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Gold Medal Plates: Toronto preview Add to ...

This is the last in a series of regional previews for Gold Medal Plates, Canada's top culinary competition. Chefs will battle for the national title next week in Vancouver.

Toronto has yet to win a national crown, so the pressure is on for whoever takes home the gold tomorrow. And with neither of the past two Toronto winners - Anthony Walsh of Canoe in 2007, Patrick Lin of Senses in 2008 - returning this year, a new champion is guaranteed tomorrow.

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The favourite

Narrowly beat out by chef Makoto Ono at the inaugural 2006 national competition, chef Mark McEwan is the hands-down favourite this year. He knows how to please a crowd, cooking for hundreds every day at his restaurants and through his company's catering arm (as documented in his TV series, The Heat ), and he now runs a gourmet grocery store. Expect classically inspired dishes with lots of delicacies.

The challenger

If anyone can upset the McEwan juggernaut it's Nota Bene chef David Lee. Chef Lee's cooking since leaving Splendido last year has become more casual and yet even more refined. The chef loads his dishes (such as his pulled suckling pig and boudin noir tart) with immense flavours and slick, richly satisfying textures. Having recently returned from a European culinary tour, he'll bring fresh inspiration.

The wild card

There's a lot of tough competition, but keep an eye on Langdon Hall's immensely talented chef, Jonathan Gushue. The only Relais and Châteaux Grand Chef in the competition, his inventive, seasonally based cooking - try the lobster knuckle and snail Bolognese - is as fun to eat as it is delicious.

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