Nanaimo chef hopes to cook up a win

Nanaimo chef and restaurant owner Ryan Zuvich invited to compete at Gold Medal Plates in Victoria

Nanaimo chef Ryan Zuvich hopes to serve up a win in a culinary contest that could take him to the national stage.

Zuvich is one of 10 chefs from across B.C. invited to compete in Gold Medal Plates this October, a test of culinary skills in front of up to 600 people expecting an evening of excellence.

Gold Medal Plates is a culinary competition and a fundraising event for the Canadian Olympic Foundation that takes place in cities across the country, celebrating excellence in athletics, food, wine and entertainment, according to co-founder Karen Blair. To date, it’s raised more than $12 million.

In every city, chefs face the test of feeding hundreds of people and impressing judges, who’ll critique for wow factor, taste and texture. Like the Olympics, the top three chefs will medal and head to the finale — the Canadian Culinary Championships in Kelowna.

Winning that final leg can change a chef’s career, according to Blair, who said one chef was picked up by Oliver & Bonacini which created a restaurant around the winner, and all get a BMW.

“This chef must be very good if he’s invited,” said Blair of Zuvich, pointing out there are brilliant chefs in Vancouver and Victoria and elsewhere.

Zuvich already has a sense of what the event is about, helping friend Brian Skinner, then owner of Vancouver restaurant The Acorn, compete in 2013. Skinner took home the gold. This time Zuvich asked Skinner to go with him.

“It’s super cool, for me anyways, that a little bit of validation for years of work and better recognition,” said Zuvich, executive chef and owner of Nanaimo’s La Stella Trattoria and Hilltop Bistro of being invited.

For the competition, Zuvich will create a new dish he hopes will be a culmination of his career so far and one that will shine a light on the mid Island as a culinary destination. He’ll aim to use ingredients from individual growers, to tell their story as much as his own.

“The idea is it takes a village,” he said.

Diners will also be able to help during monthly long-table dinners at Hilltop Bistro, where they will be able to give feedback on versions of top contenders for the competition.

The competition is Oct. 26 in Victoria.

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