Friday, September 16, 2011

Annato Seed and Guajilo Braised Pork Tacos

I love mexican cuisine. Real latin flavours. It's extremely balanced - the freshness of a salsa, a warm toasted corn tortilla, spicy and unapologetically so. It's food that's really simple and incredibly delicious. You want more - alot more. I often crave a great taco and it's complex flavours. So I make it at home, cuz I haven't found an awesome place for this kinda stuff in Toronto. At the Black Hoof, there was the pork carnitas on the menu, pork shoulder in an annato seed broth seasoned with some bitter orange, I liked it. So I made it at home, and did it my way. I got some pork shoulder from Sanagan's Meat Locker, my butcher in Kensington Market. I cut it up into nice portions and gave it a nice sear to get some carmelization and build the flavour of the braise. Some guajilo and pasilla chiles were toasted and shredded to give the broth some kick.


I deglazed the pan with water and dissolved the achiote paste into the water. I poured the broth over the pork and let it cook over a low heat for 3 hours. The broth should reduce a lot to get a strong flavour, concentrating the smoky achiote, and earthy chile, not to mention the delicious pork flavour in the broth. I made a nice guacamole with avocado, lime, olive oil, salt and onion brunoise to accompany the braise. I charred some onion, tomatillos, fresh from my garden and some garlic for a salsa. The onion and tomatillo were diced and the garlic finely chopped. A chipolte pepper in adobo was minced for a touch of heat. Lime, olive oil and salt finished it up. I shredded the meat added the sauce and loaded the braised pork mixture into a nice warm corn tortilla.


These were some really excellent tacos. Punchy, strong flavours - what latin cuisine is about. The strong smokiness came through from the achiote and chiles, but was cut by the acid in the charred tomatillo-onion salsa. Guacamole added some smooth richness and refreshed the palette. My parents loved these. My dad. who is semi-vegetarian was happilly indulging in animal flesh, which is very unusual. It one of the simplest things I have made, yet one of the most delicious.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Apprenticing at the Black Hoof

There's a reason (or a few) why my blogging has practically ceased over the past little while. It's because it's summer and I've been busy staging at the Black Hoof with chef Grant van Gameren. Throughout the summer, I've really understood alot more about what there is to know about restaurants and what it takes to cook, work and own a restaurant. It is tough business - a really tough one. At times, I've questioned why I want to be a chef. I came to the conclusion that in the restaurant business it's all about being passionate about your work - cooking, making people happy with food. Those who don't have that burning passion will quickly burn out.

At the Black Hoof, my understanding of cooking and creating dishes has changed in ways. You really need to criticize yourself and everything. Why things work, why they don't, how they work together and how it can be improved. A dish can take many trials to perfect, but in the end it's how the chef critisizes themself that will define the destiny of the dish. You can instantly put something good on the menu. Or you can try again to make it great, then excellent, then perfect. That drive is what really defines a chef.

At the Hoof, I've learned about charcuterie - preserving meat through salt - and expanded my knowledge on cooking. I've learned a bit about making prosciutto, different salamis, sausages and dry-cured foods. I learned about fermentation and pickling and sous vide.

One of the things I enjoyed most was cooking a 3-course meal for Grant van Gameren. It was a great experience to have him critique some dishes that I cooked for him - things he liked and things him didn't.

It looked much nicer in reality...

First Course - Grilled Niagara Peach, Compressed Radish, Pickled Shallots, Thai basil puree and Nasturtium.
This was his favourite dish and he said it would go on the menu! He liked the bright flavours and balance of all the ingredients the sweet-charred complexity of tree-ripen peaches with the acidity of pickled shallots and pepperiness of radish and nasturtium. The thai basil puree didn't go that great...I barely had any so I had to add too much water when pureeing then thicken with xanthan gum because it was too thin.

