A recipe for competition
Nolan Moskaluk is ready to open a mystery box of ingredients and race against the clock to compose a three-course menu in just four hours.
The challenge — set for Saturday, Sept. 21 at SAIT’s Culinary Campus — is part of the Canadian National Jeunes Chefs competition, put on by the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs International Association of Gastronomy. To win, young chefs must demonstrate creativity, grit and an exceptional knowledge of what makes a dish delicious.
One part passion, two parts SAIT education
Nolan first said he wanted to be a chef when he was just two years old.
Of course, he had no idea what it meant at the time, but as he grew, so did his culinary dream.
“SAIT was producing chefs who were making names for themselves and furthering the industry,” he says of his decision to enroll in Professional Cooking in 2013. “I thought, if I’m going to go for it, it has to be SAIT.”
In his second year, he was introduced to baking and pastry — an area well outside his comfort zone.
“Until then, I just wanted to play with knives and fire,” he says.
But two instructors — Volker Baumann and Guy Vaugeois — inspired him to return to SAIT for Baking and Pastry Arts.
Add international seasoning
The story of a wee island off the western coast of Scotland would push Nolan in an international direction.
“A chef mentor told me about this tiny hotel on a tiny island with incredible food and its own massive garden,” he says.
It took two tries to make it to the Argyll Hotel Iona — he was turned down on his first phone call in 2016. In 2018, the answer was yes.
“They actually remembered me,” he says, laughing. “The Canadian kid who called out of the blue two years earlier.”
Working as both the hotel’s sous and pastry chef on a small team of four, Nolan reveled in the abundance of fresh, local ingredients. Fisherman delivered seafood caught minutes earlier, and local ranchers provided the organic lamb.
For Nolan, though, the highlight was the garden.
“It was three acres, and every inch of it was full,” he says.
Gardeners dropped off bundles of fresh herbs and vegetables. For pastries, Nolan worked with whatever was in season — strawberries, gooseberries, black currants.
“And rhubarb,” he adds. “I probably worked with 200 kilos of rhubarb.”
Turn up the heat
To compete in the Canadian National Jeunes Chefs, Nolan needed a Chaîne des Rôtisseurs sponsor and a win at regionals.
That sponsor was Vince Parkinson, a player in Canada’s culinary competition scene and the former head chef of the Calgary Golf and Country Club — Nolan’s current employer.
Now preparing for nationals, Nolan is focused on the two elements that will matter most — speed and taste.
He’s no stranger to the black box competition. Part of his daily routine at the country club is to assess the ingredients on hand and write four menu specials — a talent that will serve him well in the challenge.
“If I’m honest, I don’t mind losing — I just want to have fun and learn something,” he says.
Dig in and enjoy
Nolan hopes to run his own restaurant someday.
In the meantime, his sights are set on two restaurants — The Black Swan at Olstead in the UK and New York State’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns.
“They both focus on fresh, local ingredients,” he says. “I’d love to work at either.”