Jason Bangerter, executive chef, O&B Canteen and Luma restaurants in Toronto, won the coveted cheese grater trophy for his Niagara Gold Crunch at the 2012 Grate Canadian Grilled Cheese Cook-Off sponsored by Dairy Farmers of Canada.
The winning creation was reminiscent of a gourmet grilled ham and cheese, but the chef used shaved prosciutto and baby arugula as a filling between layers of that wonderful Niagara Gold, spread with a thyme, garlic and black pepper mayo and served with pickled grapes. Chef Bangerter wooed the judges’ sense of smell by completing the grilling by sautéing it in a little extra butter, thyme and garlic. Upper Canada’s cheesemaker was on hand to cheer him on.
The competing chefs hailed from four provinces of Canada: Ned Bell, executive chef, Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver, British Columbia; Liana Robberecht, executive chef, Calgary Petroleum Club, Calgary, Alberta; Jason Bangerter, executive chef, O&B Canteen & Luma, Toronto, Ontario; and Michael Howell, chef and owner, Tempestous Culinary, Nova Scotia.
Each chef prepared two different sandwiches to present to the judges. Bangerter’s other entry was a sweet grilled cheese, filled with strawberries, raspberry liqueur, and layered with basil and Canadian Mascarpone. Served with a lavender milk to drink.
The judges were Canadian food writers Sue Riedl, Rita DeMontis and Elizabeth Baird, and Kevin Durkee proprietor of CHEESEWERKS restaurant in Toronto.
Chef Howell defended his 2011 title with an Apulia Panini and a Crabby Dipper pictured below, made with Canadian Cream Cheese and smoked Canadian Gouda.
Chef Robberecht’s entries were The Cherry Bomb made with candied cherry tomatoes and rich Triple Cream Brie and thick sizzling bacon, and the Stampede Centennial with Alberta BBQ beef pulled short ribs complemented by Canadian Provolone and Blue cheese.
Chef Bell used local B.C. cheeses such as Island Brie and Courtenay Cheddar served with a homemade fruit chutney in his The Simple and he went from simple to sweet in his entry Ned Bell Pepper Sweet & Spicy with B.C. Pacific Pepper Spicy Verdelait and Cheddar Red Hot Pepper surrounding tomatoes in the centre.
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—Rebecca Crosgrey is logistics boss of The Great Canadian Cheese Festival