After all the Canadian foodservice industry has gone through over the last two years, there has never been a better time to celebrate the country’s young chefs.
The closures, restrictions, and other ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic have taken a damaging toll upon Canada’s culinary community and challenged the livelihoods of chefs nationwide. The pandemic hit young chefs hard, as many were laid off or left with job insecurity and limited opportunities.
At such a difficult time, it’s important to shine a light on the talented and hardworking individuals in the industry. The S.Pellegrino Young Chef Academy Competition does just that, giving the gastronomic world a glimpse into the game-changing culinary talent of the future that the country has to offer.
The competition is an initiative of S.Pellegrino’s Young Chef Academy, an international community that aims to identify, connect, and nurture the next generation of chefs regardless of gender, culture, or ethnicity. It is now in its fifth year of offering young chefs an inspiring and educational experience that provides national visibility and professional prestige. Previous competitors have used the competition as a springboard to realize their culinary ambitions, embarking on various projects that are making an impact in the kitchen and beyond.
Held in two phases – the Regional Competition and the Global Grand Finale – this year’s regional finals will take place this Fall. During the Regional Competition, the finalists will take part in live cook-offs in front of a panel of esteemed Canadian judges who will provide feedback based on unrivalled technical skill, genuine creativity, and strong personal belief along with the candidate’s ability to create positive change in society through food.
The regional winners will go on to compete in the Global Grand Finale in 2023, which will be the largest to date, expanding upon the 300 young chefs and mentors from 50 countries who took part in the last competition. Both the Regional and Global components provide emerging chefs with a unique opportunity to learn, interact and be mentored by esteemed chefs.
“A truly inspiring opportunity”
Last year, North America was represented at the Grand Finale by its regional winner, Canadian chef Rafael Covarrubias from Hexagon in Oakville, Ont. Covarrubias finished in a strong fifth place across a competitive set of top young chefs under the mentorship of one of Calgary’s best-known chefs, Connie DeSousa, and had the opportunity to network with Michelin chefs Massimo Bottura & Enrico Bartolini.
Covarrubias describes the competition as “one-of-a-kind”.
“It helps you find identity as a young chef,” he says. “On a personal level, it challenges you to reach your potential by pushing boundaries and leaving your comfort zone, and it made me push for excellence and discipline. I got to meet chefs who I have admired for years and showcase the cuisine and culture that I’m proud of and that we offer here in Canada. It’s a truly inspiring opportunity.”
As with the COVID-disrupted 2019/21 regional edition, in addition to the coveted S.Pellegrino Young Chef Academy Award, which is voted for by an esteemed panel of internationally renowned chefs based on the chefs’ technical skills and creativity, the competition will also play host to three additional awards:
- S.Pellegrino Award for Social Responsibility: voted by the Sustainable Restaurant Association, the winning dish represents the principle that food is at its best when it’s the result of socially responsible practices, encompassing sourcing, social and environmental requirements.
- Acqua Panna Award for Connection in Gastronomy: voted for by the competition mentors, the winner of this award produces a dish that represents the culinary heritage of the native region.
- Fine Dining Lovers Food for Thought Award: voted for by the online Fine Dining Lovers community, this award is for the young chef who will be able to best represent his/her personal belief within his/her signature dish.
Marvin Palomo, who won the Fine Dining Lovers Food for Thought Award in the previous edition, notes that the competition has benefited him in many ways, “from personal growth as a cook to the connections I was able to make globally”.
“Canada’s food and hospitality industry has always been growing and showcasing our young chefs proves what we have to offer to the rest of the world,” Palomo adds.
Last year, Kathryn Ferries won the Award for Social Responsibility. She describes the competition as a unique opportunity to learn from the industry’s best, noting that its reputation in helping to amplify young talents and showcase the creativity of young chefs is “unparalleled”.
The competition is more than that, though; it’s a force for good, says Ferries.
“The past few years in our industry have been a very difficult time,” she adds. “With many of our peers leaving the industry for a multitude of reasons, we should focus on bringing positive change to the industry through leadership and breaking stereotypes, creating inclusive work environments that support women and BIPOC and give opportunity for advancement, and advocating for fair wages, benefits, and time off to balance out the stress. Showcasing the rising talent in our country will help make this happen and relight that spark that drives chefs to always be improving.”
Applications are now open!
Applications for the S.Pellegrino Young Chef Regional Competition 2022/23 are open until May 31, 2022.
Young chefs between 18 and 30 years of age can apply online – you need just one year of restaurant experience. Chefs who apply will need to provide personal and professional information and submit the recipe for their signature dish which should communicate their personal vision, unique skills, and creativity. This dish will be the same dish they create during the competition.
As with previous editions, the prestigious culinary academy ALMA International School of Italian Culinary Arts, will evaluate the first phase of applications and determine the shortlist of young chefs who will participate in the Regional Finals.
Showcasing Canada’s finest young chef talent
Ultimately, the Canadian regional section of the competition aims to promote the fact that the country is a hotbed of talented chefs. Ferries emphasizes that Canada’s chef community “is a diverse group that deserves more recognition locally and internationally” for its unique cuisines and talented chefs.
“Canada deserves to be recognized as one of the best culinary destinations in the world,” adds Covarrubias. “The multicultural and innovation aspect of it make it really exciting. Young chefs who usually travel somewhere else to grow professionally are now excited at what Canada has to offer. It’s a growing community of people wanting to bring Canadian cuisine to the next level.”
Restaurant owners and operators will know that the success of every restaurant in Canada is built on the hardworking, talented, and creative staff who work there. Help the industry celebrate the young talent of today with the S.Pellegrino Young Chef Regional Competition!