Chef Tyler Leeson of Raudz Regional Table in Kelowna sautÃ©s some onions on Friday. Leeson will vie for the B.C. Chef of the Year title this weekend in Vancouver.
And fellow Kelowna chef Ross Derrick is tired of finishing in second place.
Such attributes will serve both men well this weekend as they duke it out in the kitchen. They are competing with six other cooks from across the province at the B.C. Chef of the Year contest at the Vancouver Convention Centre as part of the B.C. Foodservice Expo.
The local chefs qualified for the provincial competition by passing a rigorous application process, but didn't have to actually cook anything.
So this weekend's competition is when the spoon hits the pan, so to speak, with serious cooking.
"Of course, I want to win," said Leeson, who works at Raudz Regional Table in downtown Kelowna.
"I'm excited not just for the competition, but for the people I will meet and learn from there, the trip to Vancouver and eating out at some great restaurants in downtown Vancouver.
Derrick has being runner-up in a string of challenges, most recently the Stone Soup competition in Kelowna.
"It's time to be No. 1," said Derrick, who works at the Grand Bay Cafe in the Delta Grand hotel in downtown Kelowna. "I'm really looking forward to the black box competition."
The contest is so called because the mystery ingredients for the contest are delivered to chefs in the kitchen in a black box.
The cooks then have 30 minutes to put together an appetizer for judging from what's in the box.
If they pass the first round, it's on to the second round, another black box of mystery ingredients and another 30 minutes to create an entree.
Those who make the third and final round get another box, more ingredients and another half-hour to whip up dessert.
"Thirty minutes is enough time to do something great," said Derrick. "It's also enough time to really screw it up."
Leeson competed last year as well and while his tuna gazpacho appetizer went over well, he was roasted on the second round when he went overtime.
It's so-called because the chefs that don't make it to the next round are "roasted" from the competition.
It's hard to prepare for a black-box contest because the mystery ingredients thrown at the chefs can be as simple as scallops or as bizarre as pig heart, camel tenderloin or lamb kidneys.
As such, chefs have to rely on the good techniques they've developed over their careers, knowledge of all kinds of foods and combinations and ability to be innovative and spontaneous.
The winner of this weekend's B.C. Chef of the Year title qualifies to move onto Edmonton in June to compete at the Canadian Culinary Federation national convention.
There's also B.C. Chinese Chef of the Year and Hot (for junior chefs and apprentices) competitions at the B.C. Foodservice Expo.