Host kitchens across B.C. are buzzing as two talented young chefs use their facilities to fine tune their skills in a final push to prepare for the prestigious National and International Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Jeunes Chefs Competitions.

Chef Gus Koenigsfest, the Canadian National Jeunes Chefs Rôtisseurs champion in 2019, is set to represent the Maple Leaf at the 2021 International competition to take place in Paris this September. That event will see Gus test his culinary prowess against a field of top young talents from around the world.

Meanwhile, Gus’s former colleague, Chef Leah Patitucci, who won the B.C. regional Jeunes Chefs Rôtisseurs competition in 2018, has been selected by the Vancouver Bailliage to compete at the 2021 Canadian National Jeunes Chefs Competition, slated to take place in Winnipeg in October.

Gus and Leah, both of whom entered the Chaîne Jeunes Chefs Rôtisseurs program under the mentorship of award-winning Chef Scott Jaeger, are well prepared to meet the rigors and challenges of culinary competition. Gus, who currently works at Vancouver’s renowned Published on Main restaurant, is also a member of Junior Culinary Team Canada. Leah, who works at Mission Hill Winery in Kelowna, has advanced her own professional development by working at key establishments across Canada and currently serves with Junior Culinary Team Canada as part of the management team.

Over the next month both Gus and Leah will participate in a series “black box” practices designed to help them further hone their creative and culinary skills. The black box, which is used at both the National and International Jeunes Chefs Rôtisseurs competitions, involves a secret selection of ingredients that all competitors must feature in their menu.

The members of the Vancouver Bailliage are very proud of the accomplishments of Chefs Gus Koenigsfest and Leah Patitucci and wish both young competitors all the very best in the exciting competitions to come.

MEET LEAH PATITUCCI 

Leah Patitucci, the talented young chef who took first place at the Vancouver Bailliage’s regional Jeunes Chefs Rôtisseurs competition in 2018, has been selected by the Bailliage to represent BC at the prestigious 2021 Canadian National Jeunes Chefs (JCR) Competition, slated to take place in Winnipeg in October.

Leah, who first entered the Chaîne Jeunes Chefs Rôtisseurs program under the mentorship of award-winning Chef Scott Jaeger, is a seasoned competitor who is well prepared to meet the challenges of culinary competition. Currently employed as a chef at the elegant Mission Hill Winery in Kelowna, Leah has advanced her professional development over the past few years by working at key establishments across Canada. She also serves with Junior Culinary Team Canada as part of the management team.

Over the next month Leah will participate in a series “black box” practices designed to help her prepare for the upcoming National competition.

The members of the Vancouver Bailliage are very proud of Leah’s accomplishments and wish her all the very best in the exciting culinary competition to come.

NOTE: The Vancouver Bailliage was forced to cancel its both its 2020 and 2021 JCR competitions due to COVID-19 health regulations. JCR competition bylaws permit a Bailliage to appoint a competitor. Our hope is to have the JCR competition return in 2022.

MEET GUS KOENIGSFEST

From ‘helping’ his mom cook dinner at home to getting caught asleep in front of the TV on the Food Network after a ‘sick day’ from school, Gus Koenigsfest had a passion for cooking from a young age. Born and raised in North Vancouver, Gus always knew that this was what he wanted to do.

Gus got his first taste of a professional kitchen at the age of 15 at the Cactus Club Café, working as a dishwasher on weekends. Over time, he worked his way up through the line, and his passion and drive to get better only grew. He loved the fast-paced, high-pressure environment of the kitchen as well as the camaraderie among the staff.

In his last year of high school, Gus was able to participate in the ACE-it program through VCC and the North Vancouver School District, allowing him to spend afternoons earning the first step to his Red Seal and get the foundation that every cook needs to succeed. Through the program, Gus also had the opportunity to be a support member of Culinary Team Canada and go the 2016 Culinary Olympics in Erfurt, Germany, where he would meet his mentor and Vancouver Conseiller Culinaire, Chef Scott Jaeger of the Pear Tree Restaurant. Gus started to stage with Chef Jaeger while finishing his ACE-it program, and when a spot on the team opened, he attained a full-time position at the restaurant. This started Gus’ ascent to a more polished cook and competitor: “Working under Chef Jaeger, I really got to learn a more refined and technical approach to cooking.

During his more than three years at the Pear Tree, Gus competed at the regional Chaine competition twice, finishing as runner up the first time, and winning in his second attempt. He competed against other Pear Tree cooks both years: “Cooking against the people you work with every day adds an interesting aspect to the competition, where you’re practicing with the person that, in the end, you really want to beat. I think in a way it pushed me harder because I would see the plates they put up and think,‘Wow, I need to step it up!’

Gus has an approach to cooking that he thinks gives him an edge: “I always make it a focus to try to have the best time possible on the day. I think you cook better when you’re loose and happy, rather than being overly intense. That doesn’t mean I’m smiling ear to ear the whole time, but when I feel like things aren’t going right, I’ll take a second and realize that I’m doing what I love.  I had better enjoy it, or what am I doing here?

After his National win in Calgary, Gus is feeling more driven and inspired than ever. He will continue to train primarily under Chef Jaeger and, with the international competition in Paris less than two months away, Gus is eager to get back to spending his weekends in the kitchen and doing his best to make it three wins in a row for Canada.

It really is an honour to represent your country, and definitely something I never thought I’d have the chance to do. I’m so grateful to Chef Jaeger for all the work he puts in coaching and teaching me every day. I’m looking forward to the adventures of the next year all around Canada, and hopefully I can bring it home for us again.