By Michelle Cameron
Haligonian food enthusiasts hastily kneaded dough, cracked eggs and preheated their ovens to perfect their recipes before Saturday, Feb. 11. Recipe to Riches, a reality competition show on Food Network Canada, held auditions at the Delta Barrington this past weekend in search of the next best delicacy.
The hotel lobby was brimming with people of all ages eager to present their recipes to the judges. Catherine McGee, a 42-year-old woman born and raised in Cape Breton, said she had been refining her mother’s biscuit recipe for years.
“They’re a Maritime tradition that can accompany any meal, really. But no one has had fluffier and tastier biscuits than these. I ate them a lot growing up and I hope to share this tradition with people everywhere.”
Recipe to Riches is a competitive reality television series that has select Canadians battling weekly to have their original recipes become a President’s Choice product and win $25,000. The top contestants in each category qualify for a chance to win the grand prize of $250,000.
Executive producer Blair Harley says the idea of Recipe to Riches came from a simple question: “What’s better than having your original recipe sold in grocery stores to thousands of people?” Loblaws Company Limited sprung at this idea and decided to use their store brand, President’s Choice, as the label to promote the winners of Recipe to Riches.
“It’s a very long process for Loblaws to produce and market all these new products,” says Harley. “But what better honour is there than having your original recipe sold by President’s Choice, Canada’s largest food retailer? Recipe to Riches is a fantastic opportunity for Canadians.”
After traveling to Halifax, Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto, the judges will have hand-picked 21 contestants, three from each food category, who will go on to compete in the next stage of the competition. The winner of each category will be signed with President’s Choice to market their product and win $25,000.
“We judge the recipes on presentation, originality and the story behind your recipe,” says Harley. “The backstory of your recipe really factors into our decision making process. We want to see personality in the recipes.”
The aspiring chefs can submit their recipes under one of the seven categories including: Savoury Snacks, Hors D’Oeuvres, Cookies and Squares, Entrées, Candies and Chocolates, Condiments and Dips, and finally Cakes, Pudding and Pies.
27-year-old Haligonian, Ian Costlin, says his recipe comes from “being quite the carnivore.”
“I don’t think the judges will have seen someone more dedicated to loving meat than me. I know I look like a small guy, but no one loves bacon more than I do. The bacon and I have a long-term relationship,” says Costlin with a laugh.
When he heard of Recipe to Riches coming to Halifax to film its second season, he was excited to launch his creation to the judges.
“I love getting appetizers at restaurants, but I find you see so much of the same thing. My appetizer is not for the faint of heart; it’s a more succulent guilty pleasure than John Grass’ appy last season,” says Costlin, laughing.
John Grass’ self-proclaimed “Grenade” was the winner of the Hors D’Oeuvres category last year. This tiny appetizer sets the bar high for Costlin, as it showcased a chunk of chicken smothered in cheese and jalapenos and wrapped with bacon. As a former football player, Grass could easily convince the judges that it was the perfect appetizer for watching the game.
“I call mine the ‘Meat Monsters’,” says Costlin. “It’s gravy soaked pork loin, wrapped in bacon, coated with cheese, wrapped in prosciutto and sprinkled with spicy Cajun.”
Harley says the competition has been looking great thus far and that Haligonians are exceeding their expectations.
“We did set the bar higher this year since three of the $25,000 winners were from the Maritimes. We expect a lot from this place and it’s been great so far. There’s a lot of great recipes and great characters.”
Even with the high expectations, Costlin is not worried about his chances, but rather, excited with the possibilities.
“I know I’m good with meats and good for a laugh. I really think the judges will love my appetizer.”
The judges will announce their Maritime picks for Recipe to Riches on Sunday, Feb. 12 before flying off to Vancouver. The show is scheduled to air on Food Network Canada in the fall of next year.