The three remaining chefs, Rene Rodriguez, Terry Salmond, and Rich Francis, were first tasked with the Quickfire Challenge by judges Mark McEwan, Shereen Arazm, Lisa Ray, and guest judge Ruth Reichl.
After canoeing in Lake Ontario with their ingredients in their knapsacks, the chefs ran to their open fires and prepared the “Catch of the Day: Camp-side Fish fry” for the Quickfire Challenge.
Rene Rodriguez won the challenge with his Lake Trout and Enoki Mushroom Salad, and was honoured with first pick of sous chef.
For the four-dish finale, the chefs were flown by helicopter to Taboo Resort and Spa in the Muskokas in Ontario.
The first dish included wonderful starters by all the chefs. Chef Rodriguez, who stated at the onset that he wanted to combine his Mexican, Spanish and Canadian roots in his dishes, started with Steak Tartare with Blue Corn Tortillas. Chef Salmond prepped a gorgeous Fish and Chips Mille Feuille with Cress Salad and Quail Egg, and Chef Francis prepped a fabulous Maple Salmon with Pickled Blueberries and Seared Scallop with Caviar and Vanilla Cream Sauce.
The second dish featured Chef Rodriguez’s Coriander Crusted Tuna with Mushroom Ragout and Pickled Chayote, Chef Salmond’s Lemon Ricotta Tortellini with Corn Puree and Poached Tomotoes, and Chef Francis’ Quail Two Ways with Peaches.
But it’s during the third course that things start to get very interesting for everyone, especially for those of us who see insects as a normal, healthy, nutritious part of the human diet.
At about the 28:25 time mark of the episode, Chef Rodriguez brings out a Roasted Poblano Bisque with Walnuts and Pomegranates that the panel absolutely adored, followed by a Lamb Shank Mole (pronounced mo-lay) with Mealworms. The mole was prepared with over 25 different ingredients, and the mealworms were deep fried and layered on top for extra crunch and flavor. Upon seeing the dish, Mark McEwan called it, “Fun, adventurous (and) really gutsy to throw them on the plate.”
The episode continues, with the rest of the chefs’ third dishes, and with the fourth course, but of course all I wanted to see was the final judging, and to see how the Lamb Shank Mole fared with the judges. If you’re like me, fast forward to the 37:00 time mark where judge Shereen Arazm says to Chef Rodriguez, “Serving your mole was a brave, bold thing to do.” Guest judge Ruth Reichl adds, “Did you think twice about the worms?”
Spoiler Alert! Rene Rodriguez ends up winning the title of Top Chef Canada! I have a few things to say about this:
1- It is so cool of Top Chef Canada to have a dish that featured mealworms.
2- it is amazingly awesome of Chef Rene Rodriguez to include mealworms in his mole.
3- the four judges ate Chef Rene Rodriguez’s Lamb Shank with Mole and Mealwormshappily without “ew” and “gross”. Rather we hear sounds of pleasure coming out of their mouths!
4- for those of you who aren’t sold on eating bugs as part of your protein diet, taste them. They’re delicious, and nutritious, and yes, they are food.
5- if you’re looking to try your own mealworms, you can find them at Next Millennium Farms!