Story and photos by Paula Roy
If any further proof was required to confirm that our area is home to a lot of talented chefs, Kitchissippi’s showing at Canada’s Great Kitchen Party last month should put any doubts to rest. Area resident Ian Carswell, who operates the Black Tartan Kitchen in Carleton Place, clinched the gold medal and a ticket to the national culinary championships.
Also representing our ward was Daniela Manrique of Soca Kitchen, who stepped away from her maternity leave to take home the People’s Choice award and the bronze medal with a beautiful beef tenderloin dish accented with global flavours. It was a podium repeat for her, having won silver at last year’s edition of Canada’s Great Kitchen Party in Ottawa. The two other competitors from our area were Jason Sawision of Stofa and Justin Champagne of Bar Lupulus.
The sold-out competition was held at Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa Culinary Arts Institute. The four chefs with Kitchissippi connections were joined by Shane Brown of Beckta Dining and Wine Bar, Billy Khoo from fauna food + bar, Ben Landreville of Sidedoor and Razmon Poisson from Orto Trattoria.
Gold medallist Carswell served up a complex, well-crafted dish that included Milkhouse Farm & Dairy lamb with “Neeps and Tatties”. It was composed of buckwheat crusted lamb loin, roasted turnip, braised lamb pierogi and a playfully-named “Scott-ish” paté. He kept his wine pairing hyper-local, choosing the robust and impressive Kin 2018 Pinot Noir from Carp, Ontario. He was assisted by a talented team that included Chef Pat Garland of Wellington West’s Absinthe Café, who won the local competition in 2014.
“I didn’t know what to expect so it was really nice to have Pat helping out as well as others with previous competition experience,” explained Carswell the day after the event. “I got wise advice from Pat that when it was time to plate the food for the judges, to just stop plating for guests temporarily. He was a real help with timing, too.”
Carswell conceded that the most stressful part of the evening was explaining his dishes to the panel of eight esteemed judges.
“I felt so nervous and wasn’t sure I was even being coherent. Looking at the dish and trying to describe it to the judges is a lot different than talking to patrons in your restaurant.”
Speaking of restaurant patrons, if history repeats itself, Black Tartan Kitchen is sure to now be on the radar of food fans throughout Eastern Ontario, and beyond.
“It’s hard to predict what this win will mean but I do think it will get our name out there more,” said Carswell. “I don’t plan on making any changes – we won gold based on what we do every day.”
Carswell has already started mental preparations for the national event, taking place in Ottawa at the Shaw Centre on January 31 and February 1.
“I hadn’t given it any thought previously as the focus was on doing the best we could last night,” he noted. “I’ll definitely be reaching out to learn from others’ experiences about how to best prepare. It’s going to be an exciting adventure.”
With guidance, skill and maybe a little luck, Carswell aims to keep the crown in the Ottawa area, following in the footsteps of the current national champion, Yannick LaSalle of Les Fougères in Chelsea. Formerly known as Gold Medal Plates, the regional and national events have raised more than $15 million for amateur sport, music education and community food centres over the past 13 years.