Philippine culinary talent gained another boost with the recent win of Chef Jil Aranas at the 2015 Embassy Chef Challenge in Ottawa on November 5.
Competing with six chefs from other embassies, Chef Aranas ‘kinulob na itik’ entry, a favourite dish from her home province of Laguna was picked the People’s Choice Award from a pool of 300 gourmands and philanthropists who voted for the evening’s best dish.
Aranas also got a nod from the panel of judges that placed her first runner up in the Judge’s Choice category where Trinidad and Tobago’s Chef Resa Solomon-St.Lewis earned the top prize. Thailand was the judges’ choice for second runner up.
Aranas, who studied at Vancouver Community College, was 15 when she immigrated to Canada.
Chef Jil’s pineapple duck confit, topped with chicken liver jus, sat on a bed of white rice infused with coconut milk. Enriching the dish’s texture and flavors, Jil added chicken skin chicharon and smoked paprika kwek-kwek (deep fried quail eggs) on the side. Achara (pickled papaya slaw), minatamis na pinya (caramelized pineapple), kamote (sweet potato) chips and colorful edible flowers completed the culinary masterpiece.
“Jil Aranas is a jewel of the Filipino community. Driven by a quest for excellence in her field, she creates a positive impression of Filipino food culture among mainstream Canadians. Her pride in her cultural heritage pushes our native cuisine to emerge from under the radar in this culturally-diverse, cosmopolitan city of Ottawa,” Philippine Ambassador to Canada Petronila P. Garcia said of the award.
Born and raised in the Philippines where food is a big part of the culture, Chef Aranas migrated to Canada at the age of 15 to join family who were already residing in Ottawa. She is a proud alumni of Vancouver Community College (VCC) where she studied Culinary Arts, further developed her passion for food and fine cuisine and launched her culinary career. It was through VCC networking and volunteering that Chef Aranas landed a job at the Fairmont Pacific Rim under former Executive Chef David Wong, 2009 Bocuse d’Or Representative.
She has participated in various culinary competitions, winning her first Gold Medal at the Eat Vancouver Salon in 2009. In 2011, she was part of the Junior Olympic Team Canada that placed second overall in Dublin, Ireland and, together with the team, she was awarded the Vancouver Mayor’s Arts Award in 2011. In May 2013, Chef Aranas finished in second place at the annual Maple Leaf Signature Dish competition. In Ottawa, Ms. Aranas has worked under renowned chefs Marc Lepine (Atelier Restaurant); John Morris (National Arts Centre); Jud Simpson (The House of Commons), and most recently Duane Lepine (Rideau Club).
The Embassy Chef Challenge is an annual fundraising event of the IBD Foundation to help fund state-of-the-art equipment for a specialized pediatric inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) procedure at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO).