The appetizer had to feature steelhead trout and chicken for the main course.
Created from scratch, his appie was steelhead trout terrine with lobster and scallop mousse that went with a fennel papaya slaw, golden beet tempura, yuzu dashi beurre blanc sauce and marinated trout roe.
For the main course, he made asparagus velouté with a glazed chicken breast, gnocchi, asparagus and morel mushrooms, and an apricot vinaigrette.
And with those two dishes, made in two hours, Vernon chef Simon Dufresne blew away the judges and was crowned the winner of the B.C. Young Chefs competition in Vancouver, hosted by the B.C. Chefs Association.
He now advances to represent B.C. against Canada’s best young chefs in the national competition to be held in June in Niagara Falls, Ont.
“There were four judges from all across B.C. and I was competing against three other chefs, one from each of the different branches of the chefs association within B.C.,” said Dufresne, 21, who is employed as Chef de partie at Lake Country’s 50th Parallel Estate Winery.
To qualify for the provincials, Dufresne had to win the Okanagan regional championship against five other young chefs from the valley.
That event was a Black Box Cookoff, where chefs were given a box with mystery ingredients, and given one hour to create a dish. Inside Dufresne’s basket was a cornish game hen, cucumber, broccoli rabe, parsnips and tahini paste.
Dufresne created a cornish game hen with gnocchi, sauteed broccoli rabe, cucumber caramel and au jus.
“There were two judges and they said my dish was a clear-cut winner,” said Dufresne. “It was a first-time dish that I just happened to make there using my background knowledge and going from there. I’ve worked with cornish game hen a fair amount.”
Since 2019, Dufresne has cooked Thanksgiving dinner in Italy and represented Canada at an international culinary event in Europe in 2022. These latest regional and provincial honours validate his career choice. But there’s another reason Dufresne enters such competitions.
“It’s to keep your skills relevant and it’s something different that you may not necessarily experience working in a kitchen,” he said.