The North America regional final of S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2019-2020 took place on 4 and 5 November, with an outstanding show of talent from some of the most exciting young chefs in the USA and Canada.
Rafael Covarrubias was crowned the winner after wowing the panel of chef judges with his signature dish; "Mole Spiced Muscovy Duck, Preserved Prune And Winter Roots" and will have the honour of representing the region at the S.Pellegrino Young Chef Finale in 2020 in Milan in 2020.
However, the chef from Hexagon Restaurant in Ontario was not alone in his victory, he was joined on stage by three other notable young chefs during the award ceremony, recognised for the stand out elements in their signature dishes highlighting the transformative power of gastronomy and its impact beyond the kitchen, as follows:
S.Pellegrino Award for Social Responsibility
For the dish that best reflects the principles of socially responsible practices
Acqua Panna Award for Connection in Gastronomy
For the chef able to connect several cultures through his dish
Fine Dining Lovers Food for Thoughts Award
For the young chef best representing his/her personal beliefs through his/her dish.
We spoke to each of the four award winners to find out what their win means to them and what they can add to the future of gastronomy.
Rafael Covarrubias, S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2019 for North America
Chef at Hexagon Restaurant in Oakville, Ontario
Signature dish: "Mole Negro Spiced Muscovy Duck, Preserved Prune, and Winter Roots"
Why do you think your dish could win the Grand Finale?
Because of what it represents. I want to be able to transmit the thought, feeling and soul of this dish through the techniques and flavours in it. For me, this dish is not only food but it's culture, a progression of flavours that talk about my career and what cooking really means to me.
How will you collaborate with your mentor (Connie DeSousa) in order to perfect your dish for the Grand Finale in Milan next year?
I believe cooking is about learning, back in the day my past chefs will always say ‘never stop learning, never stop being curious’ and that is something I take with me every day. I’ll collaborate with my mentor by staying open to new ideas or suggestions, always trying to end
up with a better result.
What are your professional dreams or aspirations?
I want to leave a mark. Not only in cuisine through a restaurant where I can share my passion and culture but also through the people that work with me, giving them the platform to find themselves and helping them accomplish that.
Marvin Palomo, Fine Dining Lovers Food for Thought Award Winner
Chef at 7 Enoteca, Oakville, Ontario, Canada
Signature Dish: Dungeness Crab Chowanmushi
This prize is for the young chef who best represents their personal belief within their dish: how did you transform your ideas into a dish?
I am very thankful to have received this award. That being said my thought process on creating this dish was a reflection of who am growing up as an immigrant in Canada. I wanted to highlight flavours I grew up eating but using local Canadian ingredients. I also wanted to tie in techniques I’ve learned from my mentors during my journey as a cook. I wanted to connect this dish in every stage of my life.
Kathryn Ferries, S.Pellegrino Award for Social Responsibility Winner
Chef de partie, Stofa Restaurant, Ottowa, Canada
Signature dish: Forest Honey Glazed Rabbit Ballotine with Fennel Chanterelles and Mustard Greens
Why do you think you won the S.Pellegrino award for Social Responsibility?
I am honoured to have received the S. Pellegrino award for Social Responsibility for the North American region. I believe I won based on my choice to create a low-waste dish, by highlighting the use of whole animal butchery and repurposing food scraps into my stock. I also think that by preserving the elements of my dish at the peak of their seasons and working with the vegetables available in the fall, I created a dish that was able to be sourced locally from the Ottawa region. This reduced the need to source and ship ingredients from far away, and kept the products I was working with fresh and traceable to their origins. Although it is a privilege to have access to all the ingredients the world has to offer, it is just as rewarding to work with ingredients so close to home.
What are the most valuable, sustainable practices to adopt as a chef, in your opinion?
The most valuable and sustainable practices are to be aware of the many opportunities there are in this industry to choose the products with the best impact on our food system. From ethically farmed, to fair-trade, to organic, there is a multitude of options available that all have a positive impact. Small, everyday changes can lead to large-scale improvements in our industry. Being aware of your waste, and actively finding solutions to it, is an important step to creating a balanced food system worldwide. I could talk for hours about solutions needed for our plastic waste, like saran wrap and sous vide bags, or our recycling and compost options available, or our need to change the mindset around food waste. The most important step is recognizing what you can accomplish immediately and then work towards the bigger picture, and the long term goals of seeing a balanced, sustainable food system for this generation and the next.
Jeremy Stephens, Acqua Panna Award for Connection in Gastronomy Winner
Sous chef at Galatoires, New Orleans, USA
Signature dish: Crawfish Boil
Why do you think you won the Acqua Panna for connection in Gastronomy award?
I believe I won this award because I created an idea that had never been done before. Chefs are intrigued by new ideas and cultural dishes that tell a story. My culture resonates through stories, many told with food. It’s my job to continue those stories appropriately.
How is it possible to create a mix of different cultures creating something new?
In my opinion, the worlds greatest chefs create dishes that have a story. An idea that comes from a specific memory or experience in their lives. Brought to fruition by techniques obtained, and push into a new light by a flavour and idea that is part of the DNA of the chef. Every good memory and person I love is in my food. It helps me keep that memory alive. I do my best not to disrespect the technique, but use it as a vice to showcase my story.