They came. They cooked. They conquered. Mount Sinai’s 4th Chef’s Challenge: The Ultimate Battle for a Cure was a culinary melee of the highest calibre, bringing together top celebrity chefs, steadfast fundraisers, the city’s top philanthropists, and those ultimately looking to support care and research in women’s cancers at Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto. On Saturday night at the Toronto Congress Centre, hundreds gathered to witness an epic cook-off pitting five teams – led by chef stars Bal Arenson, David Rocco, Derek Dammann, Mark McEwan, and Vikram Vij – against each other in a no holds barred competition for savoury supremacy.
The day got underway as Chef’s Challenge host Giada de Laurentiis, along with emcee John Catucci, fed the teams their first challenge mid-afternoon: an appetizer/crostini battle that would be judged by gala attendees during the cocktail hour leading up to the main event. Behind the scenes, the teams drafted recipes, game plans, and even signage to market their glory. This pre-battle was lighthearted fun in comparison to what await the teams come 7pm that night…
When Chef’s Challenge officially kicked off its heels in the evening, over 500 gala attendees descended upon the Etobicoke North venue ready to nosh on a Giada-inspired meal while reveling in the on-stage cookery. The five teams felt the heat as they duked it out using secret ingredients like black cod. The fruits of their labours were judged by an esteemed panel led by de Laurentiis herself; other notable talent pulling judging duty included Income Property‘s Scott McGillivray, Donut Showdown‘s Maggie McKeown, Bar Isabel’s Grant van Gameren, and Chopped Canada‘s John Higgins. The critics were mindful of the novice level of many of the competing fundraisers, and a convivial atmosphere never faltered. (How can it when you have Scott McGillivray jostling team leader David Rocco about his perfectly sized balls?)
After two on-stage competitions, a touching speech by Mount Sinai Patient Ambassador Bella Hazzan about her bout with cancer and how Mount Sinai’s doctors saved her life, an audience-participated donut decorating contest, and a mixology throwdown, it was finally time to announce the evening’s winning team. Maison Publique’s Derek Dammann took home top prize thanks to his team, Fistfull Food, and their grandiose efforts during the showdown.
We got to thinking after the event: if only cancer could be tamed by a celebrity chef cook-off. Unfortunately, that’s by and large not the case, and events like Chef’s Challenge: The Ultimate Battle for a Cure remind us that no matter how many fancy gadgets are produced, no matter how many “technologies of convenience” are invented, we’re still steps behind the ravishing effects of cancer’s touch. Steps that are quickening in pace thanks to the groundbreaking research at organizations like Mount Sinai’s Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Reseach Institute.
Check out the gallery with some of our favourite shots of the night (taken by Nick Lee, BestOfToronto.net), and learn about how you can support the amazing Mount Sinai Hospital and its efforts to understand, treat, and ultimately eradicate women’s cancers here.