Second Course: Licorice marinated Beef heart, Blackberries, Arugula Confit and fried Olives.
His second favourite. The heart was "cooked nicely" though slightly over for his palette. The plating was "beautiful" on the first two courses, however the dish didn't really come together. The licorice I should have incorporated in a different way, through maybe fennel or a fennel pollen crust. The blackberries made into a glaze and the olives I should have fried more...


Last Course: Carbonated Raspberries, Rosehip Ice Cream, Whipped Yogourt, Honey Braised Pistachios and Lavender Gel
This was his least favourite. The florality with the rosehip and lavender he found unappetizing. The ice cream, to strong, as well as the lavender gel. The berries got seeds stuck in his teeth and the pistachios had a chewy texture, in his opinion. I was confident with this dish, however I think I forgot that flavours should balance and these went towards flowery, whereas something tart or bitter could have changed the balance. The lavender too pungent, to the point of bitterness and the fluidity of the whipped yogourt in combination with the rosehips made this dish not very enjoyable.

In the end, I think I could have done much better with different dishes had I had more time to develop them especially the dessert. However, he was impressed with my execution and plating. It's awesome that the peach dish made it to the menu! Now that my stage at the Black Hoof is over I am grateful for the experience and opportunity that the apprenticeship provided me with!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sockeye Salmon, Seabean Confit, Grilled Mushrooms and Dill Emulsion

I love summer, yet I hate it simultaneously. With all the local and delicious produce growing in the summer my inspiration for new dishes skyrockets. However, the hot and at times unbearable weather makes long cooking projects illogical. There are a few dishes from the Alinea cookbook I wish I could replicate with fresh raspberries, tomatoes, etc. but these extremely complex dishes would render my house into a heatbox. So to putup with the weather most cooking is done outside on the chiminea. By chance, we found some nice wild salmon that was surprisingly fresh at Costco. Naturally, I did it up on the grill. Randomly, I made some gravalax (salt cured salmon) with salt, sugar, lemon, lime, orange and grapefruit zest plus dill that came out incredibly, so I rubbed some of the gravalax cure on the salmon destined for the grill. Meanwhile, some seabeans lightly poached in butter and dill was pureed then emulsified with lemon juice, olive oil and salt as a "sauce" for the salmon. My dad got the fire going on the chiminea and we were ready to rock and roll. First some portbello mushrooms were grilled up before the salmon hit the open flame.
There's something special about open flame cooking. The actual wood aroma gets subtly infused into the food. Potatoes wrapped in foil and thrown in the embers come out smokey and perfectly roasted/steamed. The best thing to do with these potatoes is actually to refrigerate them overnight then cook them for breakfast. Doing this makes the potato flesh aromatized. Home fries are smokey and delicious. The salmon once placed on the grill cooked in legit 2 mins. The skin got really crispy (my favourite) and charred, the meat was still blushing, which is how I like salmon. I find that if it gets cooked through it tends to have a fatty taste and a unpleasant mouthfeel. The salmon came off the grill without tearing and was quickly plated up. Altogether a nice dish. The seabeans were briny and still retained some crispness. The grilled portobellos were tender and meaty with the dill emulsion complimenting the salmon, a little "salad" of raw seabean and radish added some acid.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Lobster, Morels, Radish, Fennel, Ramps

Undoubtedly, my favourite ingredient is mushrooms. Their earthy complexity, meatiness and diversity of flavour is unrivalled. A lot of people I know dislike the delicious fungi which I find puzzling because they are awesomely delicious. No ingredient is as versatile as the humble mushroom. It comes in hundreds of edible varieties, each with a different shape, texture and flavour. None that I've eaten have come close to the perfection that is a morel mushroom. These curious fungi grow in the late spring here in Toronto, until early summer. The season is short, so it's best to eat them up before they disappear until next year. I picked some up for 39 dollars a pound at St. Lawerence Market, along with some lobster.

