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richmondchefCopied from Richmond Review: Richmond chefs whisk for podium finish By Martin van den Hemel – Richmond Review – April 30, 2008 Mickey Zhao (right), with potential pastry support team members Patrice Cordier (left) and Dominique Jarry, is going to the Culinary Olympics. Mark Patrick Two locals hope to whisk Richmond’s fine-food reputation into the stratosphere during the Culinary Olympics in Erfurt, Germany this October. Richmond’s Mickey Zhao, owner of St. Germain Bakery at Aberdeen Centre, has been named the head pastry chef for Canada’s entry in the 40-nation competition, which like its athletic equivalent is held every four years. Dominique Jarry, former owner of Sugar Art in Steveston, hasn’t formally been named to the pastry support team, but that is expected to happen later this year.

Zhao told The Richmond Review Wednesday he was extremely honoured to be named to the team. “That means a lot to me,” he said. For Zhao, a skill with all things sweet, fluffy and delicious was nurtured into him by his father, who was a pastry chef as well. And Zhao is no stranger to the high-stakes pressure in the kitchen that comes with representing his country. He was a pastry support team member when Canada garnered its first-ever gold medal in pastries in 2004. This time around, Zhao has been asked to take the reins as head pastry chef, and he said he will do his best not to disappoint. “That’s a very big step for me to come into that position.” Though the competition is still nearly six months away, Zhao said he’s holding weekly meetings with his team to develop the best cuisine to represent Canada. John Carlo Felicella, manager of Culinary Team Canada and head of the culinary department at Vancouver Community College, said Canada already has a world-class reputation for its food, and that’s something they hope to enhance.

The team comprises six chefs, and another 16 support members, and has been assembled by Felicella to compete in events all over the world. Some members are chefs, some are restaurant owners, some are teachers. The team practices five days per month. Being part of the team entails committing three months of the year for one show. “That’s a lot of work. Plus we have to raise money…not only through sponsorship but through (fundraising).” To compete in the four-day event in Germany will cost $250,000, and the team will cook for 110 invited guests, including four anonymous judges. The team—with members from New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba and Newfoundland—will be graded on presentation, taste, originality and nutritional value, among other things.

Zhao was formally trained at George Brown College Chef School in Toronto, taking a three-year pastry apprenticeship program. And while apprenticing, he was selected to the national youth team, which earned medals during international events in Holland and Singapore, among other places. Zhao also earned his stripes while working as the pastry sous chef at the “busiest hotel in the world,” the Marriott Marquis in New York City for three years. And while working in New York, Canada’s national team flew him back to Canada on a monthly basis for competitions and practices. Jarry, whose specialty is sugar, chocolate and show pieces, said he’s been asked in the past to compete, but has been too busy running his business. Now that he’s semi-retired, he said he’s prepared to represent Canada. He’s spending a couple of hours a day designing the piece for the German competition, and said the show piece will take four hours a day for a month to make. What does it entail? Well that’s a secret that won’t be unveiled until competition time. Billed as the most prestigious culinary competition in the world, the IKA International Culinary Olympics will be held from Oct. 19 to 22 and the event will see more than 2,000 chefs competing for their respective countries.