This is a lighter, although I think still meaningful, story for a Sunday. The Canadian capital is getting ready to hold its second Embassy Chef Challenge on November 5th, 2015 at Victoria Hall, where each year a handful of chefs employed by foreign missions in Ottawa compete and showcase their culinary art. All proceeds from the event go to the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) and, specifically, for pediatric equipment used in treating inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). This year, two Eastern European embassies are part of the competition: Moldova’s mission is represented by Nata Albot, while the Embassy of Hungary is sending its chef, Zsolt Varga. Other European competitors include chefs from Spain and the United Kingdom, while the missions of Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago and the Philippines will also be competing.
The chef representing Moldova struck me the most: Ms. Albot’s passion is for vegetarian cuisine. Anyone with experience in Eastern Europe will probably know that the region is hardly famous for his abundance of vegetarian and vegan options. Growing up in Hungary during the nineties, the vegetarian option in most restaurants usually meant breaded, deep-fried cheese and deep-fried mushrooms. Of course, times have changed in Budapest, and perhaps elsewhere too. Ms. Albot is actually a lawyer by training, the author of a cookbook on Moldovan cuisine and in the past hosted travel shows on television. She sounds like a strong competitor.
The Embassy of Hungary’s chef has his training in French pastry and also has experience in Thai cuisine. Before coming to Canada, Mr. Varga worked as a chef at hotels in the United Kingdom, Russia and in Hungary.
The judges also come from diverse backgrounds, including television hosts and authors, and the audience of locals who will show up at the event to try dishes from the seven embassies and high commissions will be from all walks of life as well. Last year’s winner was the chef from the Irish Embassy. We’ll see who takes the prize this year. Whatever the outcome, it’s for a great cause.