now at Sous Sol, Robins’ culinary focus is on French cuisine.

“A steak may be garnished with a few Japanese components, but every effort is made to incorporate old school French methods with an emphasis on simplistic food,” he said.

It will be Robins second time competing Gold Medal Plates, after attending the event last year.

Born in Italy, Lorenzo Loseto of George Restaurant will represent Toronto.

Loseto is considered one of Canada’s premier chefs and was crowned the 2014 Gold Medal Plates Canadian Culinary Champion.

Loseto’s innovative ‘Toronto Cuisine’ is influenced by the cuisines imported by Toronto’s multicultural communities, combined with seasonal, natural, local, and sustainable food available in the city’s markets.

Previously Loseto worked as an instructor for George Brown College’s culinary program.

Representing Ottawa and the only female chef in the competition, Briana Kim of Cafe My House will attempt to take gold as a vegan chef.

Last year there were four women competitors at the Canadian Culinary Championships, but this year it will be just Kim who stands out as the only vegan chef in the 11-year history of the national competition.

Born near Seoul, raised in Peterborough, with a degree in poli- sci from the University of Ottawa, Kim has been cooking since she was seven.

She won Ottawa’s Gold Medal Plates on the strength of a dish based on mushrooms — and not fancy mushrooms either but creminis.

Hailing from Montreal, Éric Gonzalez earned his first Michelin star when he was only 27 years old.

He is a member of the prestigious Association des Maîtres Cuisiniers de France and a leader in gourmet circles in France and Québec.

His cuisine at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon is made up of paradoxes and contrasts with combinations of the traditional and contemporary, according to those at the Gold Medal Plates.

Not to be forgotten, the East Coast will have two chefs in their corner. Nick Jewczyk of The Fifth Ticket in St. Johns NFLD and Barry Mooney of GIO in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Jewczyk is also a graduate of Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts on Granville Island on Vancouver.

RELATED: Calgary chef tops on night one

However, Jewczyk showcases his province with local products and innovative techniques as he leads the kitchen at The Fifth Element.

While Mooney is a graduate of George Brown College Culinary Management Program in Toronto and as a Certified Chef de Cuisine from Humber College.

His career started in Jasper Alberta at the Sawridge Convention Centre and he then spent five years at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto.

He currently is the Chef of GIO at The Prince George Hotel.

The two-day, three-event championships kick off Friday with the Mystery Pairing, followed by the Black Box Challenge on Saturday morning and the main event Saturday night — the Grand Finale.

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