Those who enjoy the spectacle of trained chefs playing sous to a motley crew of local celebrities will take heart to know: the Caboto Centre will create such occasions for your entertainment yearly.
It’s at the Caboto that the second annual Celebrity Cook-Off will take place April 4, after the inaugural event last spring proved to be "quite a success," says Maria Rossol, head of the centre’s programming and community services and creator of the Cook-Off with former executive director Mariella di Santo.
An audience of 250 attended the event, which acted as a fundraiser for charity Siloam Mission. The money will be raised for the Caboto Centre itself this year, to update and replace various kitchen equipment and address "general wear and tear," Rossol says.
Drawing inspiration from popular TV cooking competition shows such as Iron Chef, Chopped and Top Chef, the concept for the Cook-Off is as follows: a handful of chefs from Winnipeg restaurants are paired with a local celeb who does the actual cooking, under their expert guidance.
Each pair is given a "black box" containing a mystery protein as well as some secret ingredient; a table of staple items is also provided. Teams must produce an appetizer and main dish.
The concept was intended to "attract a different crowd," Rossol says – that is, more young people and a wider range from outside the Italian community.
This year’s celebs are retired Winnipeg Blue Bomber Doug Brown, CKY news reporter Ina Sidhu, comedian Big Taddy Tazz and returning Winnipeg Free Press columnist Doug Speirs.
The participating chefs are Brent Genyk of Bellissimo, Cheryl Sheffield of Fox and Fiddle, Jason English of Santa Lucia and Mike Brown of De Luca’s. It was the last restaurant’s Cameron Huley who won the competition last year.
"It’s a little intimidating to be defending the championship," laughs the 33 year-old Brown, who’s been at De Luca’s since this past September. He continues, however, that he’s intending to entertain the crowd, not be competitive.
"I’m still going to participate to my fullest," he adds.
Whereas last year all participating restaurants were Italian, this time around there is a contrasting mix. That also goes for the gender make-up of the participating chefs.
"I feel honoured that I was invited," Sheffield says. "But whether I’m female or male, …I do not look at my colleges by their gender, I look at their qualities, strengths and what I can learn from them."
The emcees for the evening will be Joe Aiello from 102.3 FM and Father Sam Argenziano, who was himself a 2012 participating celeb, along with Drew Kozub, remote host of Citytv’s Breakfast Television and on-air radio host Chrissy Troy of Virgin 103.