Recently, I had the opportunity to attend Decadence at Niagara College. The purpose of this event was a competition pitting studentpastry chefs from across Canada against each other. The room was packed with supporters, and not just family. Visitors and product sponsors from around the world were there taking in the sights, smells and tastes. I really liked that the student chefs, themselves, wandered about critiquing and tasting all of the food. Sometimes, the chefs who do the cooking for these kinds of events are kept far removed from the people enjoying their creations. Or, they’re visible only as servers behind food-laden tables. Seeing them participate in the event in various ways was refreshing.
There were so many people milling about at Decadence that if you stayed perfectly still you could catch snippets of conversation. So, I did. What better way to gain insights about people? The passion that flowed from these students was awesome. I saw it in the food they produced. But, it also came through their words. Talking to each other and to the visitors, I could clearly see the pride they take in their work. I heard one student telling another that she was excited about possibly becoming a contestant on Recipes to Riches. Another student told a visitor that she aspired to become like Michael Bonaccini — a top executive chef who still spends his days cooking in his restaurant kitchens, in touch with the ingredients, staff and customers. Good for them: these students are following through on their dreams.
The students were organized into four teams: Humber College, Nova Scotia Community College, Holland College and Niagara College. Their mission was to create masterpieces using chocolate and Icewine. Meanwhile, other students in the culinary arts program were charged with preparing savoury bites for guests.
Congratulations to the winners.
Best Hot Dessert
Team Humber College – Shayne Corrigan and Bridget Hicks
Best Chocolate Dessert
Team Humber again
Team Nova Scotia – Jacqui Keseluk and Lauren Cameron
Best Single Overall Pastry
Team Holland College – Emily Smith and Andrea Major
Winner of the Grand Prize Trip to Belgium
Team Niagara College – Jason Walsh and Ruth Bleÿerveld
The Slow Cooked Pork Belly Braised in Niagara College Teaching Brewery Chocolate Bock Beer had a very subtle sweetness. The Niagara College Teaching Winery Dean’s List Meritage 2007 was a nice match displaying strong summer fruit and lots of good depth.
This one is my ultimate favourite. The Grimo Hazelnut, Dried Cranberry and Costa Rica Chocolate Risotto spooned into Chocolate Chili Pizzelle Cones and topped with Spun Sugar. I could’ve eaten five of them. Cocoa puff explosion in the mouth. The look, alone, of the spun sugar sitting atop of the cones was pure fun. Nothing like carnival cotton candy, it had a subtle chocolately flavour that melted over the tongue. The risotto begins with the crunchiness of nuts and smooth chocolate and ends with sour-sweet cranberry. The chocolate chili pizzelle would have been perfect totally on their own, too. The chili leaves a slight buzz on the tongue that ends in a long, very chocolatey finish. The risotto provided the thick and creamy base responsible for holding all the ingredients together.
All in all, it was a very delicious evening thanks to these great students.