The specimens I bought at the Market!
My favourite way to appreciate the special flavour of a morel is by sauteing it in butter - ALOT of butter. It's ridiculously easy. Heat a generous amount of butter until very hot, then add the morels and let them bubble in the warm butter for several minutes until they have been cooked throughout. Don't eat them raw or undercooked - they will mildly poison you (vomiting and stomach pains), but through cooking they are 100% edible. You will know when they are done, the butter will have glazed them, they will be tender and have wilted almost. The next step is to take a high quality salt like Maldon or Fleur de Sel and generously sprinkle them with it. Serve morels with practically anything, meat, fish, vegetables. I served them with fennel puree, made by cooking fennel in milk with salt, then pureeing and straining the results. The lobster was taken out from the shell and reheated in it's juice and butter (I didn't want to bring home a live lobster myself, then kill it). It was a good dish, the lobster was tender and juicy, the morels earthy and rich like a meat. The fennel puree was smooth and subtle. Pickled ramps provided acidity to balance out the morels and lobster. Radishes added some pungency.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Summer weather finally has arrived in Toronto after a moderately cold winter. All those heavy winter clothes get shoved back in the closet till next year. Likewise, all those hearty winter foods get replaced by fresh and vibrant seasonal foods. For me, Vietnamese spring rolls are really representative of summer food. They are light and crisp and perfect for hot weather. You can eat them anywhere because they are portable. What really makes them is a salty, sweet, tart and complex dipping sauce. Something that's irresistible and delicious.


Slicing all the vegetables is usually the longest part of the process. Thankfully, my Nonna's meat slicer did the job nicely and created uniformly textured and sized strips of cabbage, carrot and onion. Thai basil and bean sprouts were also added.
The dipping sauce was a spicy tomato jam, made by cooking down tomatoes with onion in sesame oil, then adding fish sauce, thai basil stems (from flavour), rice vinegar, salt and sugar. The sauce simmered until it was thick and enormously flavoured.
From there I rolled out the spring rolls, adding a handful of the sliced vegetables into each rice paper roll. The rolls are really enjoyable and fun to make, albeit slightly repetitive. About 30 rolls later, I was done. In the end, these came out great. The filling was fresh, multicoloured and slightly bitter from the cabbage. The tomato jam was excellent - acidic, sweet, salty and refreshing on a hot day.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Black Hoof Review

I've been dying to go to the Black Hoof. Finally, my Mom took me there. What a great meal. There are no reservations, so that can mean having to wait in hour long line-ups for a taste of nose-to-tail eating. Luckily, Thursday nights are relaxed. We arrived at 6:00 (when it opens). Our server was Ian. He was very friendly and answered all our questions about the food. We were seated behind the open kitchen, so I could watch the cooks cooking our food. We started with the charcuterie platter. Shortly, the various charcuterie delights arrived along with bread, whole-grain mustard and lavender whipped lardo; ranging from mild to robust. First was a cappicollo. It was mild, rich and salty, however did not taste much different from the store bought stuff. Gorgeous blankets of cured duck breast were the highlight; their fat dissolving as it grazed your lip. They were incredible. Dry-cured fennel salami was sublime and porktastic. Horse bologni was good, yet not that great texturally. The bologni was more like a pate than a cured meat. It fell apart and was too soft. The lardo was interesting, it tasted like porky butter with a frothiness to it. The bread was really good. Our second order was the foie gras torcheon with honey gastrique and brioche. It was my first real foie gras experience. My first bite was mind-blowing. I just loved the texture. Silky, soft and melted as it warmed in your mouth. Truly a luxury product. It's flavour was indescribable. Not livery, not butter-like, but slightly sweet and unami-packed. My mom found the foie too rich and only had two bites. By the time I finished, I was really full. The foie was uber-delicious but need acidity desperately. The honey only help richen the dish not relieve richness. A beautiful compote of cherry, or some other fruit would have really worked wonders. Glazed pig belly was next. It arrived atop apple puree, ramp kimchee and generously glazed with a soy/hoisin glaze. Wow. The belly was sensational. The best dish of the night. Meltingly tender, salty and rich best describe it. The ramp kimchee was a perfect acidic addition and the apple puree was sublime. Next came N'duja sausage, a calabrese specialty with plentiful amounts of parsley, deep fried brussel sprouts and parmigiano cheese stacked over toast and arugula pesto. The sausage really was one of the best I've had. Taken out of the case, still moist then seared. I really enjoyed the bold seasoning in the dish, with parsley, garlic and arugula pesto. It was punchy and bold. All the flavours well incredibly well, the salty cured sausage, crisp toast, crunchy brussles sprouts, vibrant parsley, and smooth pesto. Next were salty nuggets of sweetbreads fried in butter came scattered along with slightly chewy ramps, tender fiddleheads and creamy potatoes. The sweetbreads really benefited from the smoking which added a layer of complexity to this relatively simple dish. A really delicious dish. All together, the Black Hoof is a definite come back. It's affordable, casual, and awesome. It's pretty surprising how this place still uses a four-burner electric stove to pump out food. I also loved the open kitchen, so I could see what the cooks were up to, searing the sweetbreads, glazing the pig belly, slicing the charcuterie. I would highly recommend.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sous-vide egg, radicchio, carrot, thyme.

