Competition sheds light on Hamilton chefs' talents
Photos C/O Lucas Johnson
By Drew Simpson
Supercrawl is Hamilton’s annual art crawl showcasing various talents thriving within the city; from art, music, food to fashion. Stages are set, sets are rehearsed, art installations are built and the food trucks line up all the way down James Street North, closing it from King Street to Cannon Street to allow for this rich presentation of culture.
Walking up James Street North from King Street West, a side road called King William hosts a competition. Competitions aren’t a common theme of Supercrawl, however FEED the Social and NOSH, the organizers of the King William Cook-Off, saw it fit to host a one-round, thirty-minute competition between two teams of well-known chefs.
FEED the Social is a social media company based in Hamilton. They specialize in representing for Hamilton’s culinary works. While NOSH stands for north Hamilton, the outlining communities surrounding and south Hamilton.
Under the tent by Hamburgr, two teams of chefs competed. There were barely any rules. No mystery boxes. No mystery ingredients. The instructions were simple, cook the best entrée within the time limit.
Through comradery, both teams knew each other’s chefs, their strengths and perhaps their weaknesses. They planned carefully for this event. Michael Marini, the coordinator of marketing for the city of Hamilton’s economic development office, explains competition can bring out chefs’ creativity.
One time consisted of Chef Harrison Hennick of Nique, Martello and the General paired with Chef Michael Vogt of Frat’s Cucina. They battled Chef Michael Cipollo of Hambrgr, Fsh & Chp and Lost + Found whose partner was Chef Patrick Weise of Twisted Kitchen Catering and Matthew’s Friends Canada.
These talented chefs are both Canadian and world-renowned. Past winner and judge of Chef Wars, Patrick Weise was once Oprah’s personal chef. The chefs chosen to partake in this cook-off give a taste of the culinary talent evident in Hamilton.
King William Cook-Off is a preliminary event of the annual Chef Wars hosted by NOSH, these competitors have been judges, participants and winners of Chef Wars. Originally ran by NOSH, FEED the Social is now in charge of both Chef Wars and King William Cook-Off. While the chefs for King William Cook-Off were hand-selected, Chef Wars is a better representation of using a competition format to showcase all the best in Hamilton.
“I think it brings out the competitive spirit. At the same time, the difference with what we’re seeing in Hamilton and what we’ve been told by chefs coming from Toronto is the collaboration that happens in Hamilton,” explained Marini.
“Even though they’re competitive, they’re not out to destroy each other’s businesses. So they want to work together. They’re going to have a little challenge against each other, but at the end of the day they’re all friends.”
Often competition is used to validate talent. While the president of FEED the Social, Romeo Crugnale, agrees that art encompasses food, he also believes competitions like the King William Cook-Off and Chef Wars can validate Hamilton’s culinary talent.
“With these events…I want to be able to really elevate it to another level. Everybody knows Hamilton is starting to have a really great food scene. Everybody knows that restaurants are coming in and chefs are coming over from Toronto to open up here for various reasons,” explained Crugnale.
“What is the way to showcase that? What better platform than Supercrawl? What better platform that doing a free event…in the spirit of Supercrawl.”
Watching competitions is entertaining, but it also has a deeper purpose. When trying to prove worth, comparisons are made. Often competition is used to decide how great someone or something is. Therefore, competition is a natural way of crowning the worthiest.
There is a fine line to walk between validating the city’s culinary scene and showcasing the intense creativity of competitors through competition. Some may argue that Supercrawl is meant to celebrate Hamilton’s unique culture, not try to equate it to larger cities.
However, it’s undeniable that Hamilton’s food scene is thriving and using competition can go a long way to bring chefs and their talents to the forefront of the conversation around what makes Hamilton great. Everyone has a competitive nature and it can bring out the best out of Hamiltonians and their culinary dishes.