NWT Culinary Team wins big
Northern chefs take the gold

Michele LeTourneau
Northern News Services

NNSL (Nov 16/98) - In Quebec, over Halloween weekend, the four members of the NWT Culinary Team joined over 200 other chefs from 13 countries.

"We competed against people who had months and months to practise together," says Pierre LePage, the team's captain.

For LePage -- who as a young man studied in France and received his Cordon Bleu certificate with a mention -- that fact is a source of pride. Months ago, there wasn't even an NWT Culinary Team to practise together. LePage created one at the last minute.

"I get invited every year," LePage says. "Usually I just throw the invitation in the garbage. This year, I don't know why, I decided what the hell. And I got the team together."

LePage made the decision to put a team together on Sept. 19. The final menu had to be in Quebec by Oct. 1. He had his work cut out for him.

John MacDonald, a one-time apprentice of Lepage's, was in Hay River, but he wanted in.

Marc Plouffe teaches cooking at Aurora College Thebacha Campus in Fort Smith. LePage went down to recruit two of his students.

"But classes had just started so I decided to take Marc," says LePage.

With the final addition of Patrick Kane, located in Yellowknife, the team was formed.

The menu was comprised of foods that are uniquely Northern. The first course -- the aurora salad -- included arctic char, baffin shrimp, smoked icelandic scallops, assorted greens and a borealis vinaigrette.

The main dish, dubbed the arctic trio, was a plate with muskox chops, caribou and dall sheep.

Dessert sounds scrumptious: a North of 60 chocolate cup with wild cranberry and Yukon Jack mousse.

With a team and a menu, there was only one problem: the team members were located in three different Northern communities.

This would mean only one practice run before the real thing in Quebec City on Oct. 31.

"We practised the dinner for 26 guests on Thanksgiving weekend," explains LePage. "We gave judging sheets to the guests. We read them all and made adjustments where we thought they applied."

The team ran into another problem when the time for the actual competition came. Each team was supposed to have four full hours in the kitchen, but the NWT team started 40 minutes late because the prior team ran late.

In the end, the NWT Culinary Team surmounted all obstacles and created a Northern dinner that won gold. And the team is rightfully proud. According to LePage, it usually takes almost a decade for some provinces to get to the medals.