International Shellfish Festival lineup announced for competition

Lobster, oysters, mussels, clams, scallops, quahogs, crab, shrimp: the list of shellfish that our tiny Island willingly gives us from the sea is a delicious and extensive one. Many of those delectable choices will be available to sample at the PEI International Shellfish Festival.

What started out in 1996 as a one-day event has evolved into a four-day weekend in the middle of September dedicated to celebrating shellfish. Similar to how a great seafood chowder is the perfect combination of fresh, local seafood, blended with fresh cream and seasonings, the festival is the right blend of dining experiences, culinary demos, celebrity chefs, competitions, and hungry seafood lovers.

“There is no place like Prince Edward Island for seafood and because of that we are able to host the greatest celebration of shellfish in the world right here in Canada’s Food Island. The festival continues to attract the best of the best chefs, oyster shuckers, and foodies from all over the world,” Liam Dolan, chair of the festival, said.

The festival features a host of events, but the Garland Canada International Chef Challenge is a highlight. It promises to be an intense weekend as chefs from across Canada compete for a $10,000 prize. The all-Canadian, all-star line up of chefs this year is top notch and the competition will be fierce.

After a month-long culinary competition across PEI restaurants, Best of Sea announced their 2018 Chic Chef of the Year. Chef Jesse MacDonald from David’s at Rodd Crowbush Golf & Beach Resort was awarded the title and will compete in the Chef Challenge.

Enthusiasm alone could have won MacDonald the title of Chic Chef, but it was his take on classic seafood during the Best of Sea competition that sealed the deal. His Appsolute Seafood Starter, Mollusk Mixup, was the Judge’s Choice and he was the first runner-up in the Ultimate Seafood Fusion Judge’s Choice category with his Lakeside’s “Broken Bottom” halibut entree.

When you chat with MacDonald, his drive and passion for creating culinary excellence here on the Island is evident. “Promotions like these Best of Sea are super important . . . just having all of our major industries—agriculture, fisheries and tourism—all working together, sorta in harmony. . . We’re all in the business of promoting PEI, one team together, I think that’s been the biggest breakthrough for PEI’s food destination, everybody’s swimming with the current, instead of everyone trying to do their own thing.”

MacDonald is quick to credit the kitchen team at David’s with the Chic Chef win, emphasizing that their hard work was as much a part of the success as his vision. He took over as the executive chef mere months ago, so the win is a testament to his skills, both in the kitchen and in management. His five years of experience as the executive chef at Rodd Miramichi in New Brunswick saw him take a serious role in getting that province’s food tourism off the ground, and he has big plans for his restaurant the next five years in PEI. “My goal is to make Crowbush not only become a more well-known culinary destination on PEI, but becoming a place that you want to come for a food experience,” MacDonald said.

As the 2018 Chic Chef, MacDonald will compete in the Garland Canada International Chef Challenge lineup alongside chefs like Top Chef Canada winner, Ross Larkin from St. John’s, Newfoundland. Larkin is the chef de cuisine at one of Canada’s top restaurants, Raymonds. Top Chef Canada runner-up, Mark Singson, will also be MacDonald’s competitor.

The 2017 Chef Challenge winner, Jinhee Lee, from Calgary, is returning to defend her title. JP Miron of Montreal, Quebec, will also be competing.

Foodie fans may recognize the rest of the all-star lineup which includes Darren Rogers, who also competed on the past season of Top Chef Canada. Competing as well is Jesse Zuber, executive chef and co-owner of Little Grouse on the Prairie in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan which was recently awarded one of Canada’s Top 100 Restaurants. Other professional chefs include Jacob Taylor, Darren MacLean, Jonny O’Callaghan, and Michelle Matheson. There will also be one more surprise chef filling out the roster.

MacDonald is ready for the competition and is excited to fulfill a lifelong dream, “A lot of the chefs I will be competing against are people I still to this day look up to, they’re pioneers in the industry that have carved their own path. . .Growing up on the Island, [I] always attended the Shellfish Festival,. . .and the Shellfish Festival’s black box [competition] is something that, deep down, I always wanted to be a part of.”

Sometimes wishes do come true.

About Cheryl Young

A “Jill of all trades” describes Cheryl to a T. From operating her own handyperson company, to selling luxury cars, to working as a film and TV crew member, her resume is diverse. But her dream as a kid was to be a journalist and she started down that path many years ago at CBC Charlottetown. Returning to her journalism roots, she’s excited to be editing Salty’s content and occasionally writing herself.

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