2018 Hawksworth Young Chef Scholarship Finalists Top 10 Flavourful Learnings

For the competition’s sixth year, young chefs across the country stepped out of their workplace kitchens and into the aprons of the Hawksworth Young Chef Scholarship (HYCS), hoping for that special prize of $10,000, and a stage at a top international restaurant of their choosing– giving them the inspiration and opportunity needed to develop their professional skills.

We spoke with HYCS competitors and alumni to gain some flavourful insight into tips and learnings from their participation.

  1. Even if you make your dish a thousand times, the flavours can always change. A lot of factors come into play with different environments, the different ingredients or your mood day-to-day. You need to taste over and over until you get the closest to what you did experiment as the original flavour. It doesn’t mean it’s not as good as it was before, I think it’s a question of being flexible and adaptable. I also think that when you make a dish, it’s harder to remove an ingredient than adding one. So try to keep it simple and do not add too many flavours to be lost in all of them. – Chef Vincent Baronnat, Le Mousso, Montreal.

  2. In a competition like this, you have to impress the judges with your creativity and style of cooking, but it all comes down to flavour! For the dish I made for the regional heat in Montreal, I focused on the transition between winter and spring season - it was meant to be like a campfire outside. Using potatoes from winter and the spring season’s first asparagus, I made a smoky butter for the Sablefish to feel and taste like I was at the Sugar Bush. – Chef Clement Bellaigue, L’Atelier de Joel Ronuchon, Montreal.

  3. My favorite thing I learned about flavour while preparing my dish for the competition was how the sablefish really took on the umami from the mushroom liquor that I had poached it in, which made for a very flavourful piece of fish. It is now one of my all-time favorite methods for cooking sablefish. – Chef Michael Roszell, The Pear Tree Restaurant, Vancouver.

  4. What's most interesting when preparing any dish is figuring out the balance of flavours. It's about adjusting each time so you achieve the perfect hit of sweetness or umami, or acidity. What I find helps the most is practicing with mentors, and getting them to taste and give feedback. You have to taste during practice and get others involved. – Chef Daniel Kim, Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar, Vancouver.

  5. It was very important for me to have a foundation of flavours to build my dish around. I chose flavours that I enjoyed and thought would work well to complement each other. Textures, visuals and ingredients would change throughout the progression of my dish however, the flavours always stayed the same. – Chef Michael Lam, Il Covo Restaurant, Toronto.

  6. Sometimes simple flavours are what people want. Sometimes, maybe most times, when people are presented with flavours that are executed really well, it’s usually better than trying to pull off something you are unfamiliar with. – Chef Jordan Wilkinson, Hexagon, Toronto.

  7. The most interesting and also very important thing I learned about flavour while preparing my dish was balance. The balance between sweet, spicy, and savoury flavours that I used in the smoked sablefish soup dumpling. A balance between rich and creamy flavours, with an acidic punch that was incorporated with the broken allium oil sauce and cauliflower puree. Also, the balance of textures will elevate flavours. For example, my use of a creamy aerated cauliflower puree and crispy puffed wild rice. These were all fascinating factors I had to weigh in on preparing my dish for the panel of esteemed judges. – Chef Michael Ellis, Calgary Winter Club, Calgary.

  8. The most interesting challenge was finding balance between the ingredients in my dish. The flavours of bourguignon are tried and tested so that wasn’t my concern. The tricky part was making sure the quantities of each component were correct, and the acidity levels were enough to balance the rich components of the dish. I ate the dish many times and kept tweaking how much onion chutney and carrot purée was on the plate. – Chef Trevor Jerram, London UK.