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Gold Medal Plates: St. John's preview Add to ...

This is the latest in a series of previews for Gold Medal Plates. Canada's top culinary competition has chefs vying for the chance to represent their city at the national competition in Vancouver Nov. 27-28.

Tomorrow will be the first time a regional Gold Medal Plates competition has been held in Newfoundland, and the event has attracted some of the province's best talent. Here are our picks:

The Favourite

Atlantica, a restaurant located in the Beach House Hotel in tiny Portugal Cove, Nfld., was my pick for the best new restaurant in Canada in 2007. Chef Jeremy Charles's wholesome, soulful and deeply flavourful cooking is going to be a strong contender. He draws on classic French and Italian tradition to inform his cooking: the most savoury duck confit, an utterly compelling Bolognese.

The Challenger

Formerly the head chef of the much-loved local institution Restaurant 21, Brian Abbott moved recently to another numerically inspired restaurant - Seven. Reflecting the mood of the St. John's food scene, he is working in a decidedly modern style. At the restaurant, he turns the classic pork scrunchions into a jelly, and smoked cod into "lollypops."

The Wild Card

Chef Mark McCrowe is conversant in any number of international cuisines. That's apparent in his cooking at his restaurant, Aqua. A typical menu might move from Japan (salmon sashimi with wasabi miso dressing) to Thailand (coconut curry seafood soup) to Newfoundland (steamed local mussels with honey brown ale and grilled bread). He is expected to serve cod cheeks and scrunchions - maybe the hometown edge he needs for the victory.

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