It was an all-Ontario battle last night on Recipe to Riches, as your favourite home-cooking competition introduced a brand-new category: Condiments and Dips. So who were these Premiers of puree, these Sultans of sauce?
-Hard-working TorontonianCourtney O’Leary offered her “gourmet mushroom topping,” a ready-made serving for adding something extra to a variety of meats.
-Gloucester’s Cathy Ferguson captured the experience of eating a Reuben sandwich in her “Montreal deli dip.”
-Hamilton resident (and aspiring filmmaker) Kayode Atobatele spiced things up with his “Tobman’s hot sauce.”
(Above from left: Cathy Ferguson, Kayode Atobatele, Courtney O'Leary)
As we’ve come to expect, our competitors were uniformly unprepared for the sheer scale of cooking required of them in the first of their two tests. All three seemed to be most comfortable eyeballing their measurements, which is definitely not the way to go in the commercial kitchen, where different cooking devices—and occasionally even different ingredients—can mess with one’s recipe. That said, I liked the way Kayode handled things: instead of “batching up” directly from his home recipe, he first made a small test batch in the R2R facilities, and only when he was satisfied with that version did he up-size to the required 75 litres. The method served him well, as our judges agreed that Kayode’s sauce was even better than what they tasted in his audition.
Courtney’s mushroom topping, however, was not. She had some trouble getting the right consistency for her roux, which, frankly, is a fatal flaw when you have to serve it to Laura Calder, a bona fide expert in classical French cooking. Though conceptually sound, Courtney’s goopy final product was the least promising, and so her Recipe to Riches journey came to a close.
(Above: President's Choice Montreal Deli Dip)
Sometimes I wish we as viewers got to see a bit more of the “product development” portion of each R2R contest. In a way, the show is just as much about food marketing as it is about actual cooking; the former has a significant bearing on each episode’s ultimate outcome.
In this particular product launch we saw two opposite strategies. Kayode’s marketing team talked him into focusing very specifically on a target audience of 25- to 45-year-old men, presumably the largest demographic for extra-spicy hot sauce consumption. As a result, his product was rebranded rather aggressively (as “Tobman’s Fire Starter” sauce) for the young, male market. The judges criticized Kayode’s decision to go masculine, noting that it undersold the distinctiveness of his sauce. There are dozens of “heat for heat’s sake” hot sauces, they chided. The appeal of Kayode’s product was its complexity of flavours and textures. It should’ve been a gourmet sauce, not just something you’d eat on a dare.
The creative types, on the other hand, were unable not sway Cathy. She felt she knew exactly what her product was and to whom it would appeal, and stuck to her guns accordingly. While both her recipe and Kayode’s were well received at the launch event in front of Queen’s Park, it was revealed that Cathy’s Reuben-by-the-scoopful offering, though decadent, had broader appeal among the streetside samplers. Our four judges don’t often miss a good product when it’s right in front of them, and they never overlook a niche that’s waiting to be filled. In this case they agreed with public opinion. You’ll be seeing Cathy’s meaty Montreal Deli Dip on Loblaw’s store shelves this weekend.
If you missed it, you can watch the full episode here.
Look for Cathy Ferguson's President's Choice Montreal Deli Dip in grocery stores this weekend.
Craig is an editor at a Toronto-based city magazine. He also writes about all manner of cultural topics, including food culture.
by Craig Moy