It’s early Friday morning before the shops open when Kelowna Chef Mark Filatow comes calling at the back door of Illichmann’s Meats. It’s day one of the Canadian Culinary Championships and foodies, Olympians and Canada’s top chefs have descended on the Okanagan for a weekend of culinary mastery. Mark, executive chef at Waterfront Wines, is hoping his local knowledge will put him ahead on the first leg of the competition.
“You have to do all your shopping in Kelowna,” says Head Judge James Chatto on the eve of the competition. “You can use all your natural cunning and ingenuity, you can haggle and bargain, but you must spend no more than your allowance.”
The allowance is $500 and the task: match the mystery wine with the perfect food pairing. Then complete preparations and serve 400 guests at a gala reception at the lakeside Hotel Eldorado.
Team Kelowna takes the unmarked bottle of red wine and heads to the restaurant for a late night tasting. They reach consensus that the mystery wine is a Pinot Noir.
“We opened the wine and we tried it with pork, sauerkraut and sweet potatoes, and the very rich flavours ended up lifting up the wine and making it richer, bringing everything into balance,” says Waterfront Wines chef Wayne Morris.
Now at the door of Ilichmann’s Meats, Mark and Wayne are asking for pork belly, knowing the flavour and price point is exactly what is needed.
“Pork belly is very multicultural and a lot of different cultures and different countries use it,” says manager Judith Mercer. “All the chefs are reinventing it, using it in different ways than it has traditionally been used. It’s a very inexpensive cut, but so tasty and they’re able to do terrific things with it; it lends itself so well to so many different ways of interpretation.
“You go to any restaurant now, pork belly is on the menu in all the trendy restaurants across Europe and across the States,” she says. “It started with the movement to use the whole animal, from snout to squeeze.”
Illichmann’s has been serving Kelowna since 1967 and the local family business offers a wide variety of fine deli meats prepared right in the store. Adolf and Theresia Illichmann’s son Thomas has taken the reins and his sons, Jacob and Daniel, are now working in the back while sister Judith manages the storefront. Wholesale orders to local restaurants form a large part of their business as chefs like Mark know it’s the place to go if they want to stand out from the crowd.
Later that night, Mark’s creation does not disappoint. Calling on his own Ukrainian heritage, he presents a pork sausage and perigee stuffed with bacon, potato, leek and onion.
The sausage is served on a tablespoonful of borscht along with a cucumber roll, a shimiji mushroom, sauerkraut and garnished with crunchy bubbles of pork fat. The offering moves Team Kelowna to first place after the first night.
Day two brings the black box competition, hosted at the Okanagan College Culinary Arts School. Faced with only 60 minutes on the clock and a box of mystery ingredients, Mark and his team produce rich sauces of lemon-ginger aioli and cured egg yolk to showcase a pancake and marinated Anjou pear combo. With the seconds ticking down, he whips up a tasty Bolognese for his second plate and creates an exquisite crisp cylinder of fried potato to showcase a mix of mashed potato and gruyere, locally sourced from Carmelis Goat Cheese Artisan in Kelowna. Running 40 seconds over time, Mark faces a penalty putting the podium just out of reach.
A few hours later, Mark is all smiles as he stands next to John and Virginia Weber of Orofino Vineyard. They’re set to serve 500 plates and glasses for the guests arriving at the Delta Grand Okanagan. The partnership helped place Mark at the top of the podium at the Vancouver Gold Medal Plates and the same plate features at the grand finale in Kelowna.
The partnership with the Kelowna chef and the Silmameen winery stems back eight years when Mark purchase Orofino’s very first vintage. Tonight, the chosen wine is Orofino 2010 Scout Vineyard Syrah.
“The grapes are grown 10 minutes south of the winery on an acreage owned by a young couple, Murray and Maggie Fonteyne,” says John. “The wine is two different clones of Syrah blended together and you’ll taste black pepper, black fruit and classic Rhône characteristics. This Syrah is made in the tradition style of the region of southeastern France and it has great minerality and acid that does really well with food,”
To pair with the big red, Mark created a spicy lamb dish, sourced from the Bar M Ranch just south of Ashcroft.
“The grand finale dish on our menu, a Moroccan duo of lamb: braised shoulder and grilled sirloin,” says Mark. “For the competition, we used the neck and shoulder to also make a sausage, but you’ll find the same flavours, same carrots, same fennel relish and the same potato doughnuts we make here in the restaurant.”
The potatoes are also locally sourced, grown at Sweet Life Farms, a regular vendor at both Vernon and Kelowna Farmers’ Markets. Another popular supplier to the restaurant is Mission Meats, which brings in beef sides for the spit roasts that get fired up during the summertime.
Growing up in Ontario, Mark came to BC to attend university, but halfway through his degree decided he wanted to cook for a living. Graduating from culinary school, he’s worked with Chef Rod Butters at Tofino’s Wickaninnish Inn and then at Bishop’s and Diva at the Met in Vancouver. In 2001, he moved to Kelowna to open Fresco (now RauDZ) with Rod and Audrey Surrao and serve as sous chef and sommelier.
Three-and-half years later, Mark was approached to open Waterfront Wines, a perfect sized bistro for a young chef stepping out on his own. Now eight years later, he is one of the culinary elite in Canada, and with the restaurant’s recent expansion to 53 seats inside and 30 on the deck, has plenty of room to welcome locals and tourists. ~ Yvonne Turgeon
Gold: Marc St. Jacque,
Auberge du Pommier, Toronto
Silver: Jamie Stunt, Oz Kafe, Ottawa
Bronze: Milton Rebello, Hotel Saskatchewan Radisson Plaza, Regina
Plates by Mark Filatow:
Mystery Paring: Pork sausage and pierogi
Black Box: Pancake and Pear combo
Lamb, Bolognese and Stuffed potato crisp.
Grand Final: Bar M. Ranch Lamb
Mystery Wine Competition
Opening pour: The View Distraction sparkling wine
Mystery wine: Norman Hardie 2010 County Pinot Noir (ON)
The Grand Finale
Kelowna: Orofino 2010 Scout Vineyard Syrah
Canmore: Joie Farms 2011 Noble Blend
Edmonton: Tantalus Vineyard 2010 Chardonnay
Saskatoon: Dirty Laundry 2011 Kay-Syrah
Regina: See Ya Later Ranch 2010 Pinot Noir
Winnipeg: Gray Monk 2011 Gewurztraminer
Toronto: Pellar Estates Ice Cuvee (ON)
Ottawa: Ashton Brewing Co. la belle terre (ON)
Montreal: Malivorie 2011 Gamay (ON)
St. John’s: Tawse Winery 2010 Sketches of Niagara Chardonnay (ON)
Best of Show Wines
Gold: Black Hills Winery, 2010 Syrah
Silver: Tantalus Vineyard, 2010 Chardonnay
Bronze: CedarCreek, Platinum Merlot 2009 and Gray Monk, 2011 Gewürztraminer
Read more of the original stories celebrated in our 30th-anniversary issue.
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