Do Canadian shoppers want another meatball? How about some more food on a stick? Or perhaps a glorified risotto ball? The three home cooks on last night’s hors d’oeuvres–focused episode of Recipe to Riches certainly thought we did.
-Montreal student Benji Greenberg, who credited the Food Network with sparking his interest in cooking and enabling him to create his signature “curry crab sitck.”
–Belen Welch, an Ecuadorian ex-pat based in Dieppe, N.B., who hoped her cheese-stuffed, cumin-spiced quinoa balls would be “the new jalapeno popper.”
-Vancouver’s Jackie Koh, whose smoky Korean meatballs aimed to offer the perfect balance of sweet, spicy and savoury flavours.
(Above from left: Belén Welch, Benjamin Greenberg, Jackie Koh)
Our contestants entered the batch-up with trepidation. How would they ever fashion 500 servings of their product in just four hours? (Perhaps they should have asked last week’s cookie- and square-makers for advice; they had to turn out 1,000 portions!) Well, for starters, things tend to be easier when your recipe basically amounts to “combine all the ingredients in a big gooey mess, dole out individual balls and/or mounds, and then cook.” That was pretty much the premise for each of the three aspiring appetizers.
For a time, things seemed to be going smoothly for Belen and Benji. Like good cooks, they were keeping a close eye on their ingredients. On the other hand, Jackie ended up being almost too vigilant. The onion juice (onion juice?!?) that she’d been given wasn’t up to snuff, so she had her team spend a considerable amount of time squeezing out a large quantity of liquid from fresh onions. Her refusal to compromise almost cost her the challenge even before judging took place, as she was very nearly unable to complete her recipe in the allotted time.
And yet she emerged unscathed from both the kitchen and the judges’ table. Instead it was Belen’s quinoa that quite didn’t pass muster. The concept was excellent—a vegetarian-friendly nibble that was nonetheless packed with protein—but apparently the batch-up batch was heavy with cheese, which overwhelmed the flavours of the quinoa and cumin and thus, the uniqueness of the recipe.
(Above: President’s Choice Triple “S” Korean Meatballs)
So it was Jackie and Benji who were given the opportunity to shill their culinary wares to a test audience of Toronto office workers. I was pleased to see Benji eschew the ubiquitous idea of using dancers to entice people to try his product. Of course, cut to the next shot and Jackie talking about hiring some Korean fan dancers for her own launch. Alas.
Neither event proved wholly satisfying (Jackie’s dancers were late and she was a bit of a pushy salesperson, and Benji’s carnival theme was criticized as being low-brow), but that didn’t stop people from savouring the food. Both offerings scored rather well in Recipe to Riches sophisticated Enjoy it/Buy it/Recommend it metric. The judges also seemed equally enamoured of Benji’s “spiked” crab bites and Jackie’s rechristened “Empress” meatballs, and so were forced to make a decision based on some serious nitpicking. Honestly, I’m not sure if they made the right choice in selecting Jackie’s smoky-spicy hors d’oeuvre. Do Canadian’s really love our meatballs as much as Galen Weston thinks? Is Korean food still all the rage? I’d would’ve been much more likely to pick up a coconut-battered mango-flecked crab cake, especially seeing how it was on a stick. Look for Jackie’s President’s Choice Triple “S” Korean Meatballs in grocery stores this weekend.
If you missed it, watch the full episode here.
Craig is an editor at a Toronto-based city magazine. He also writes about all manner of cultural topics, including food culture.
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