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Craig captures gold: Pinnacle of Canadian culinary talent in our own backyard

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With a generous range of high-end restaurants, Whistler has long been a gourmet’s paradise. But it looks like we have new bragging rights in the foodie’s realm: Whistler is now home to Canada’s best chef.

Melissa Craig, executive chef at the Bearfoot Bistro, recently captured the title of Canada’s best chef at the Gold Medal Plates competitions in early February.

The competition was an intense three days of designing menus, factoring in many surprise elements and ingredients.

At the 30 th annual Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival held last week, Craig received a standing ovation for her recent accomplishment from almost 900 attendees. Each year, Bearfoot Bistro donates a dinner to an auction held at the festival to raise money for the Playhouse. Craig’s new title certainly didn’t hurt their fundraising efforts this year, with a dinner for 10 auctioned off for an unheard of sum of $37,000.

28-year-old Craig studied culinary arts at Malaspina University College, did a four-year apprenticeship at the Sooke Harbour House, and traveled to Australia to cook for one year. She has been with the Bearfoot for almost four years now.

 

Q. You seem quite young to be the best chef in Canada.

A. It’s quite young to be an executive chef anywhere… I’m learning as I go, really, management-wise and stuff like that. You kind of have to prove yourself a bit quicker to people older than you.

 

Q. I understand there were a lot of surprise elements to the competition — did you find it a challenging process?

A. The first day of competition it was a black box, and so they just give you a box of ingredients and it’s kind of like Iron Chef style. You have a box of ingredients and you have 10 minutes to look at it and plan a two-course menu for eight judges, and then they give you 50 minutes to cook it, so I enjoyed that day the most, I guess. At the Sooke Harbour House, we changed the menu every day, so it comes a bit easier to me, because you have to make something out of different things every day.

 

Q. Is it strange to be referred to as Canada’s best chef now?

A. Yes, very. But it’s just a title. There are so many great chefs in Canada that I’m happy to even be included in competing with them.

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