 There's something truly special about eggs on a Sunday morning. It evokes nostalgia. The perfume of bacon frying invites your hunger in stomach. But sadly, there was no bacon today. So instead, I compensated with a sous-vide egg. Sous-vide, french for under vacuum, is a term generally applied to cooking under vacuum at a constant temperature.  Accuracy is a huge benefit. Like your steak perfectly medium-rare? Cook it sous-vide and you will never be disappointed. Professional equipment is expensive and bulky but a pot of water and a thermometer works if monitored carefully.


Eggs were submerged in a 65 degree Celsius water bath for 1 hour. The temperature stayed unusually constant. The sous-vide magic is still on my wish list though.


Accompanying the eggs were some carrots cooked in butter briefly. Radicchio was wilted in butter then sugar and cassis vinegar deglazed the pan.

Toast was fried in olive oil and thyme was picked from the garden.
The eggs were cracked, revealing the fluid white, and the custard-like egg. The pan-fried toast was the base for the radicchio and egg. The sous-vide eggs really were something different. They were cooked but not cooked. the yolk melted, yet did not ooze or burst like a poached egg. It's texture was luxuriously velvety. The carrots retained their freshness but were coated in butter producing a delicate sweetness. The radicchio was delicious. Really awesome. Crunchy, warm, bitter, yet sweet from caramelization and the addition of a pinch of sugar. The radicchio was absolutely perfect with the egg. All I wanted was some cured meat! Speck would have fit beautifully into the dish. The radicchio is 100% worth doing again.

Rhubarb, ricotta, strawberry, honey and lavender.

Rhubarb, fresh from the garden was my inspiration behind this dish. It's very exciting to see the season starting from all things delicious and local. One thing that's interesting is that rhubarb which is commonly used in dessert applications is actually a vegetable. It's tart and fibrous flesh is versatile for other uses besides pies and tarts. One thing that I really enjoy about rhubarb is it's freshness and refreshing qualities.

Rhubarb was peeled, trimmed and poached in a red bush tea syrup until tender. Poaching should be quick as the rhubarb loses it structure quickly and begins to turn mushy.

Ricotta ice cream was made with a combination of egg yolks, milk and sugar to form the custard base. Afterwards ricotta cheese was folded in and the mix was strained and churned, then frozen.

Equal weights of honey and water were combined with 0.6% Sodium Alginate, then spherified in a 1% Calcium Lactate bath to produce honey caviar. Alginate is kind of tricky to work with because and presence of calcium will trigger the solution to gel. After spherification, the caviar should be rinsed then removed from water to prevent any more "cooking".

