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Fairmont squashes the competition

Rookie Nick Kennedy brings the beef in support of Whistler Waldorf School



Though eight other restaurants grasped at the Golden Ladle, it was a first-timer who ultimately claimed it.

Fairmont Chateau Whistler chef de partie Nick Kennedy beefed up his offering at the Harvest Soup Contest at the Whistler Farmers Market to great success on Oct. 9. Kennedy crafted a roasted B.C. squash with braised short rib and crispy onion concoction that won the hotel first prize, as voted by soup samplers outside Milestones in the Upper Village. The soup was so popular that it ran out at 1:45 p.m., roughly 30 minutes before it was announced as the victor.

"(The squash) came from Pemberton and we roasted it up this morning to make the soup," explained Kennedy.

"The short ribs went in overnight for 12 hours, braised with a little red wine and some mirepoix (roughly chopped vegetables). We just had some nice crispy onions on top to add a little crunch.

"It's a pretty traditional fall soup. You use the squash as a nice, warm flavour, pair it with some nice spices — cinnamon, nutmeg, some allspice."

Kennedy said after being crowned the winner that the hotel's food services try to offer food in the hotel from as nearby as possible, relying on Pemberton farms whenever possible."We like to use a lot of local ingredients. We try to source everything from as close as we can — Pemberton or even if we have to go to Abbotsford, it's still local B.C.," he said. "We like to keep it whole. We don't like to use any artificial ingredients. We like to keep it nice and fresh with the nice fall flavours."

Though he's only been in Whistler for eight months, and is new to the competition, Kennedy is no stranger to the Whistler Farmers Market, regularly perusing the vendors' wares.

"It's great to see. We come out to the farmers' market every week and buy a lot of fresh produce. It's the last one of the season and we got a nice day to finish it off. (We had) a lot of great soups today and it's (for) a good cause as well," Kennedy said.

With many of the soups incorporating fall-inspired cucurbita bases this year, Kennedy anticipates building on the win as he tries to repeat next year.

"A lot of people went with squash or pumpkin this year, so maybe next year we'll switch it up to try to diversify ourselves a little," he said. "We'll see what next year brings.

"I'm sure next year everyone's going to bring it extra hard to get the bragging rights and whatever trophy they come up with."

In addition to the Fairmont's braised short ribs, proteins in the soups ranged from king crab to turkey to duck. The Mongolie Grill got in the action with a spicy hot and sour soup as well.

Other competitors included: Table Nineteen, Four Seasons Resort Whistler, Tapley's Pub, Milestones, The Grille at the Hilton Whistler Resort and Spa, Olives, and Alta Bistro.

The contest, now in its 15th year, is put on as a fundraiser for the Whistler Waldorf School. Jennifer Dodds, the school's community development manager, said she was beyond pleased with how the contest went in her first year as organizer.

"We had lots and lots of people come through, more people than last year because the weather was great today," she said. "We really appreciate all of the restaurants' support in preparing the soups, transporting the soups and serving the soups. We definitely realize it's a super busy weekend and we really value their support and also the community's support.

"We've had lots and lots of people come through that say that they come every year for this event, they love this event and come specifically to Whistler this weekend for it."

Dodds explained the event typically raises between $2,500 and $3,500 for the school each year. All proceeds go directly to the school and will support its outdoor education initiatives this time around.

Dodds added that a lot of hands made light work at this year's competition, as both parents and students stepped up to boost the efforts.

"It's a lot of logistical work to put on a soup competition and it is a lot of parents working together to make it happen, and kids as well. We had kids on-site today sorting through the compost to make sure everything was composted and recycled properly."