Chef’s gold medal level cuisine

[attach]6696[/attach]The coverage may not have had the scope of their athletic counterpart, but the World Culinary Olympics were no less exciting — and every bit as prestigious in chefs’ circles as the “other” Olympics are for athletes.

So it’s perhaps fitting that Ryo Ozawa, the executive chef at EDO on Eglinton Avenue W. says he doesn’t remember how it felt to win the gold.

“I was very, very exhausted because I didn’t sleep for two days,” he says.

The 2012 event, which took place in Germany, saw chefs from 35 countries competing in both individual and team culinary events.
Ozawa chose to compete in the individual category, preparing a three-course vegetarian menu and a five-course tasting menu for judges.

“I tried to use local food ingredients,” he says. “Atlantic salmon, Pacific scallops, Nova Scotia lobster, Quebec foie gras, and Quebec duck,” adding what he calls Japanese essence.

“I added soy sauce flavour, some sashimi style fish … miso marinade, and I made dashi egg custard,” he says.

While the competition does not publish individual chef scores, Ozawa’s team, Golden Horseshoe, won five medals, including a gold medal for dessert. Ozawa himself won a gold medal in his division.

“When they called my name … I didn’t feel happy, just very calm,” he says. “I didn’t think, ‘I can get a medal.’ I just did my best, and the result followed me.”

Ozawa first came to Canada in 2002, after winning a competition organized by the Canadian embassy in Japan. While he did not stay, Ozawa remembers wanting to come back.

“I love the nature of Canada,” he says. “Canada has four very clear seasons and by the seasons they have great food ingredients.”

In 2003, when EDO’s founding partner Barry Chaim was in Japan seeking new cooks, a mutual friend connected them and Ozawa decided to move to Toronto the next year.

While Ozawa misses buying fresh salmon, tuna and snapper from Tokyo’s fish markets, and mountain vegetables such as wasabi roots, he says he enjoys the opportunity to prepare authentic European dishes, often with local Canadian seafood — including lobster, mussels and oysters — that could only be purchased from importers in Japan.

“I am Japanese so I know the culture of Japanese and Asian food,” he says. “I had no idea about the European food habits or culture.”