CORNWALL, Ontario – Chef Luc McCabe puts the finishing touches to his latest creation – a cheeseburger – and already your mouth is watering.
Hey, it’s only a cheeseburger…you know, beef, cheese, lettuce, tomato.
But you can also taste some unseen ingredients like years of experience and a reputation that just might get him noticed on the national stage – and maybe more.
McCabe is headed to Toronto next month to take part in “The Copper Skillet” – a cooking competition among head chefs at a variety of conference centres across Canada.
McCabe is the executive chef at the Nav Centre in Cornwall.
“I’m just trying to practice a lot,” McCabe said, and he has enlisted the help of his team at Nav Centre to sharpen his skills. “My sous chef is bringing in special items for me every day, and I’ve been using them to get ready.”
The competition is pretty simple – chefs from all over Canada will meet in Toronto Feb. 5. They will all be tasked with creating their own dish, by using two of three preselected protein ingredients, as well as some fruits and veggies contained within secret so-called “black boxes.”
Contestants have 15 minutes to plan out their dish, and then 30 minutes to cook.
They are also limited to using a pair of knives and cooking in a couple of pans – no heavy-duty hardware.
“It’s really just to challenge you,” said McCabe. “Anybody can cook with a full range.”
McCabe’s sous chef, Gabriel Asseline, has been creating black boxes and bringing in all kinds of protein – bison, octopus, venison, rabbit and quail to name a few – to ensure McCabe has a wide array of options before the competition.
And he’s got some pretty big shoes to fill.
Former Nav Centre executive chef Jean-Mathieu Leclerc has finished second in the event for three years in a row.
“We’ve got a pretty good feeling going into this,” said McCabe. “I’d like to finish in the top three.”
Should he win the competition McCabe would fly out to Los Angeles in March to take part in the international arm of the competition.