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Whistler's Top Chef wins big praise on TV show



On this week's edition of Top Chef Canada Whistler's celebrity sous chef combined wasabi peas, oatmeal and chicken wings to create a winning dish.

The premise of the first challenge was to make a dish using unusual food pairings to satisfy the pregnant members of the Top Chef crew.

Bearfoot Bistro sous chef Jimmy Stewart's metaphorical lemons in the form of wasabi peas and oatmeal looked like a disaster waiting to happen. Stewart took a risk by inviting chicken to the taste celebration and hit a home run with the pregnant and non-pregnant judges.

Host Lisa Ray writes on her Top Chef Canada blog that Stewart's wings should be on menus everywhere, as long as the dish gets a palatable name.

She adds that the ingredients sound horrifying.

"In the mouth, the random ingredients combined to create a rapturous taste," Ray writes. "Awesome Jimmy. That's the true test of a Top Chef — to make it not just edible but delicious."

Ray calls Stewart's creativity old-fashioned alchemy using ordinary metals to create gold.

Stewart's crazy combination of ingredients won him immunity from being eliminated from episode number three.

After winning high marks with the pregnancy-inspired Quickfire Challenge at the beginning of the show Stewart teamed up with bandana maker Jonathan Korecki, 27, of Ottawa to make a pair of dishes for a baby shower in the elimination challenge.

When asked about the bandanas last week, Stewart was coy.

He said he couldn't talk about whether or not he got one and now it is clear why.

Stewart says Korecki is like a big brother to him.

"Johnny and I got along super, super well," says Stewart.

The bandana-clad cheftestants prepared dishes that kept them in the game and on the show.

Korecki's maple double-smoked bacon donuts, with a fresh chocolate and icing sugar "softball" on top won high praise and was named one of the four best dishes of the week.

Korecki and Stewart watched as fellow contest Sarah Tsai was told to pack her knives and Curtis Luk took top honours this week for making perfect macaroons.

Stewart says when Luk finished his creation he told him the macaroons were perfect.

"They were beautiful macaroons and he deserved the win," says Stewart.

Farmers get a break

Facebook is a long way from the farm fields.

This isn't discouraging the provincial government from taking a high-tech approach to promoting the agriculture industry in B.C.

We have learned that our leadership team in Victoria is making a real investment in promoting the efforts of B.C. farmers through a new agrifoods strategy. Details of the strategy were announced March 16.

The aim of the strategy, which is part of the BC Jobs Plan, is to increase the amount of food production being done in the province.

The five-year strategy has three priorities; promoting the province's food products, expanding markets and pushing the industry to be more competitive.

Revenues from the industry are reportedly at $10.5 billion a year. The aim is to push that to $14 billion a year by 2017.

"The agrifoods sector is critical to B.C.'s future," said Premier Christy Clark. "Our new agrifoods strategy will target economic growth and development which, in turn, will lead to increased jobs. We envision an innovative, adaptive, globally competitive sector valued by all British Columbians."

Don McRae, the Minister of Agriculture, is very optimistic about the future for farmers in Pemberton and around the province.

"2011 was a very successful, profitable year for many B.C. farm families," says McRae. "And with the BC Jobs Plan focusing on increased trade and market development, particularly in Asia, we expect that trend to continue through 2012, bringing new dollars and new jobs to our communities."

Here in the Sea to Sky corridor the seed potato reigns supreme as the biggest commodity grown in the region.

Who knew more than 200 agriculture commodities come out of B.C. soils? From our oceans more than 100 seafood species are caught. There are 61,000 British Columbians toiling in fields and casting nets to produce this bounty for tables around the world. Huge amounts of our products are going to 135 countries and about half the foods British Columbians eat are produced here.

The agrifoods industry exports are valued at $2.5 billion.

Farmers already get tax advantages not available to other business owners. According to the agrifoods announcement, the province aims to offer more tax relief for farmers and the province plans to explore other ways of giving farmers a break.

For farmers who have jumped on the Internet revolution, the provincial government's fun with food can be tracked by liking the FoodBC page on Facebook. So far 112 people have clicked on the button at the site and the FoodBC Twitter feed has attracted 155 followers. The social media campaign started in January.