November 12, 2018

By DEVON SMITH

Freshly flambéed cherry tomatoes and green onions adorn a succulent piece of pork which sits on a bed of cranberries, caramelized pecans and gruyere cheese.

The tantalizing combination is plated neatly in a little plastic cup with a small plastic spoon. The young man plating moves with the confidence, precision and grace of a seasoned chef.

A gentleman with a hungry look in his eye approaches. While the young man explains what he has to offer, the buttery gruyere melts under the heat of the steaming tomatoes and pork.

Eyes full of anticipation, the man reaches for the cup that will surely satisfy his appetite.

But something goes wrong.

It slips, making its gut-wrenching descent toward the floor. Helpless to stop it, the man looks on in disbelief as his prize hits the ground in a dejected heap of flavour, the essence of the pork seeping woefully into the banquet hall carpet.

Conestoga College president John Tibbits will go hungry … at least until he grabs another cup.

He is one of the many guests at the first Oktoberfest Iron Chef competition.

The event, which took place on Oct. 5, was held at Bingemans in Kitchener.

There were eight chefs from the region competing in the event, each with a crew of students from Conestoga’s culinary school helping them.

The chefs were tasked with planning and creating a pork dish that would be sampled by everyone in attendance.

The winning dish was decided, first by judges, and then by guests, who got the chance to vote on their favourite.

The winner, chosen by both the judges and the guests, was executive chef Lori Maidlow from the Waterloo Inn. Her winning dish was the same one that ended up on the carpet.

First-year culinary skills student Patrick Ferguson was on the winning team.

When asked how he felt about the win, he said, “It’s great. I don’t know how to explain it, it’s just awesome. To win, both with the judges and then with the guests … It’s dance time.”

Maidlow was also happy about the win, and about the help she received from the students.

“It was great,” she said. “They came, and I think that they really wanted to get involved and they really wanted to learn more about what we were doing and it was nice to get them out working with some of the public.”

There were three judges at the event, one of which was Philippe Saraiva, program co-ordinator for Conestoga’s School of Business & Hospitality.

Saraiva, who has judged many events across the country, said, “They all did such a great job that every one of them was a winner.”

Conestoga’s School of Media and Design was also present at the event, providing a live feed of the competition. Professor Rachelle Cooper, who led the students, was happy with their performance.

“It’s a really good first mobile event because of the pace,” she said. “It’s a fabulous learning opportunity for them all and yeah, I think it’s going well.”

When asked about the unfortunate incident with the dropped food, Tibbits explained that he had thought the spoon and cup were one piece. The spoon had been resting on the side of the cup and appeared to be a handle of sorts. And when he went to pick it up, it understandably slipped from his grasp. Even though he admitted feeling foolish at the time, I’m sure we can all agree that it could have happened to anyone. So John, if you’re reading this, I hope you can find it in your heart not to expel me for sharing this story.

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