Chopped almonds and coconut were candied in hard caramel. Addictive, crunchy and nutty.

The poaching syrup was reduced, the rhubarb chilled and some other garnished prepared before the dish was served.


The poaching syrup was the absolute highlight of this dish. Sweet, acidic, refreshing, with the nuanced flavours of the tea that mingled with the tartness and the rhubarb. The poached rhubarb was tender, sweet and sour - it balanced the flavours of the strawberry nicely. The honey caviar was interesting but somehow got over spherified and became too solid. The ice cream was incredibly thick and contained the lightness of the ricotta while attaining a smooth texture. The lavender flowers added a herbaceous note that uplifted the dish. Really good all together, although I tend to over-think dishes often. Flavour and texture in the end are the most important.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Thai-style Pork Belly with Seared and Pickled King Oyster Mushrooms, Braised and Crispy Leek, Coconut Gel and Lemongrass Jus



Pork belly...pork belly...yum. It's bacon in it's un-smoked and un-cured state in it's delicious fatty glory. I picked one up one week ago at Sanagan's Meat Locker, my favourite butcher (he sells only locally-raised, organic, quality meats in Kensington Market). What I love about them, is that they have honestly good prices for their products, unlike some other places which can create quite a hole in my wallet. The price for their pork belly? 3.99 per pound. AWESOME! Additionally, they are friendly, helpful and informative (they can tell you about what the animal eats, it's breed, etc.).

When I took it home, it was butchered. I removed the skin and hairs off the skin and used it to make chicharons - fried pork skin. The belly I separated into two parts, the leaner piece from the fattier, more succulent one. Due to the amount of meat we already ate and had leftover, I put the belly into the freezer until Sunday morning.
When the meat was defrosted, it was seared in a very hot cast-iron pan.
The searing belly.



Braising process.


King oyster mushrooms were sliced half an inch thick, scored in a cross-hatch pattern then seared in canola oil, until crisp, earthy and delicious. The caps off the mushrooms were sliced 1/4 of an inch thick and pickled in sesame oil, rice vinegar, sugar, water and salt.
A coconut gel was created using coconut milk, my of my favourite flavours, thai bird's eyes chiles and kaffir lime leaves. It was reduced until 1/3 of it's original volume, then 1% agar-agar went in to gel it. Meanwhile the pork was braising in an incredible aromatic base of veal stock, lemongrass, ginger, kaffir lime, sugar, fish sauce, mirin and garlic. Leeks were sliced into rounds and braised in the last moments of the braising process absorbing the complex pork-tinged cooking liquid. Thinly sliced leeks were crisped up in a cast-iron pan. 

After the pork was tender, I removed it from the braising liquid and chilled it in the fridge. It was cut into squared and was seared quickly, making it crusty and well-browned. The braising liquid was strained, reduced then thickened with cornstarch. 
Due to the sugar content in the braising liquid, the pork belly attained an excellent charred colour. It crisped up beautifully. As the sauce reduced, and the coconut gel set, I started plating up the dish. A dollop of coconut gel was the base followed by the square of pork belly, the seared mushrooms and the pickled mushrooms atop of the belly, the braised leek was plated next to the belly followed by the reduced braising liquid and some green onion.



This dish was probably the best savoury dish I've made. All the flavors just worked really well together. The satisfying belly added immense richness, the mushrooms different textures and and acidity. The seared mushrooms were seriously addictive, crunchy, light and earthy. The pickled mushrooms balanced off the richness of the braised belly. Mushrooms are my favourite ingredient to work with...The braised leek was tender enough so that it was not stringy but still maintained it's integrity. The sauce really tied everything together. It was sweet, acidic, salty and loaded with unami. The variety of thai flavours were infused into the sauce, lemongrass was the most prevalent followed by lime leaves and the salty bite of fish sauce. Delicious. The coconut gel added heat and a subtle nuttiness. The one complaint I could say is that the pork belly could have been braised longer. The fat was remarkably creamy however, the meat was slightly too firm. Definitely worth making again. Next time, hopefully I'll have the sous-vide magic so I'll do this sous-vide. It will be truly perfect then.

