Halfway between his victory at the Edmonton Gold Medal Plates competition last October and the Canadian Culinary Championships in February, Jan Trittenbach observed the winter solstice. For him, it was more than the first day of winter and the shortest day of the year; the date represented a complete overhaul of his menu at Solstice Seasonal Cuisine on 124th Street, as well as the restaurant’s first anniversary in business.
Being dynamic is routine for Trittenbach, and it’ll serve him well this month when he competes in Kelowna, B.C. to defend Edmonton’s title in the Canadian Culinary Championships. It was Top 40 Under 40 alumnus Ryan O’Flynn, then at the Westin Edmonton’s Share, who took home the gold (and a shiny new BMW) last year.
“Edmonton is starting to get a little bit of recognition now,” says Trittenbach, sitting down at a table at Solstice, “and that’s huge.” He has been instrumental in securing some of that recognition: this is the second time he has won Gold Medal Plates (the first was in 2011) and gone on to represent the city at the national level, and by now he’s got it down to a science. “The harmonies in Chef Trittenbach’s dish were just perfect,” said head judge James Chatto of last October’s effort in a press release. Trittenbach’s submission, a duo of stuffed pork roulade and pork belly on a pistachio and beet “soil,” won him the unanimous praise of the judges.
“I’m a little bit more calm about it,” Trittenbach says, referring to the upcoming finale. “The good thing is now I know what it’s like out there; I know what the competition is like, how it looks and where to go shopping, so that’ll definitely help me.”
Other than for the benefit to their careers, chefs compete in Gold Medal Plates to raise money for Canada’s Olympic athletes. This makes it tempting to borrow from the sports lexicon: O’Flynn was a dark horse last year when he snagged Edmonton’s first victory in the championships and, now that the ball is in Trittenbach’s court, he trained vigorously for this month’s finals. He couldn’t compete last year – opening Solstice occupied most of his time – but now he’s ready to put what he has learned into practice.