DC students cook up gold medal finish in culinary competition

For the second year in a row, Durham College (DC) students have struck gold as they were crowned Canada’s best new student chefs at Taste Canada’s Cooks the Books Student Culinary Competition.

This year, second-year Culinary Management students Miguel Alves Dos Santos Fonseca and Jess Dalziel were selected to represent DC and they plated up their winning dish of Brazilian beef hearts, farofa, pickled beets, glazed carrots, crispy tripe and chimichurri on October 29.

Fonseca described the excitement of winning.

“I heard my name and I screamed before everyone else started clapping,” he said.

Before facing off in the competition kitchen, Miguel and Jess spent long hours perfecting their dish in DC’s state-of-the-art culinary labs to ensure they could execute it in the 45-minute time limit. They looked to their peers in the Culinary Management program to offer honest feedback as they developed their recipe.

Part of the challenge was using sponsored ingredients including Canadian beef, California prunes, Club House spices and Tabasco sauce. Miguel incorporated aspects of his Brazilian heritage while Jess brought inspiration from Hungarian cuisine.

For example, when incorporating the prunes, Miguel turned to a traditional Brazilian side-dish called farofa, which is a cassava flour toasted with a fat like butter or oil. But there are a thousand versions of the recipe including one that incorporates bananas.

“I thought maybe the prunes would work because it’s sweet as well and with the meat, you know it’ll be a little spicy.”

Chef Peter Lee, the DC faculty member who mentored the pair, congratulated the them.

“The recipe is delicious,” he said. “The meaty flavour of heart is balanced well with the acidity of pickled beets and sweetness of California prunes. Each school had to choose a different cut of beef, we chose to showcase unpopular cuts as a challenge to ourselves and show they can taste great.”

Lee said students selected to represent DC in culinary competitions are dedicated to training and sacrifice many hours to perform at a high level.

“It allows eager students to show their passion for their craft,” he said. “It allows us faculty to push students to have success at a high level. I do not want to just participate in competitions, I want to win.”

Miguel credits the Culinary Management program for setting him up for success.

“What DC helps us do is really build that work ethic,” he said. “Many of our chefs, they really focus on that point and it’s really important.”

Interested in a career in food? DC has career-focused programs that prepare students to succeed.

Photo credit: Stephen Chu