- BC Games
Cooking contest vet victorious in Disaster Chef cookoff
For Burnaby cooking contest veteran Eva Fong, the Disaster Chef Cookoff was just like any other culinary competition.
Except it started at 5 a.m.
And it was outdoors.
And she had no electricity and only the heat of a propane camping stove to prepare her dishes.
Fong, 40, who has competed on the reality TV show Recipe to Riches and has been named Canadian Living magazine's Cook of the Year, called Disaster Chef, sponsored by the City of Burnaby, the "most challenging" of all the contests she's entered.
After all, the initiative by the city's emergency program, sought to raise awareness of just what it takes to look after yourself and your family after a major disaster like an earthquake.
Entrants had to submit recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner for one person, using only the food supplies from an emergency kit and no more than two litres of water in total.
Finalists Fong, Yumi Mooney and Vivian Pinter were then chosen to hold a cookoff in front of city hall last Thursday, a few hours before the Great B.C. ShakeOut earthquake drill. Watching over them were judges including EBO Restaurant's executive chef Dan Craig, chef du cuisine Ken Ou of Riverway Clubhouse and Certified Red Seal Chef Hughe Rose of the Burnaby Fire Department.
Fong emerged victorious with her granola topped with canned peaches and pears, smoked oyster chowder and crabcakes with beet salad.
The trickiest part of the contest was "finding canned food that tastes good," Fong said. "You have to have your food groups too, you don't want to just eat a can of tuna and a block of Spam."
During the cookoff, she had to keep in mind that her Coleman camping stove gets really hot so she had to take her dishes off the flame occasionally to make sure they wouldn't burn.
The stove had "no numbers, there's no medium, high or low," she said of the guesswork involved.
Her one close call came before the cookoff. She created her recipe for the crabcakes and submitted it without actually trying it out first. She substituted flax seed and water as a binding agent in lieu of eggs and fortunately it worked out when she tested it a couple days before the event.
"If it didn't [work] I'd be in trouble," as contestants are required to cook their recipes exactly as written. "That was a risk."
Of her fellow contestants, she said Mooney provided a bit of dramatic tension when her camp stove didn't burn very hot, resulting in her preparations going down to the last second. She also demonstrated post-disaster resourcefulness by using a crowbar to crush nuts for her peanut butter rubble bars.
Fong plans to make changes to her own earthquake kit as a result of the experience, now that she knows of the existence of shelf-stable milk. She advises people to also think about using all ingredients efficiently, noting when making her beet salad she also served the juice from the can as a beverage.
Charmaigne Pflugrath, Burnaby's emergency program coordinator, was impressed by the finalists' resourcefulness, noting that along with Mooney's crowbar, Fong used a frying pan to crush crackers for the crabcakes and Pinter incorporated liquids from her canned goods into a soup.
"It's wonderful to see how people adapt."
Pflugrath was also pleased that none of the contestants used up their allotted two litres of water, the amount recommended as the minimum amount per person per day that should be kept in an emergency kit. She added that Burnaby city hall actually recommends four litres per person daily to allow for cleaning and sanitation as well as drinking.
"It was really encouraging to see that so many people out there are taking emergency management to the next level."
Fong won a chef experience dinner for four at EBO Restaurant and a one-night stay at the Delta Burnaby Hotel. Runner-up and honourable mention prizes comprised chef's table dining experiences and gift certificates respectively at Riverway Clubhouse.
For the finalists post-disaster recipes, visit http://www.burnaby.ca/Disaster-Chef.html.