Top chefs produce at Harvest Festival

Nanaimo’s first Harvest Festival played host to thousands of people looking for a good time and good food,t and willing to help a good cause.

Jodi Robertshaw

Jodi Robertshaw

Nanaimo’s first Harvest Festival played host to thousands of people looking for a good time and good food,t and willing to help a good cause.

Highlights of the Sept. 10  festival included a focus on good food as well as old-time music, exhibits and displays on urban agriculture, sustainability, sourcing foods locally and naturally, and children’s entertainment.

Visitors and residents left the Old City Quarter with a taste of local, natural specialties creatively prepared and served by Nanaimo’s finest restaurants as part of the festival’s Top Chef Fresh Food Fair.

Seven chefs participated in the challenge to produce thousands of two-bite tapas portions of a menu item with ingredients sourced locally. Chefs were provided with a suggested list of local farmers, fishermen and ranchers to source their menu items.

“The objective was to introduce local restaurants to Island suppliers and demonstrate how the two could work together to take greater advantage of our local, natural bounty,” said Mark Corbett, marketing and events coordinator with the Downtown Nanaimo Business Improvement Association.

The day’s Top Chef was decided based on points scored on three merits by six judges.

In the end, only three points separated the top three winners. Chef James Neilson of Acme Food Co. took top honours with a wild salmon cake, Chef Kellie Callender at the Wesley Street Cafe was second, followed by Ron Vandermeer of the Modern Cafe.

Additional awards included:

* Best comfort food – Modern Cafe’s Rob Vandermeer’s for his deconstructed chicken club.

* Going wild – Nest Bistro’s Nic Brown and Jen Kash for their mushroom tart.

* Exceptional table side presentation – Nanaimo Foodshare’s Francois deJong and Stephen Cochrane with their roast harvest vegetable salad.

* Most surprising local ingredient – Wesley Street Café’s Kellie Callender for his fish and chip albacore tuna loin on a single potato chip topped with sea asparagus.

* Best crispy to moist ratio – YouTube’s 5 Minute Gourmet’s Peter Bowen, for his chicken croquet

* Closest to home – Real Food’s Traci and Dallas Collis for blackberries from their own yard.

* People’s choice award in the Top Chef Challenge – Acme Food Co., Nest Bistro and Wesley Street Café.

Nanaimo’s Foodshare received proceeds to support its community programs from sale of tapas tickets, and the Nanaimo 7-10 Club Society accepted donations at its beverage centre supported by VIP Water, Serious Coffee and Tim Hortons.

The annual CANstruction saw six competitors construct giant sculptures with canned food supplied by Thrifty Foods, Save-On-Foods, Real Canadian Superstore, Fairway Market and Country Grocer.

The winning teams were Loaves and Fishes, Koers and Associates Engineering, City of Nanaimo and Herold Engineering.

“Non-perishable food donations and canned goods used in the sculptures added a whopping 1.8 tonnes of food to the shelves of Nanaimo’s Loaves and Fishes,” said Corbett. “We are appreciative of all those who donated, attended and participated in our first Harvest Festival.”