Chef Rusty Cox is the new Kootenay Granite Stone Soup Challenge champion.
By a razor-thin margin of 6-5 in voting from fellow chefs and celebrity judges, Chef Cox, with The Heidout Restaurant and Brewhouse, won the title with his lemongrass ginger chicken and vegetable creation.
Chef Graham Barnes, representing Max’s Place, challenged with a split-pea with bacon soup, as the two went head-to-head at the final matchup at the Prestige Rocky Mountain Resort on Wednesday.
They were judged by fellow chefs that had been knocked out in previous rounds, along with some local celebrity personalities.
Chef Cox was recognized for winning the title with a trophy tablet from Kootenay Granite.
“It was just nice to be invited back,” Chef Cox said. “First year, once you do things, you’re never quite sure if you’re going to get invited back, depending on performance.
You get knocked out first or second round, you wonder if they want someone a little different, but to come back again, it was even more fun this time.”
Chef Cox went back into his past as a culinary artist to choose his soup, while also taking into consideration the palates of his judges.
“I’m a big fan of Asian soups,” Chef Cox said. “When i was living in Africa, I was a chef in Tanzania, in Zanzibar, for Fairmont Hotels, and we had wild lemongrass growing all throughout the resort. So it’s one of the things that I love to cook with.
“So we had lemongrass, ginger, onions and garlic as the base for the soup and then everything else just built on that.”
The two chefs had a budget of $125 to buy any ingredients they wanted to create whatever soup they wanted for a sold-out audience in the Prestige Rocky Mountain Resort ballroom.
Chef Cox had a lot of prep work to start his soup, while Chef Barnes had a lot of moving parts to wrap up his soup.
“The important thing is to cook the bacon first, get all the fat out, then you cook all your vegetables in the fat for the good flavour,” Barnes said.
“…It’s one I’ve made for a long time at the store and people love it and I get lots of good comments on it. I make it all the time so it’s familiar. It’s wintertime and it’s good to have a pea soup, especially because it just snowed.”
The Kootenay Granite Stone Soup Challenge, in it’s second year, is a joint fundraiser for the Salvation Army’s 24/7 homeless shelter and the Cranbrook and District Community Future’s general endowment fund.
Jody Jacob, the fund development co-ordinator for the CDCF, didn’t have an exact figure, but was confident that they’d hit their $10,000 fundraising goal.
“I’m really happy,” Jacob said. “I’ve got some really engaged and committed sponsors. The chefs are awesome. They were excited to come back.
“…Watching them work is pretty special—they’re culinary geniuses—and it’s so fun to witness.”
Jacob noted the inclusion of the Salvation Army clientele and their importance to creating excitement around the stone soup challenge.
“They’re really and essential part to the entire event,” Jacob said. “They were showing up every day. They were asking when the next competition was, they were sampling the soups, they were casting a vote, they were really critiquing the soups and the chefs and wanting to know more about what was going on.”
The final was the culmination of two weeks of opening and semifinal round culinary action at the Salvation Army Soup kitchen. Aside from Chef Cox and Chef Barnes, participants included: Chef Lindsay Waugh (Hot Shots Cafe, Culinary Arts student), Chef Kevin McDonald (West Coast Grill), Chef Doug Wagner (St. Eugene Golf Resort and Casino), Chef Shelby Schiller (BJ’s Restaurant and Creekside Pub), Chef Carmen Alaric (Salvation Army) and celebrity chef David D. Hull (Chamber of Commerce).