Laurier chef Sherry Gallinger (front, left) with her Chopped Canada competitors.
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Laurier chef featured on the Food Network's Chopped Canada
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Sherry Gallinger has faced many challenges in her culinary career. But making an entrée in 30 minutes that must include eel and cattail? That was a new one.
Gallinger, the executive chef at the Terrace Food Court on Laurier’s Waterloo campus, was featured in the March 20 episode of the Food Network’s Chopped Canada. The show features four chefs who compete for a $10,000 prize by preparing three courses with mandatory – and unconventional – ingredients. A panel of judges critiques each course and then decides which competitor will be eliminated or “chopped.”
Gallinger made it through the appetizer round, combining the mandatory ingredients of kaffir lime, shredded-wheat squares, red cabbage and smelts to make a dish of kaffir-braised cabbage with shredded wheat-crusted smelts. However, she was eliminated after the entrée round, in which she used the required celery hearts, kumato tomatoes, eel and pickled cattail (a wheat-like plant) to make chowder.
“You just think, ‘What in the world am I going to do with this?’” said Gallinger of seeing the required ingredients for the first time. “I mean, I never even fathomed cattail would be a product. But you have to use the ingredients, and above all, the dish has to taste good.”
The offbeat ingredients and three other chefs weren’t the only things Gallinger was competing against. Chopped gives the contestants just 20 minutes to prepare an appetizer and 30 minutes to prepare an entrée; and the clock starts right after the chefs see the ingredients for the first time.
“It seems like seconds. There’s definitely a moment where you just have no idea what you’re going to do.” said Gallinger. “You’re running around, you’re in a panicked state, and you’re just thinking, ‘How can I make this taste good?’”
While cooking with cameras in her face was something new to Gallinger, she’s certainly no stranger to working in a high-stress environment.
Gallinger’s cooking career has taken her to kitchens in Australia, New Zealand and Italy, and to major hotel chains across Canada. Since arriving at Laurier five years ago, her job has run the gambit from ensuring kitchen standards are being followed, to managing the Terrace’s product and budget, and incorporating healthier, more local food options at outlets on campus such as the Union Market kiosk.
However, Gallinger doesn’t always get the same credit as some of her peers.
“There’s a perception that someone who works in a food court isn’t really a chef, but I would beg to differ completely,” she said. “I’ve worked on lines with chefs who wouldn’t be able to keep up with the pace here. It’s all the same work as any other chef, but not the same glory as working in a high-end restaurant.”
And while dispelling that misconception of food-court chefs wasn’t the only reason Gallinger applied to be on Chopped Canada, she did use her appearance on the show to prove a thing or two.
“The most challenging part is just overcoming that initial fear that you’re not going to make it,” she said. “But I think I showed Canada I’m a decent chef and I’ve got decent skills. Plus I’ve been told I’m pretty entertaining to watch.”
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