Wagner advances with cheeseburger chowder

Friday featured the final challenge in the preliminary round of the Kootenay Granite Stone Soup Challenge.

Marc Rathpoller from Tuscany's (left) and Sous Chef Doug Wagner (right) are busy at the Salvation Army soup kitchen on Friday.

Marc Rathpoller from Tuscany's (left) and Sous Chef Doug Wagner (right) are busy at the Salvation Army soup kitchen on Friday.

Two local heavy hitters went at it on the final challenge of the first round for the Kootenay Granite Stone Soup Challenge on Friday at the Salvation Army soup kitchen.

Sous Chef Doug Wagner with the St. Eugene Mission Resort was victorious with a cheeseburger chowder while fellow competitor Marc Rathpoller of Tuscany’s and his apple, sausage and squash soup with potato, was defeated by a slim margin of only three votes.

It was the final challenge of the preliminary round, as four other chefs already went head-to-head this past week in two previous events.

Both chefs were unfamiliar with their surroundings and even what ingredients they’d have access to inside the Salvation Army kitchen, however, their instincts and years of experience in the business kicked in once they got started.

“My soup ended up changing right up until the last 25 minutes, just as I was looking in fridges, finding different ingredients,” said Wagner. “A jar of pickles sitting out for sandwich service ended up being the catalyst to tie it all together and turn it into cheeseburger chowder.

“So it was really fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants the whole way through to get to a finished product, but that’s what a whole lot of fun cooking is.”

For Rathpoller, he had a pretty good idea of what he wanted once he keyed in on a few items.

“I got to look at all the fresh produce and you start thinking of a million different soups you could make and you start going through the cooler and certain items start sticking out,” Rathpoller said.

“I more or less started grabbing those and worked with that. Honestly, my soup was probably in my head in about 5-10 minutes and I just kept going with that.”

Each chef was allowed one item from their home kitchen; Wagner brought a Santoku knife, while Rathpoller brought a handheld blender.

Both were impressed by the facilities at the Salvation Army soup kitchen.

“I’ve never been here so I didn’t know what kind of kitchen equipment was here or what it looked like, but when I came in here, I was quite surprised at how well-laid it out it is and how nice and clean the equipment and everything is,” Rathpoller said.

“When we started looking at the ingredients, there are some restaurants that don’t have half the stuff in here, so I was quite surprised.”

Wagner’s win concludes the opening round of the soup challenge. Next week will consist of the semifinals, as Chef Rusty Cox from the Heidout Restaurant and Brewhouse goes up against the Salvation Army’s own chef Kathy Morey, who has 11 years of experience in the soup kitchen.

The other semifinal matchup includes Chef Shelby Schiller of BJ’s Diner and Creekside Pub who will face off against Wagner.

The two final chefs will compete at the grand finale event on March 4, noon to 1:30 p.m. at the Prestige Rocky Mountain Resort and Convention Centre, which is not only sponsoring the final event, but providing the Grand Ballroom, staff, and food at no cost, ensuring all funds raised go directly towards the Salvation Army homeless shelter project and Cranbrook and District Community Foundation general endowment fund, which provides annual grants to local non-profits.

Tickets to the public event are available in two prices: $25 for lunch; or, $45 for lunch and a $20 charitable receipt. They can be purchased with cash at Max’s Place or by calling 250-426-1119.