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Privacy & DisclosureThis site accepts forms of payment in exchange for our opinion in the form of affiliate links and sponsored content. Congratulations to all the chefs who competed in the culinary competitions at The BC Foodservice Expo (January 29-30) at the Vancouver Convention Center. For many of these Chinese chefs it was their first time competing in this sort of challenge, let alone in front of a live audience. This was the first BC Chinese Chef of the Year competition and I was honoured and overwhelmed to be invited as a guest judge. The judging criteria included: Presentation, Taste, Organization, Sanitation, Safety, Kitchen Skills, Creativity, Communication with Chef and Sous Chef, and Wastage of Food. With a similar stage set up to Iron Chef, the additional ingredients, spices and sauces were provided. If I look through a cultural lens at Chinese food there are many factors that come to mind, such as efficiency and cost. Being very familiar with Chinese cuisine I’ve become immune to the expected family style servings and presentation.
Although many of these Chinese chefs are classically trained in Chinese cuisine and have cooked for decades in Asia and in Vancouver, there were also some chefs representing Vancouver’s modern Chinese restaurants, like Chef Todd Bright from Wild Rice and Chef William Tse from The Sandbar. This also stems from the fact that most traditional Chinese cuisine will require chopping of bones and the fish rarely has to be de-boned since it’s served whole, so the clever is more or less required. In terms of cooking techniques, the wok was typically the cooking equipment most used as you may have guessed.
In regards to ingredients, the most used ingredient was likely the mushrooms since they symbolizes wealth and prosperity. The first Chinese Chef of the Year cooking challenge was to create one dish using a protein they previously drew from a hat. The Endive leaves are very modern to Chinese cuisine and in this dish they filled them with mushrooms like a lettuce wrap.
The pork chop cutlet reminded me of the deep fried prawn dish tossed in mayonnaise and honey with candied walnuts. Remember we talk at the Wave about the judging, I am sure I did the right thing to have you invited.
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Chefs from each of the four provincial chapters will represent their region thanks to a combination of merit, previous competition experience and success in regional challenges.

Vancouver is world renowned for its excellence in Chinese cuisine and many, including myself, find that it’s just as good as what you can get in Hong Kong and China. The BC Chinese Chef of the Year competition is a platform that gives them the opportunity to be equally as recognized as other well known and talented chefs in the city. Yes, this could be true of many cultures, and I know I’m speaking quite generally, but it is especially true with Chinese cuisine. This is Chef Sam Ka Bo Leung of Dynasty Seafood Restaurant who is currently training to compete in the World Culinary Olympics in Germany.
These two chefs have exercised the idea of fusion in their own style at their perspective restaurants. On one hand there were the chefs with a set of nicely sharpened knives, and on the other hand there would be the chefs with one knife, which is the cleaver.
In Asia you rarely come across perfectly packaged chicken breasts and quite often the whole chicken is used and presented. The ovens were pretty much decoration as Chinese cuisine rarely requires an oven, and in fact, many homes in Asia don’t have ovens. Given time to prepare and bring their proteins to the competition, the time limit was 45 minutes to complete the one dish. It’s a modernized Chinese dish and in this case it was executed with pork and a maple syrup glaze which hardened like crispy candy mimicking pork crackling to me.
Chef made egg crepes and wrapped them around thin strips of beef tenderloin and then rolled it all together with more beef tenderloin like sushi. The orange sauce was made with salted egg yolk and red pepper which are ingredients I’m familiar with separately, but not together.
Each team was given a black box featuring 2-3 ingredients which had to be used to make an appetizer and a main. During the competition though I was super busy, but every time I see your face, you were super serious about it.
For one, some of the best chefs in Hong Kong and China are the ones in the kitchen of many of our famous Chinese restaurants in Vancouver. Other culinary masters on the panel included Sylvain Cuerrier (Executive Chef of RiverRock Casino Resort), Paul Ho (Treasurer of BCCA), Michael S.Pinter (Director of BCCA), and Ned Bell (Executive Chef of YEW at The Four Seasons Hotel). Quite often it’s about getting the food out there as fast as you can because one less turnover is one less sale. Nonetheless, part of the competition was to challenge these chefs to strengthen their presentation skills and hopefully one day be able to have them at a level fit for national chef competitions.

While some could consider this as comparing apples to oranges, it is more or less an equal battlefield when there are chefs trained in traditional Chinese cuisine trying to modernize dishes, and chefs trained in non-traditional Chinese cuisine trying to keep them authentic.
A personal default I find with the cleaver is that it makes it harder to be intricate and detailed with its blunter blade and I find this also affects presentation.
I just want to share with you my insights and experience at the Chinese Chef of the Year competition.
The point is to maximize this time, which again is a rather new concept for traditional Chinese Chefs who are accustomed to speed. Each team was given 45 minutes and only discovered their ingredients a minute before starting their challenge.
After 2 days of Iron Chef like cooking challenges in front of a live audience the scores have been tallied and the results are in. Another reason is because the seafood quality and water is also better in Vancouver, which is especially important since Chinese food consists mainly of seafood.
In the end, cooking is cooking, technique is technique and good food is good food, so seeing them all represented in their respective categories is something I look forward to. Wasting is also highly frowned upon and that’s why every part of the animal is used and for the most part eaten. In a way it does mean these dishes need to visually appeal to Western and European standards, but at the same time it isn’t to take away from what they already know and do. The cleaver is the one knife that does it all if you know how to use it, and this all partially goes back on the idea of efficiency too. Once in a while I would see carving knives to cut lotus blossoms out of daikon, but generally the cleaver played the dominant role as expected. Those are just way out of Asian comfort zone, although I’m sure they could do something amazing with it once they start experimenting.
Sure there are dishes Hong Kong and China excel in, like Peking Duck, hand pulled noodles, and congee just to name a few, but generally speaking, Vancouver is the most well recognized North American city to house the best in authentic Chinese cuisine. Just like Food Network’s Iron Chef, additional ingredients, spices and sauces were provided for use.

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