 





Saturday, April 30, 2011

Easter Eats

The cold weather is starting to dissipate, the flowers protruding from the thawed ground - it's finally spring! Winter sucks, terribly. What I miss most is the nice summer breeze, the fresh tomatoes, herbs and other delights growing in the garden or at the local farmer's markets (Dufferin Grove is my fav). I miss the freshness of summer, when everything is frozen in the boring, not to mention cold winter months. 
This Easter, for our usually small easter lunch, my mom excluded me from making savoury food. So off I went to design a dessert. With blood oranges slowly dissipating from markets, I wanted to take advantage of their deliciousness and colour. A sorbet was what I decided on.



I zested and removed the pith on a couple of the blood oranges, halved them and squeezed out the vibrant acidic juice.

Roughly following the instructions from an Alinea recipe for orange sorbet, the 250g of orange juice (not much considering it took 6 frickin' blood oranges!) joined 25g of water, 75g of sugar and a splash of lemon juice to substitute for the required citric acid. I added to this recipe the zest and ginger to infuse into the sorbet. Finally agar-agar was added to thicken and stabilize the mixture, helping to make it less granular.


The sorbet churning in my ice cream maker.
The finished and cooled sorbet base.











 The second component for my dish was sesame oil powder, featuring the awesomeness of tapioca maltodextrin, the modified tapioca starch that can absorb any form of fat. It's pretty awesome, however to render the fat into a powder the purity of the fat can become lessened. The flavors diluted. Sesame oil being very strong was only slightly muted. One thing that is cool is that the flavor release is gradual, so that the powder must dissolve before the sesame flavor is released.

15g of sesame oil joined 6g of tapioca maltodextrin in my mini-food processor. The processor was mainly empty and was useless so I just mixed it together with a spoon. The best way to mix it though is by using dry hands and crumbling the mixture until the fat is absorbed. The powder was sweetened to taste with powdered sugar and a pinch of salt. Finally the powder was pressed through a sieve to separate it into a powder.
The finished pressed sesame oil powder



My final component? A spherical orb of ginger tea. Again following an Alinea recipe (the book is awesome). 32g of ginger was sliced, peeled and steepedwith 150g of 37g of sugar, and 2g of calcium lactate. The mixture of frozen in an ice cube tray so the orbs would be identical.

Easter Sunday quickly arrived and the stuffed leg of lamb was roasting with the potatoes and bone marrow, that I bought to spread on bread instead of butter. The bones went in the oven at 400 for 30 minutes of until the marrow was jiggly, warm and cooked mostly through. The marrow was scooped out and spread on crusty, toasted bread and finished with maldon sea salt. Rich, warm, fatty and sinful. I don't want to think about the cholesterol in those bones...



My family finished the savoury foods and my palate-cleanser was plated. The ginger orbs were spherified in the sodium alginate water, but only two made it out of the water whole. Note to self: always use low calcium water, as tap water will gel when the sodium alginate is dissolved.

The sorbet was light and acidic. There was not much of it when I churned it, so I added some water which kinda diluted the flavors...The sesame oil powder was sweet and added a subtle nuttiness to the refreshing sorbet. The ginger orb was beautiful. It burst like a water-balloon releasing the piquant ginger flavoured tea. It was cleansing, but not totally successful in total as a dish. The ginger orbs would be awesome in an amuse-bouche or a small dessert meant to be eaten in one bite. The diner would have the orb explode in their mouth releasing a gush of liquid...

Next thing I'm making: PORK BELLY!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Arepas!



