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Recapped: Abbey's Kitchen Stadium, Round Two
Abbey's Kitchen Stadium pits more of Toronto's top chefs against each other for a good cause

Photo credit: Samantha Noakes

Last Sunday, July 21 marked the second installment of the newest and hottest food event series to hit Toronto, Abbey’s Kitchen Stadium (#AKS). Modeled loosely after the Iron Chef model, #AKS was designed to showcase some of Toronto’s hottest chef talent, sample incredible drinks, and ultimately, to raise money for the new local food initiative, My Food My Way (MFMW).  

So, why MFMW? Well, as I, the host, explained to event attendees on stage, being both a hardcore foodie and a Registered Dietitian means that I see the apple from both sides. I know it’s packed with Vitamin C and fibre, but I also know it tastes delicious tucked into my grandmother’s flaky pastry with a massive scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. I really don’t think that we are doing society any justice by ignoring the pleasure inherent in food in favour of abstract nutrients and numbers most normal people don’t care about anyways. This is probably most true when we’re talking about kids. Any time you tell a kid not to eat something because it’s bad, you can bet your last organic gluten-free cracker that they’re going to do the opposite.  Teaching young people (or anyone, for that matter), about food and nutrition should really be about creating a space for youth to have their say, get involved, feel invested and ultimately, make a change that is meaningful to them. Embodying my food philosophies to the letter, MFMW is a Toronto-based food charity that does just that. This young initiative sees that elementary students work with school officials to develop school culinary and nutrition curriculum, prepare cafeteria school lunches, learn about food systems from a variety of experiential learning modalities, and ultimately, build life-long healthy relationships with food.  I was determined to spread the word and help raise funds for this initiative, and knew that getting our vibrant Toronto food community involved through #AKS would be a tasty place to start.

Structured as a four-part series, this season of #AKS features three competitions at the MOD Club and a championship event where the winner from each of the three events, plus a viewer-voted wild card can battle it out one last time on the Delicious Food Show’s Food Network Celebrity Stage.

The heavily anticipated unveiling of the secret ingredient marked the kick off to Battle Two where everyone’s favourite tangy, juicy, crunchy snack was put front and centre of the afternoon meal. Available in Classic Dill and Spicy, McClure’s pickles had been pureed, minced, infused, and even “puffed” into a myriad of top Toronto chefs’ culinary creations. 

Within seconds, the competitors, Jesse Vallins (The Saint Tavern), Peter Ramsay (The Geraldine), Andres Marquez/ Howard Dubrovsky (Fonda Lola) and Rodney Bowers (Hey Meatball; Hey Restaurant) rushed to their respective stations and were greeted by a surprise.  One of the schools that MFMW has been working with, Thistletown Collegiate, had brought in four students to assist the chefs in their service and, of course, test out the skills they had acquired in culinary class at school.

Jesse Vallins of The Saint Tavern offered a sexy Heirloom Carrot and Dill Soup with Crispy Cheddar and Dill Pickle Brown Butter, as well as a Spicy Pickle Brine Braised Bacon Sandwich with Russian Dressing (shown).

Photo credit: Robin Sharp

Peter Ramsay of the upcoming Geraldine introduced us to the world of molecular gastronomy with his Fried Smelt on a Housemade Bun with Geraldine Coleslaw, Pickled Shallots, McClures Pickle Puffs and Pickle Brine Caviar (shown)

Photo credit: Robin Sharp

Fonda Lola’s Andres Marquez and Howard Dubrovsky brought us a Mexican fiesta with their Tostada de Tinga with McClure’s Pickle de Gallo, Crema Jelly, and Guacamole (shown) as well as a mouthwatering Quesadilla Nopales with McClure’s Pickles, Salsa Verde, and Fried Wheat Dust.

Photo credit: Robin Sharp

And finally, Rodney Bowers of Hey Meatball gave us, well, of course, meatballs in the form of a Meatball Donair with McClure’s Pickle Relish, Pickled Onion, Donair Sauce and Herb Salad, as well as a beautiful McClure’s Pickle Soup with Fried Pickles, Pulled Pork and Mussels (shown).

Photo credit: Robin Sharp

As the guests tasted their way through the offerings, our bar was serving up some incredible drinks to wash them all down.

Presenting Sponsor Forty Creek handed out free samples of their 40:40 Copper Pot Whisky coffee & cream cocktail, Rosewood Estates poured glasses of Semillon and Pinot Noir, Sam Adams popped the tops off their Boston Lager, and Dillon’s Distillery pumped out their classic Sunday Caesars & a Rhubarb Gin and Tonic.  

And for those still recovering from a not-so-glamourous Saturday night, there was also refreshing Limonana for purchase, and free samples of the Tea Emporium’s iced teas.

But boozed up or sober, everyone was pulling out their wallets when it came time for our raffle, where hundreds of dollars of donated food products, cookware and gift cards were given away in the name of charity.

In between sips, nibbles and prizes, guests also got to enjoy an intimate and beautiful performance by superstar sensation, Vita Chambers and her all-female band.  

Photo credit: Adam Wiseman

Joining Ms. Chambers on the judging line was Trish Magwood (Food Network), Mike Chalut (Proud FM), Maggie McKeown (Food Network), and Joe McClure (McClure’s Pickles, Owner) who were charged with the difficult task of sampling the chef’s wares, questioning them on stage, and choosing the ultimate winner for the day.


Abbey Sharp is a Dietitian (RD), home chef, food writer, blogger & media personality. Follow her on Twitter at @AbbeysKitchen.

For more, follow us on Twitter at @torontostandard, and subscribe to our newsletter.

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