Katie Hayes of Upper Amherst Cove says when it comes to food competitions, the Canadian Culinary Championships in Kelowna, B.C. were “mentally and physically the most challenging thing I’ve ever done.”
Not only did she have to transport a quarter of moose meat — butchered, vacuum sealed and packaged in Styrofoam containers — partridgeberries and enough homegrown vegetables clear across the country to serve a crowd of 600, she also had to lead a team of seven in a competition that challenged chefs to think on their feet.
“It was pretty busy,” she told The Packet of the event, held during the first week of February. “Not much sleep and a lot of prepping.”
One of the first challenges thrown at the 11 competing chefs was to prep a meal for 400 people on a budget of $500 and based around a mystery bottle of wine.
“We didn’t expect it to be a very acidic red wine (and) we kind of had a dish in our heads.”
But the choice of wine meant a change of plans and a cab ride to seek out ingredients in Kelowna’s grocery stores.
For that competition Hayes relied on pork as the main ingredient for the meal.
The following day was the Black Box competition.
The chefs were given a box of ingredients — but no protein — to prepare a dish for 15.
For the grand finale (chef’s best dishes), Hayes and her team used their moose meat, vegetables and berries from Bonavista Bay, creating a plate that featured moose stew and a moose meat pie for 650 diners.
Haynes has been to other food competitions before — including the World Culinary Olympics — but this was the first time she was in the role of team leader; not only deciding on the dishes but keeping her team organized as they worked in three kitchens.
“I like to be organized,” she said, and given the intensity of the competition, coupled with working in an unfamiliar kitchen, “there were some moments of panic,” she admits.
Haynes credits her husband Shane and her “dream team” — Duane Chatman, Kaitlyn Oldford, Roger Dewling, Carolyn Power and Stephen Lee — for keeping focus and staying on task.
While Hayes didn’t medal at the competition, she says the experience had many benefits for her and her team, and potential spin-off for the Bonavista Social Club and the Bonavista Peninsula.
For her, it was a chance to get away from the routine of running a restaurant business and connect with other chefs.
“It was a chance to make connections across the country, meet grape growers and wine producers, and meet other chefs to share ideas, and get excited about food again.”
During the competition, Hayes says she and Shane were able to chat with some of the diners.
“Everyone loved the moose and were really excited to taste it; they were really excited about all the flavours,” said Hayes. “And a lot of people said, ‘We’re coming to Bonavista next summer.’”
Hayes said there was a big social media push around the event, which also support Canadian Olympic athletes. She’s optimistic some of the people who had a taste of her food in Kelowna will find their way to Newfoundland and Labrador, Bonavista Social Club and the Bonavista Peninsula this summer.
Back in Upper Amherst Cove, Hayes — who has on occasion taught culinary courses at the College of the North Atlantic in Bonavista — is busy with her regular routine of raising children, looking after animals and working with her husband, Shane, to start the prep work to re-open the Bonavista Social Club for their summer season.
About Bonavista Social Club
Located Upper Amherst Cove, Bonavista Bay, Route 235
In business since May, 2012
Menu includes cod and lobster (in season)
Vegetables from Hayes’ own gardens
Moose burgers – chosen by Huffington Post as one of the “Five Best Burgers” in Canada in 2018
Salads, pasta, cheesecakes, etc.
Uses a traditional, brick masonry, wood-fired French oven to produce breads, including:
Wild Rice and Onion
Walnut and Raisin Sourdough
Violet Brown’s Raisin Molasses Bread
Cheese and Onion Focaccia