Abbey’s Kitchen Stadium #AKS


A couple of Sundays ago, a few hundred people gathered inside the MOD club during the day. There was good food, celeb chefs, a member of Rush and many hungry individuals brought together by a great cause and love of food. So what was all this for? Abbey’s Kitchen Stadium that’s what!

What is Abbey’s Kitchen Stadium?

Organized by registered dietician and recipe/food writer Abbey Sharp, AKS is sort of like Iron Chef, with chefs and “secret” ingredients, but with the goal to raise money for a local food initiative called My Food My Way. Started by TDSB and Toronto Education Workers, their goal is to:

change the culture of food in Toronto’s homes, schools and communities. And we know we can’t do that by saying eat this and don’t eat that. No one likes being told what to do…
What we want is to transform the experience of food through things like design, technology, music, celebrity culture, competitions and go-to events. We’re going to educate and empower young people so they can make healthy choices and make positive changes for themselves.”

First off, as a future teacher and avid foodie, this is an amazing initiative! There is so much more to learning beyond the four walls of the classroom and as teachers, we should be cognizant to that. I could go on ranting about the teaching profession and the importance of making healthy well-informed choices when it comes to eating, it’d become a really long post so many not.

This was the third installment of AKS and the first one that I was able to make. It was not only well organized, but everyone there seemed to have had good time and the food, great

Each time, 4 chefs compete for a spot in the final instamment, the "series finale" which will be at The Delicious Food Show on October the 27th! (get your tickets now!). This installment saw Tom Davis (Stockyards), Carl Heinrich (Richmond Station), Dustin Gallagher (Acadia), and Dave Sidhu (PlayaCabana) compete. I’m not sure if they did this in previous installments but there were also four student “sous” from Thistletown C.I. who helped the chefs out too! That was such a fantastic idea! Can’t wait to get my students turned onto French (and food of course! :D).

Secret ingredient: All the Best Fine Food’s Ontario Apple Sauce. It was used in a multitude of different ways in the chefs’ dishes. Couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into all the food!
Prepped apple tarte tatin!

Another great way to raise funds besides the ticket sales (only $10/ticket), there was a raffle with some pretty jaw-droppingly good prizes. Think $200 gift certificate to Richmond Station, a tasting at Acadia worth $250, and a RUSH prize pack!

The guest judges were a notable bunch too: Liem Vu (Global Morning Show), Dee Brun (Cocktail Deeva), Vikram Vij (celebrity chef/restauranteur), SusanMerry (All the Best Fine Foods) and Alex Lifeson (from Rush).  

The lines for food moved quickly, music was playing, people mingled and raffle draws were conducted at regular intervals (that really helped pick things up). Again, impressed by how smoothly the event ran! Time for food pics? Time for food pics.
Limonana available for sale. In the back, the woman behind it all, Chef Véronique (Crêpes à Go Go).

With a friend of mine, we were able to try everything offered, 2 dishes per chef for a total of 8 different items. Everything was priced at $5 each and you simply had to buy food tickets and you’re good to go.  

Tom Davis – Smoked duck spam with simple mash, broccoli greens & apple mushroom gravy
Playful spin on a classic. (Sidenote, can you believe SPAM’s been around for 75 years now?!).

Tom Davis – Deep fried Korean quail with an apple chili glaze, served over an apple buttermilk biscuit
I was surprised to see two quail dishes here. Is apple + quail a thing? When I think Korean + deep fry, I think of KFC (Korean fried chicken) which have this amazing crunchy crust! Would’ve been cool to see that here too, especially since I hear the best things about the fried chicken from Stockyards.

Dustin Gallagher – Apple BBQ with celery and sorrel
Quail so delicious. The presentation here ain’t the most groundbreaking, but that’s not important. What I really appreciated was the time and effort it took to debone the quail, leaving behind just the drumette bone. This was impossibly moist and exactly how quail should be.

Dustin Gallagher – Apple tarte tatin with spiced crème anglaise
With a secret ingredient like apple sauce, how can you not make some sort of pie! Simple but sometimes, that’s exactly what you need. :D   

Dave Sidhu – Tamales with apple braised lamb & Chihuahua cheese with salsa manzana
First time having a blue corn in a form other than a chip. I liked the texture, sorta grainy but I felt it could’ve used more flavour. I preferred the other tamale, braised lamb yum!  

Dave Sidhu – Apple sauce churros
There was a bit of a wait for these. Worth it? I’d say yes. Loved the apple sauce inside.

Carl Heinrich – Apple cinnamon creamsicle with walnuts, gingerbread
This was the dessert offering by Richmond Station’s uber talented pastry chef, Farzam Fallah (cannot believe we’re the same age! I feel so unaccomplished compared to him). I absolutely loved this! Perfect texture. A final dunking into an apple sauce, crumbled gingerbread on top and it’s ready!

Carl Heinrich – Apple braised pork ribs with apple fennel slaw
What a generous portion of ribs! Heard people raving about it and justly so. The slaw had a bit too much vinegar in it for me but I could eat those ribs all day long! Chef Heinrich mentioned how at the restaurant, they only bring in whole animals, so to collect enough ribs for AKS took them several months! That kind of dedication is admirable!

Thanks Farzam and Carl for pausing a bit to take a few photos with me! :3

All The Best also gave out Sesame Cheddar Cheese Straws as we left.
Mmm cheesy! And rather addictive.

WINNER: After careful deliberation, the judges chose Dustin Gallagher from Acadia! :D A well-deserved win. But the real winner in all this, My Food My Way and by association, students around the city! I’m so excited to see how I can be a part of this initiative when I start teaching. Also very happy that I was finally able to attend this installment of AKS after missing the first two! Abbey, I salute you for bringing light to such a great cause that is MFMW.

The finale will be next Sunday, October 27 4-6pm at the Delicious Food Show. Watch the final four chefs, Matt Basile (Fidel Gastros), Dustin Gallagher (Acadia), Rodney Bowers (Hey Meatball) and Bruce Woods (Woods Restaurant) go head to head. Same format, secret ingredient, 2 dishes each, $5 per offering and student sous chefs! Grab your tickets here.