When did I ever think I’d be in a room with chefs Mark McEwan, Susur Lee, Lynn Crawford, Corbin Tomaszeski and Vikram Vij? The answer is never. Yet, here I was at the Cook For the Cure Cooking School in close proximity to these five uber-talented chefs and taking photos of them in action.
If you follow me on Instagram (hint hint), you would’ve seen I was in Ontario at the end of November of last year. It was a work trip for Food Bloggers of Canada and the main reason we were there was to be a part of the KitchenAid Cook For The Cure Culinary Showdown in support of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. We donate some of our time throughout the year to share terrific causes with our network and this certainly falls into that category.
In 2013, my FBC partner Melissa was a judge of the event and had the culinary pleasure of having chefs Mark McEwan, Chuck Hughes, Lynn Crawford, Corbin Tomaszeski and Vikram Vij cook for her. Thanks to the joys of social media, I was following along in Siem Reap, Cambodia of all places. But this time around, we both went and our mission was to provide a “Behind-the-Scenes” look at what happens during the weekend.
The top fundraisers receive a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to cook on a stage in front of over 300 people along with the celebrity chefs in an Iron Chef type of competition. However, before they get to the evening portion of the event, everyone goes to cooking school! The top fundraisers are paired up in teams and called out by their chefs, think picking teams for kickball in elementary school but a cooking competition where no one is left out.
What I quickly learned during the cooking school was that everyone was going to be moving around! I’m accustomed to taking photos of food, sunsets and whatever I feel like shooting with the common thread being that I control the shot and it is rarely moving. It was a challenging but fun experience to try and capture everything that was going on around me.
First off, there was the host of the weekend, Noah Cappe who is known for hosting the show Carnival Eats on the Food Network. Everyone was in a great mood to start the day and he kept that energy and momentum going from the start of the cooking school right to the gala. Here Noah and Chef McEwan were filming some material that would eventually get thrown into a recap of the cooking school during the evening portion of the event.
Speaking of Chef Mark McEwan, he came to the event in 2014 with a big bullseye as he and his team had won the event the year before. And as you would expect, he let everyone know he was the defending champ and looking to hold on to his crown for another year. Here he was showing everyone how to clean and prepare a fish. As you can see everyone had serious face-time with the chefs and answer all the questions that were thrown their way.
Chef Corbin Tomaszeski put the KitchenAid Stand Mixer to work during the cooking school as he was teaching everyone how to make pasta from scratch. If you had never made it before, you were put to work on the dough. If you had never used the pasta attachment before, you were tasked with that job. You were there to learn and he put everyone to work, with a helpful hand or two along the way if needed.
Chef Susur Lee and Chef Vikram Vij were in constant movement the entire morning. As expected, each chef played to their strengths and preferences. Chef Lee taught everyone how to make dumplings (better known as shumai or shoa mai). Everyone had the opportunity to fill them and crimp the edges while realizing it is tougher than it looks on television. Nevertheless, after some time getting steamed, they came out looking great.
Chef Lee was kind enough to pose with one because they were getting devoured before I had a chance to take a shot of one!
Not to be outdone, Chef Vij brought his canvas of spices and explained how Indian cooking builds on the addition of spices at certain times during the cooking process.
And in typical Chef Vikram Vij fashion, you always win in two ways, a great lesson in Indian cooking and guaranteed laughs!
And last but not least was Chef Lynn Crawford who was every bit as bubbly and personable as she appears on television. She too brought an array of spices in addition to helpful cards with tips and tricks that every fundraiser was able to bring home with them. Here she explains the importance of finishing your dish with a garnish.
So with the room smelling fantastic, lessons learned and lots of photos taken, it was time to announce that school was officially over. Next up was the KitchenAid Cook for the Cure Culinary Showdown!
The evening was pretty spectacular. The chefs and their teams came to compete and the attendees came to support the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. In all, the 2014 event itself raised over $650,000! An amazing number when the initiatives of the the fundraisers themselves, the silent auction and the entertaining live auction were all combined! Which means that since 2002, the Cook for the Cure program has raised over $3.7 million!
And in an epic coming from behind victory, Chef Crawford’s team beat out Chef McEwan’s team in the dessert round to capture the 2014 crown!
Disclosure: Melissa and I attended the Cook For the Cure Culinary Showdown event as guests of KitchenAid to help spread awareness of the Cook For the Cure campaign. All travel and accommodation expenses were our responsibility.