The Great CATCH Culinary Competition!

The clock ticks. A chef bends over the hot burner and tries to breathe deeply as chef Ray Bear, host of the Great CATCH Chef Competition, announces that there’s less than one minute left in the competition.

The chef removes his Digby scallops from the pan and gently arranges them on a serving platter. He dips a spoon into his beurre blanc and carefully drizzles it over the tender seafood, ensuring that each one receives the same amount of sauce.

Chef Bear announces the thirty second mark. The chef pauses to consider his plate and reaches for some fresh chives to serve as garnish. The audience starts to count down: Ten – he quickly glides his knife over the tender green; nine, eight, seven- he sprinkles the chives over his dish; five – an extra grind of pepper; four – he gives his plate a final wipe. Three, two, one, Time!

The chef steps back and breathes a sigh of relief. He’s finished, but the judging is about to begin. He shakes the hand of his competitor, smiles, waves to the audience, and waits for the announcement that may name him as the top chef of the Great CATCH Chef Competition.

Such was the fate of chef Andrew Stevens of Little Louis’ restaurant in Moncton, New Brunswick. Stevens was the winner of CATCH’s 2009 competition, and is considering returning to defend his title again this year.

When asked about how he prepares for a competition, Stevens keeps it pretty simple, saying, “I prepare the same as I do for service in the restaurant; I review everything I need to do – step by step, over and over.” The competition’s host, chef Ray Bear, on the other hand, has a routine; ironing his chef whites, sharpening his knives, and going for a run the day of a competition. Bear is used to competing and adds that, “Once I put on my chef jacket, I’m there – I’m in the zone!”

The two chefs agree that an essential tool for any competition is a sharp chef knife. Stevens adds a little flair to his tool kit, bringing along liquid nitrogen to do frozen components. To this year’s competitors, however, Bear gives this counsel: “Competition is no time to experiment!” He says that the chefs should stick to their usual routine, just make sure to do it to the best of their ability.

As the host, Bear wants to see each competitor’s passion for Nova Scotia’s seafood come out in their dishes. “Show me in your style that you love cooking with our seafood.” he says, “I'll be able to taste your commitment.” He wants to see the competitor’s ability to showcase the main ingredient to its fullest, emphasizing that, “Nova Scotia's seafood is a gift to any chef.” Chef Stevens thinks of the competition as a great way to meet new contacts as well as an opportunity to work with various Nova Scotian products. He confides that his ideal ‘Black Box’ would contain Nova Scotian lobster and scallops.

From a competitor’s point of view, Bear confides that the audience should be ready for a very intense and technical level of entertainment. In his role as host, Chef Bear is inspired by chefs who seek to determine where they stand among their competitors. He encourages this year’s competitors to give it their all, saying, “Show me the talent! I want the best plate of food in Canadian competition!”

Be sure to check out all the fun at this year's CATCH Seafood Festival, especially the exciting Great CATCH Culinary Competition, June 19-20, at the Cunard Centre, Marginal Road.

See all the details, and full schedule here. Info will be updated as it becomes available!!


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