What better way to ap-pea-se a hungry Festival du Voyageur crowd than the pursuit of the perfect pea soup.
Rendez-vous des chefs — which will take place from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sun., Feb 24 at Maison du Bourgeois in Fort Gibraltar — will bring together some of the finest local chefs who will concoct and prepare their own variations on the iconic French-Canadian soup for visitors to sample.
Now in its fifth consecutive run at Festival, there will be two categories: the People’s Choice Award and — new this year — the Judges’ Choice Award. Both have a $250 cash prize. Judges will include Winnipeg Free Press reporter Bartley Kives, Ciao! magazine editor Erin Bend, Gabrielle Sabourin of Radio-Canada and Chrissy Troy from Virgin Radio Winnipeg.
Part of the charm of the event is whether the chefs — from restaurants such as Resto Gare, Promenade, Jolly Friar and Le Garage Café — choose a time-honoured or contemporary approach.
"It’s part of French-Canadian culture, so the idea of perfecting the recipe is close to francophone hearts," said Julien Desaulniers, Festival’s artistic producer.
"The goal is to give restaurants the opportunity to create their own version. Will they stick with a traditional recipe or go off the map?" added the St. Boniface resident, noting organizers are "trying to bring a gastronomic focus in to the limelight a bit."
"What’s the perfect pea soup? It’s about personal taste and it’s always a work in progress and fine-tuning what people like. It’s balance."
Competing chef Tristan Foucault, partner and chef at Peasant Cookery in the Exchange District, has been testing his recipe on his customers for last couple of weeks.
"It’s not super contemporary, but it’s something most people wouldn’t do. The recipe is very much our style of cooking," Foucault said. "It’s been fun to run it in our restaurant and have hundreds of people try. The feedback has been really good."
And while not wanting to give away any trade secrets ahead of the souped-up cook-off, the St. Boniface resident confided: "It will show our love of pigs."
Foucault said this will be his first time making soup at Festival and that he rarely enters competitions, unless it’s for charity, but "this is right up our alley, as we make everything from scratch."
Bend is looking forward to sampling the cross-section of soups.
"As a food writer and avid food consumer, I’m familiar with most chefs on the roster and their styles. In context of the festival, it will be interesting to see their different approaches — traditional or their own flair," she said.
Festival runs from Feb. 15 to 24. For more information, visit www.heho.ca.