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Three Stratford Chefs School students have brought home a first place trophy from the Taste Canada Cook the Books competition, held in October in Toronto at the CNE.
The event featured teams from 10 different culinary schools from across Canada. Each team of three was assigned a recipe from a new Canadian cookbook. All necessary prep-work aside, the teams were expected to prepare the meal, in the style of a television cooking show, before a live audience.
Stratford second-year students Katie Ludwig and Richard Gunn and first-year student Angie Mohr were tasked with reproducing a recipe for Malaysian lobster coconut curry from new Canadian cookbook Straight from the Line by Jason Lynch.
In addition to preparing the meal, the team was expected to reach out to Lynch for mentorship. The team also was required to prepare an original signature garnish to accompany the dish.
Mohr, in conversation with the Gazette, credits ingenuity and superior presentation skills for the team’s first-place finish.
“It was Richard’s idea to make a tomalley paste (for the signature garnish,)” she says. Tomalley is the soft green substance found within a lobster that functions as the animal’s liver and pancreas.
Mohr says using as many parts of an animal as possible is an important concept in sustainable cooking practices.
Faculty advisor, chef Ryan O’Donnell, who was there assisting the team, helped to morph the idea from a tomalley paste to a tomalley oil.
“It was a brilliant idea,” says Mohr.
The first-year student also credits team member Katie Ludwig for her fearless presentation skills.
“Kate has the ability to talk confidently, so our presentation went really well,” she says, adding that many of their competitors were 18-year-olds fresh out of high school who suffered from nervousness.
The experienced Stratford team had no such issues.
Mohr herself has been cooking for years, and even offered lessons herself before enrolling at Stratford. In fact, she helped snag the win for the school even before she began her studies there.
“Classes don’t start until the middle of October,” she explains, “So we were not in session when the email was sent out asking ‘Who wants to do this?’
“I was like, ‘Yes! Totally!”
The winners were announced at a gala held on the evening of Oct. 20. Mohr says in the aftermath a swarm of agents and PR people surrounded the trophy-holders.
“Everyone’s always looking for the next big thing in this business,” she says. “They want to find the next big chef, and they want to get them at the student level.”
As a first-year student, Mohr was assigned mostly to prep-work and assisting roles during the competition.
“It was grunt work, mostly,” she laughs, although she adds that she hopes to return to defend her title next year as a senior team-member.
“I’m so glad we did well,” says Mohr. “Out of 10 schools, we were the tiniest.”
However, she adds that Stratford Chefs School’s intensity and real kitchen experience produces serious professionals with a track record of success.
“Stratford’s produced some of the best chefs in the country,” says Mohr.
This is the second time the school has placed first in this particular competition.