For a recent assignment for Spanish class, we had to research a Spanish/Latin dish and bring it into class. I choose to do arepas, a Venezuelan stuffed corn bread. The arepa itself is made with a special masa harina flour, specifically for making arepas. To make the dough I combined about 6 cups of the pre-cooked cornmeal with around 4 cups of water and a good pinch of salt in my kitchen-aid stand mixer. Because of the absense of gluten, the dough never really compiled into a ball, however it could be compacted easily and rolled out by hand.


I then rolled the dough into balls and flattened them until they were about half an inch thick. The dough had a smooth crumbly texture which allowed for easy shaping. Thirty-two arepas later and they were ready to fry.

Frying them went smoothly and rendered them crispy on the outside. The aromas emanating from the arepas smelled like polenta; a complex, toasty corn aroma. The frying process took around 1 hour and left them ready to bake. They went into the oven at 375F for 15 minutes. Now on to the fillings...

Traditional arepas fillings include scrambled eggs with tomato, peppers and onion and black bean with crumbled queso. My fillings of choice, however not entirely authentic, were slow-cooked black beans, soft goat cheese and a cabbage slaw with several latin flavours.
The slaw was a mixture of mandolined cabbage and carrot, and chopped cilantro. The vinaigrette was comprised of an emulsion was olive oil, lime juice, minced whole chipotle peppers, black pepper and salt.

The black beans, I soaked over-night in water and cooked until tender on the stove-top with garlic and salt. Homemade beans just don`t compare to mushy beans that taste of aluminum can...

Lastly, it was all topped off with a soft goat`s cheese...

The whole thing was good. I`m not sure how it compares to the real arepas, but I had fun making them.
The actual arepas was decent, but had a somewhat dense, chewy texture. By next morning, when I brought them into class, they were no longer crispy. The slaw was excellent; crunchy, acidic, fresh and light. After marinading over-night the flavours had completely been absorbed by the cabbage, attaining almost a very light pickle on the cabbage. The goat`s cheese added a lusciousness to the textures in the arepa, and a subtle goaty flavor. The black beans added earthiness. Most of them were gone by the time I came home after-school, but a few remained for me and my family. I`ve got to try the real deal ones ASAP.
 
The completed dish.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Green Toronto Awards!

Last night, I was at the Green Toronto Awards. For my involvement in Greenest City, I was nominated along with the rest of the Youth Mentors for the Youth Leadership category. After school, on Mondays we spend our time to help run the Growing the Future program, where we teach youth how to cook, eat and grow food sustainably. We arrived at 5:15 and headed straight for the reception area. There was some hors d'oeuvre-ish nibbles to snack on and some spring rolls and chow mein. Basically, we just talked to some people there in different organizations and they congratulated us and said they would cheer for us.

That's me in the plaid shirt!
 After talking and eating, it was time for the awards to start! We headed to the stage at the back of the Direct Energy Centre and waiting for it to start. The MC's for the ceremony were from CP24 and The Toronto Star. Different presenters came on announce the winners. After half an hour, our category soon approached. There was a musical performance by Alyssa Reid half way through the presentations, which was very good, however the sound quality was terrible. At last, our award was next! The representatives of each of the nominees were allowed up and a brief video was played describing why we were nominated. I was really confident we would win, I thought there was no way we'd get our asses kicked...
The video finished and the presenter walked to the mic and announced; "and the winner of the Youth Leadership is..............(he shuffled the envelope and pulled out paper)....YOUTH MENTORS, Greenest City!."
All of us, being in the stands stood up and made our presence be known, we cheered and applauded ourselves for kicking ass.

The rest of the categories soon passed by and the ceremony was over. We took some pictures and got filmed by CP24, as we were the youth (and eco-friendly youth make good news on TV). It was AWESOME, we won 5,000 dollars to help continue our environmentally conscious work at Greenest City, and won recognition for our efforts. After, we hung around a bit took more pictures, and left to go home. Thank you to Emma for nominating us and the judges for selecting us to win! Altogether it was an awesome experience!
The trophy and certificate proving that we won!