Gold Medal Plate winner Joe Thottungal, chef and owner of the Coconut Lagoon, can now add another prestigious title to his collection: Sandwich Sovereign of Ottawa.
He was carefully selected by a panel of celebrity judges at a brand new benefit, Breaking Bread, Breaking Stigma, held Tuesday for the Hopewell Eating Disorder Support Centre. It took place in the historic cereal barn at the Central Experimental Farm.
Thottungal, whose restaurant is located on St. Laurent Boulevard, won the 2016 Gold Medal Plate title in Ottawa and went on to win silver at the national competition.
However, he faced some stiff competition in the gourmet sandwich-making contest. Talented young chef Stephen La Salle from Andaz Ottawa Byward Market participated. So did executive chef Katie Brown Ardington from 24 Sussex and Louis Charest from Rideau Hall (leaving some to wonder whether it would come down to a showdown between the two chefs for the PM and GG).
Charest was the People’s Choice Award winner.
The evening was emceed by Majic 100 radio host Katherine Dines, who first went public last year about her past struggles with anorexia. She did so in order to raise awareness over eating disorders, which also commonly include bulimia and binge eating.
Hopewell executive director Jody Brian told the room how “a few people gave me the raised eyebrow” upon learning that the centre was hosting a food-related event for a cause that targets eating disorders.
“But, I actually couldn’t think of anything more fitting, as food is the medicine that lifts so many of our clients from illness and hopelessness and into strength and recovery,” she added.
Award-winning cookbook author Margaret Dickinson was joined on the judging panel by Kathy Smart from Live the Smart Way, and Ottawa Citizen Food Editor Peter Hum, whose introduction elicited an audible gasp of surprise from the audience. Hum keeps a low public profile in order to be incognito when he's visiting restaurants to write a review.
Attendees included Karin Pagé, an associate at event sponsor Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall. She found all the food to be delicious and was having a hard time deciding on her favourite.
“They were all very good,” said Pagé. “I’m impressed by the caliber of the chefs and the judges that we have tonight.”
Pagé also sits on the board at Hopewell. The mother of two teenagers said she’s done enough coaching to see how eating disorders can affect young athletes. “I believe it’s an important cause,” she added.
Organizers expect to know later in the week how much was raised at the benefit, which included a silent auction.