Poor Chefs Competition raises funds, awareness for Operation Come Home

Chef Kris Kshonze from Soif Bar à vin in Hull takes home this year's trophy

It’s surprising what a group of Ottawa chefs were able to whip up for Operation Come Home’s 3rd annual Poor Chefs Competition, while relying on a budget of only three bucks and a couple of items one might find at the Ottawa Food Bank.

Necessity is the mother of invention, as the old saying goes.

The winner of the cooking contest was chef Kris Kshonze from Soif Bar à vin in Gatineau’s Hull sector for his bean and bone marrow stew, served with a smoked oyster sour cream (see complete recipe below). His prize was not a set of steak knives – à la Glengarry Glen Ross – but one year of free knife sharpening donated by Knifewear, along with a trophy presented to him on stage Thursday night at Jean Pigott Place at Ottawa City Hall.

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Poor Chefs Competition

The event saw chef Harriet Clunie from Beechwood Gastropub return to try and defend her 2017 title. She and Kshonze were also joined by Andaz Ottawa ByWard Market executive chef Stephen La Salle, who won during the first year the event was held; David Schaub from The Ketchup Project; Jessica Willis from Big Easy’s Seafood and Steak House on Preston Street; and Joey Boileau from The Senate Tavern on Clarence.

Hosting the event was Ottawa chef Steph Legari and 106 CHEZ radio host Eric the Intern, who’s on the board of Operation Come Home, a non-profit organization and support centre for homeless and at-risk youth aged 16 and up.

Poor Chefs CompetitionPoor Chefs Competition

The room heard how Legari participated with Eric in an OCH campaign that opened his eyes to the challenges street kids face in trying to feed themselves. Participants had to survive for one week on a grocery budget of $24, which is what the standard at-risk youth would have left to spend on food after covering other expenses. For Legari, that meant farewell to his Tim Hortons coffee. It was no longer a fixture in his daily routine but a luxury item that he simply could not afford.

Legari’s great passion is food. He came to realize that it plays such a basic and ongoing role in the lives of those who are deprived of it.

“Sometimes food is not as glorious as it seems. Sometimes it’s a struggle, something people fight for,” said Legari, who also learned that one of a street kid’s most prized possessions is a can opener, used to open cans of stolen food.

The competition was judged by a panel of celebrities and food experts consisting of author and restaurant critic Anne DesBrisay, Ottawa at Home Magazine food editor Paula Roy, Somerset Ward Coun. Catherine McKenney, Ottawa Food Bank communications director Rachael Wilson and KISS 105.3 radio personality Sandra Plagakis. Each dish was also tasted for fun by a different audience member whose name was drawn.

Poor Chefs Competition

The chefs worked with a budget of $3.15 per plate and could pick a couple of items from a list of 10 commonly donated items to the Ottawa Food Bank. The items were: eggs, milk, tuna, corn flakes, dry pasta, canned beans, tomato soup, margarine, canned chickpeas and soda crackers.

Kshonze chose soda crackers and canned mixed beans as his food bank items. His dish was found to be the “most creative and flavourful,” said Roy, while announcing the winner on behalf of the judging panel.

“We really applauded his attention to the spirit of the competition, using economical ingredients in really effective ways,” she said.

Poor Chefs Competition

The evening featured cocktails from Top Shelf Distillers and appetizers provided by FoodWorks, which is a social enterprise program started by Operation Come Home to teach real kitchen experience to at-risk youth.

Poor Chefs CompetitionPoor Chefs Competition


Bean and bone marrow stew (serves 6-8)


2 pounds beef marrow bones

2 cans of mixed beans, drained and rinsed

1 medium onion, small dice

3 tbsp tomato paste

1 lb. coffee mushrooms, finely chopped

4 cloves of minced garlic

1 300g bag frozen edamame

Smoked oyster sour cream(recipe follows), Soda crackers, thinly sliced green onions and julienned turnip (for garnish)

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Place marrow bones on a baking tray and roast until deeply browned and fat has rendered out
  • Set aside reserved rendered fat and transfer bones to a pot, cover with water and simmer for three hours
  • While the bones are boiling, in a separate pot heat rendered fat over medium heat
  • Add onions and garlic, sweat until translucent
  • Add mushrooms and cook until they start to brown
  • Add tomato paste and cook until it starts to brown and stick to the bottom of the pan, stiring often so as not to burn
  • Once the stock is finished cooking strain into the pot with the onions and mushrooms. Allow to simmer and reduce until thick.
  • Add beans and frozen edamame, bring back to a simmer and cook for about 5 minuts
  • Serve in bowls garnished with soda crackers, smoked oyster sour cream, chopped green onions and julienned turnip

Smoked oyster sour cream

1 250ml container of 14% sour cream

1/2 can smoked oysters chopped

3 green onions chopped finely

-mix all ingredients together, refrigerate and allow to sit for two hours in the fridge for the flavors to meld.

– caroline@obj.ca

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