Culinary students win silver in The Great Amazing Duck Race

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From Left: Leanne Breukelman, Chef Olaf Mertens and Ryan Kim, posing after winning silver at The Great Amazing Duck Race on Saturday, April 1, 2017.

Niagara College students proved their culinary skills once again at The Great Amazing Duck Race.

First-year culinary students Leanne Breukelman and Ryan Kim comprised the team from NC’s Canadian Food and Wine Institute that won the silver medal at this year’s competition. The event took place April 1, starting at King Cole Duck Farms in Newmarket and finishing at George Brown College in Toronto.

Teams began The Great Amazing Duck Race at the crack of dawn. They picked up duck eggs, rushed over to the main farm for a Cut Your Own Duck competition and with their ‘Duck in Pot,’ raced via subway to St. Lawrence Market, before they ended up in the culinary labs of George Brown for the final cook-off.

“This is truly one of the signature competitions in Ontario for Culinary programs.  It always brings out the most colleges from east to west and embodies the true spirit of ‘farm to table,’” said dean of the Canadian Food and Wine Institute Craig Youdale. “We are always proud of, not just results, but how our students show professionalism, determination and pride in their college. They are a testament to training and support they get here at CFWI.”

The teams were judged on many different criteria along the way including their knife skills, creativity, practicality, and kitchen skills, as well as appearance, and flavour of their dishes.

The competition’s panel of esteemed judges included Duff Lampard, executive chef Metro Toronto Convention Centre; Robert Mills, executive chef, Fairmont Royal York; Jesse Mutch, executive chef, Chantecler; and Lucy Waverman, editor, Food and Drink.

Breukelman and Kim created a few different dishes throughout the day. They began with a tempura fried nori roll served with an almond butter and blueberry soy sauce as an appetizer. Their main entreé was a honey glazed duck bar served with a butternut squash puree, vegetable dumplings, a citrus gastrique, a black current pear compote and a flying tuile. The dumplings were made out of a potato dough and filled with and feta spinach cream, parsnip, carrot and zucchini. The middle of the duck bar was filled with cranberry and pistachios and leeks.

“The tuile was probably the hardest thing to make, just because it was so delicate and it only took four minutes to cook,” said NC culinary student Leanne Breukelman who was born and raised in Vineland.

BreukeIman said she would compete in this competition again in a heartbeat. “The adrenaline from the entire day builds up and gives you that final push at the end; the intense kitchen atmosphere is something you won’t feel anywhere else,” she said.

Chef professor Olaf Mertens, who helped to prepare the students for the competition, applauded the fact that Niagara College’s first-year students were able to compete at a second-year culinary level, against more experienced teams from 10 Ontario colleges, to capture the silver. He noted the professionalism of his students and said he was very proud of their conduct.

“Our students did the work and put in the time, then improved every practice session,” said Mertens. “They were picked as two total opposites in personality and became one strong team.”

Mertens said he believes this competition is among the world’s best farm-to-table competitions and was a valuable experience for the students.

“King Cole Duck Company and the family owners are truly first class and spare no expense to give all these students and mentors an experience of a life time,” said Mertens.

Fanshawe College placed first at this year’s competition and Flemings College came in third.

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