by Primrose Madayag Knazan
A DJ spins hip hop in one corner. Two bars serve wine, craft beer, and specialty cocktails. Many guests enjoy the party atmosphere, mingling throughout the room holding drinks, appetizers, and desserts, but most of the crowd gather at the open kitchen watching with hungry eyes as four chefs battle for gastronomic glory.
Kitchen Kumite, the culinary event of the season, took place September 24th and October 1st in support of Cancer Care Manitoba, presented by Allan and Amanda Pineda, the couple behind the Baon Manila Nights series of pop up dinners.
Pronounced ‘ KOO-mih-teh’, the culinary competition at the heart of the event is best described as an ‘Iron Chef’ type battle where teams of two professional chefs have 45 minutes to create dishes centered around secret ingredients in black boxes revealed only moments before cooking time begins.
Claire Snowball, representing Red River College’s Food Services, is no stranger to competition. Although she is a winner of Iron Chef Winnipeg, Claire was still nervous about the battle. Her first thoughts were “How do we cook pork hocks in only 45 minutes?” Using the other black box ingredient, salted cacao, her chocolate crepes with chilli chocolate ganache were a hit with the judges however the team from Clementine Cafe won by only three points.
RJ Urbano and Alec Armurao from Creme Del Essence were a pleasure to watch as they almost wordlessly moved throughout the kitchen in complete sync, a sign of two people who cook together every day. They finished early with six minutes to spare, creating two decadent dishes of seared flank steak and peach French toast with buckwheat honey, however were unable to beat the team from Sous Sol and Sydney’s.
All eyes were on the team of Mark Sobrevinas of Fruit by the Slice and Masterchef finalist Jeremy Senaris, who have been best friends for more than 30 years. Mark is also no stranger to blackbox competitions and says he enjoyed the adrenaline, creating a dish with cashew-crusted lamb. Jeremy says the Kumite “brought back a lot of memories being in competition mode.” Jeremy felt the time crunch and threw a nori garnish over his quinoa sushi rolls in the last seconds of battle. However the team from Hy’s Steakhouse just edged them out of contention.
Allan Pineda says “the Kumite is one small way of highlighting some of the great culinary talent that Winnipeg has to offer” and showcased local caterers and bakeries such as Cabesa Catering, Sugar Blooms and Cakes, and S Squared Patisserie who volunteered their time and dishes. Manitoba products appeared in each of the black box ingredients, including Hot Rod’s Longanisa in the finals.
Team Clementine ultimately won the belt, but the big winner was Cancer Care Manitoba. Allan says they raised over $5000 based solely on donations, sponsors, and volunteer work, including a cheque of $3000 from Topher San Juan of No Frills, a major sponsor who supplied the majority of the pantry and fundraised money through the grocery store.
Allan says he plans to make the Kitchen Kumite an annual event and has other culinary competitions planned for the year. Check out Baon Manila Nights on Facebook and Instagram for future events.
Photography by Pelagio Digital Media and Peter Ruiz Photography