Canadian culinary Super Bowl kicks off at Ottawa's Algonquin College

Students participate in the Canadian Culinary Championships at Algonquin College in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. (Christopher Scott / CTV News Ottawa)

The Canadian Culinary Championships, the Super Bowl of cooking, kicks off this weekend at Algonquin College in Ottawa.

“It is an amazing showcase of Canadian talent -- 12 cities across Canada have competitions where they pick the best chef from that city,” Cory Haskins, the culinary professor who’s overseeing the competition, said Friday. “The Championships brings those 12 chefs together to compete to be the top Canadian chef.”

The Canadian Culinary Championships has been in play for 14 years, but this is the first time its been held at Algonquin College. It’s a real accomplishment for the program and they will be held here again for two additional years for a great home-field advantage.

The two-day contest, which begins on Friday and concludes Saturday night, involves three separate events: Mystery Wine Pairing, Black Box Competition, and The Grand Finale Competition.

Thirty-six culinary students, all volunteers, have been selected to work with the competing chefs. They will help prepare the dishes while another 24 students will assist in plating the food at specific events.

“The Canadian Culinary Championships is just amazing for Algonquin College and our students,” said Haskins.

“We have 60 students supporting these chefs in various roles over the next two days; they get to work side by side with some of the best chefs in Canada. They see real-live action and techniques. The way things are happening, it’s just an amazing way to meet people, connect, network and learn.”

The students are very excited for the chance to work with these chefs from across the country, and it’s not all about the food.

“The social aspect of it -- the networking -- will help me branch out, and knowing some different chefs from some different places can get you a long way,” said Meritt MacKeen, a second-year student in the hospitality program at the collage.

Mason MacDonald, another second-year student, shared his enthusiasm for the unique opportunity.

“At school it’s a lot of learning, this is putting what I have learnt to the test,” MacDonald said. “It’s a lot of high volume, I have to do 300 plates, and the pressure is on. Now I’m excited.”

The chefs are back in the College’s kitchens Saturday morning for the Black Box Competition. In this creative challenge, the chefs receive a black box containing a small array of various foods and must create and plate a judge-pleasing dish within an hour.

Guests with tickets can dine in Algonquin’s Restaurant International while watching a livestream of the chefs in action. They will also enjoy a meal prepared by other culinary students, and served by students from the Hotel and Restaurant Management program.

If you were thinking of watching another competition this weekend, Cory Haskins says the “Canadian Culinary Championships is the Super Bowl for the food scene in Canada.”

And like the Super Bowl, it’s sold out.