By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – A 13-year-old Georges H. Primeau student cooked up the right stuff over the weekend, beating out high school and university students to earn Morinville a provincial award. Cole Dribnenky competed in the 2011 Communities ChooseWell Iron Chef competition in Edmonton Oct. 15 and took top spot in the event.
“I felt a little bit nervous at first,” Dribnenky said, noting despite his initial nervousness, he was confident in how he would do in the competition.
The young chef said there were five teams of two chefs – each team consisting of one youth and one mentor. Dribnenky’s mentor was Phil Hughes of Premium Food Services in Legal.
“We did really well together,” Dribnenky said of working with the well-known local chef who is also a councillor for the Town of Legal. “I think that’s another reason why we won – because we had such good cooperation.” But while the culinary duo worked well together, Hughes’ role was more an advisory and subordinate one – the seasoned chef acting in the background while Dribnenky lead the charge in his contest kitchen as head chef.
“We had to use Saskatoons and pork tenderloin,” Dribnenky said, noting he and Hughes had met the night before to discuss what Saturday’s menu would consist of. “We did a pork tenderloin, herb crusted with a blueberry-rhubarb wine reduction Saskatoon sauce, a garlic risotto, and some asparagus that were fried with butter.”
The young chef’s mentor was pleased with the young chef’s performance Saturday. “I though he did really well,” Hughes said, noting their pre-competition meeting outlined clearly each of their roles in the contest. “You could tell he’s really used to the kitchen. The kid knows his stuff. It was quiet. The kitchen was clean. It was unbelievable what the kid did. I was very impressed.”
Dribnenky said it was a good experience taking the lead in the kitchen, something he feels will benefit him in the future. “It helped me in learning how to run a kitchen because I want to be doing that when I grow up,” The young chef said, adding his future career aspirations include owning and running a five-star restaurant.
But the provincial win is something that has set Dribnenky well on the path to achieving those dreams. The Alberta Iron Chef said he was quite surprised to learn we won on Saturday.
“I sort of couldn’t believe it because I thought there were some teams that would have done a little bit better because some of them were older and more experienced,” the young chef said. “I thought some of them might have had a bit of an edge, but I was blown away [by the win].”
Early interest in cooking
The Oct. 15 victory was an opportunity for Dribnenky to show skills he has been accumulating and honing over the past few years. “I’ve been helping [with] lunch and supper about two to three years, just helping in the kitchen,” he said. “I really liked how my mom and my dad were able to make really good dishes, and I wanted to be able to cook something good for them one night. So I started cooking because I really liked the experience of learning how to do things.”
Dribnenky said he has improved his abilities over the past few years largely by assisting with the preparation of family meals. Additionally, the Primeau student has taken home economics last year and will be taking it again this year.
Although he has had myriad experiences at home and at school, and now with Chef Hughes, Dribnenky said he does not have one favourite or signature dish. “I don’t really have a favourite; I just like cooking all types of foods,” he said, noting many of his creations come from family and other recipes that he has added his own unique twist to. “I sort of put a spin on the recipes in the cook books. My parents have some home-made recipes, so I change that up a little bit. I make a garlic rotini and I changed the rotini for orzo. That went very well.”
Not only is Dribnenky’s cooking going very well for himself and those who get to sample his kitchen creations; the Town of Morinville has benefitted from his culinary expertise.
Along with a flashy new orange chef’s jacket and some high-end cooking knives, the 2011 Communities ChooseWell Iron Chef award carries with it a $2,500 prize for the community. Recreational and Cultural Coordinator Melonie Dziwenka said the prize money, won by a Morinville youth, will be used for programs that support other Morinville youth, possibly some cooking programs.