October 24, 2006

Gold Medal Plates

Last Tuesday night my wife and I attended a fundraiser called Gold Medal Plates. The series kicked off in Halifax and will be held in six other cities across Canada in November. The Halifax event was very well-attended and raised a good chunk of money for the Canadian Olympic Foundation, which will direct the proceeds toward Own the Podium 2010 and Road to Excellence.

The event is a clever mixture of sport and haute cuisine. Eight of the city's best chefs were paired with high-profile local athletes (an Olympian or Paralympian or Olympic hopeful) and charged with preparing their "ultimate chef's creation." For $225 per ticket, attendees could taste those creations, sample Canadian wines, and schmooze with Olympians and other sports VIPs. While enjoying dessert and coffee guests were treated to speeches by two of Canada's top athletes, and given the opportunity to spend more of their money on silent or live auction items. The finale of the evening was the awarding of bronze, silver, and gold medals to the winning chefs. In the 2004 edition of this event, the paying guests voted for their favourite dish. This time, the winners were chosen by a panel of expert judges.

Not having been assigned to a chef, I was free to wander around, tasting everything and doing some schmoozing myself. I know it's kind of shallow (possibly pathetic) to say so, but I still find it fun to wear a name tag that says "Olympic Athlete."

The athletic guests of honour, meanwhile, were excellent. Sledge hockey gold medallist Paul Rosen and two-time Olympic champion Catriona Lemay Doan gave powerful speeches about their own experiences at the Paralympic and Olympic Games.

(As an irrelevant aside, I remembered during dinner that one of the first photographs I ever saw on the Internet was a picture of Catriona Lemay at the 1994 Olympics. It's pretty amusing to go back and see what the first Olympic Games web site looked like just twelve years ago.)

The culinary star of the evening was Chef Ray Bear, who was teamed up with canoeist Mike Scarola. I was not surprised that the chefs appeared to be quite engrossed in the culinary competition. I was a little bit surprised that the chefs got behind the fundraising effort as strongly as they did. After winning the gold medal, Chef Bear offered a nine-course meal, cooked in your home, for auction. He and Scarola ended up selling two such meals for the cause.

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