I am thrilled for my friend chef Jinhee Lee. She just won the Gold Medal at Gold Medal Plates – the Canadian Culinary Championships.
I’ve known Jinhee a few years now. She was Executive Chef at Raw Bar by Duncan Ly at The Hotel Arts in Calgary and has moved with chef Ly to be his Executive Chef at the first restaurant where he is chef/owner.
The new restaurant is called Foreign Concept and along with chef Michel Nop they are serving small and large plates of pan-Asian flavour fusions artfully presented with custom plates, cutlery and serving dishes. The 112 seat place has a decor that is decidedly feminine with full wall murals of women in traditional dress or cherry blossoms or peacocks (the symbol of the Empress) or all of the above.
Duncan Ly’s food has always been as beautiful to look at as to eat. His protégé Lee amplifies that while reaching new depths of flavour with every dish she prepares. At a Women Chefs and Restaurateurs conference a few years ago she presented an artfully arranged bowl of ingredients to which servers then poured her lovingly prepared five-day broth from copper kettles. There were audible moans and sighs throughout the room as the flavour combination hit the taste buds of 400 food lovers. People remember her food.
The win in Kelowna is especially sweet for this 37-year-old Korean woman. She was never encouraged to cook let alone be a professional chef. She was sent to Canada to learn English and take accounting. During her time at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology she witnessed the chefs in action at the school’s culinary program. She took a few courses, fell in love with cooking and entered the professional chef program – all without telling her family back home in Korea.
When her mother came to visit and asked why she had so many cookbooks she finally had to spill the beans. Her mother was not impressed.
Gold Medal Plates and the Canadian Culinary Championships is a fundraiser with all proceeds given to the Canadian Olympic Foundation to support high performance athletes. To date, over $12 million has been raised. The event will be held in Kelowna, B.C. until 2020. Along with her trophies for People’s Choice and the win, Jinhee gets to drive a BMW for the next two years. As you can see in this photo, she’s pretty pumped.
And, as for her mother? Well hopefully, with her daughter being chosen as the best chef in Canada, she might have to concede that it was right for her daughter to follow her passion. Eating Jinhee Lee’s food is a great way to savour it all.