I had the pleasure of being invited to a very unique dinner at Restaurant Toqué! a few nights ago. Sponsored by TD Canada, this dinner was available exclusively to the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege cardholders, who enjoy some exclusive perks like this particular event and similar recent ones that took place at Toronto’s Bosk Shangri-La and Vancouver’s Hawksworth restaurant. The Toqué! dinner was designed to celebrate and promote the Hawksworth Young Chef Scholarship Foundation, an honourable “culinary arts non-profit created to recognize and inspire young Canadian chefs, whilst promoting professionalism and culinary excellence within the hospitality industry”.
Founded by chef David Hawksworth (of Vancouver’s Hawksworth Restaurant) ten years ago, the foundation holds annual competitions at culinary schools in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal. Young culinary students compete in every city and two semi-finalists are elected from each city to vie for the big prize. This year’s final competition will be taking place in Vancouver on September 12, 2015. The winner will take home $10,000 and, most importantly, the chance to stage at a top international restaurant for a year in order to further develop their professional skills, a great jump start for a young culinary talent who might some day become a great chef.
Chefs Normand Laprise and David Hawksworth created a collaborative, perfectly symbiotic, outstanding, five-course meal focusing on the best local and seasonal ingredients from here and elsewhere in Canada. The flavours, textures and plating of each dish were outstanding, from the first bite–a classic Toqué! Princess scallop amuse bouche– to the very last one–an ethereal yuzu rice cream dessert by chef Hawksworth. I will let the photos that illustrate this article speak for themselves.
Chef Normand Laprise of Restaurant Toqué! has been involved in the scholarship as a judge for a few years now but this is the first year that Quebec is included in the competition. Chef Hawksworth visited Montreal for this special occasion to help promote the event through this dinner at Toqué! He was also present for the Quebec portion of the competition that took place at the Quebec Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management [ITHQ] on July 29 with chefs Antonio Park (Restaurant Park, Lavanderia), Jérémie Bastien (Leméac), Derek Dammann (Maison Publique) and Luca Cianciulli (sous chef Toqué!) on the jury panel. Congratulations to Cynthia Iaboni and Alec Fraser, the two Montreal finalists who will be competing in the national finals in Vancouver on September 12.
I’ve partnered up with TD Canada for this article but the opinions stated here are my own. Special thanks to the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege card for inviting me to this exclusive event.