Do you have a passion for food? Ever wonder what it would be like to be a star in the kitchen? Take on the Chef’s Challenge and allow me to invite you to Chef John Cirillo’s Culinary Academy for a cooking lesson for aspiring cooks at any level and experience! Chef Cirillo lead a group of cooking enthusiasts at his own Culinary Academy on September 20th for the first in a series of this year’s Chef’s Challenge pre-events around the city.

Stay tuned to Chefs Challenge on Twitter and Facebook for more of these pre-events as we approach the main event on December 1, 2012 with celebrity chefs from the Food Network battling for epicurean supremacy.  Chef’s Challenge is a fundraising event to support women’s ovarian and breast cancer research at Mount Sinai Hospital.  Find out how you can be a part of this ultimate culinary event by registering on the website

This Chef’s Challenge pre-event evening started with wine and delicious appetizers provided by Cirillo’s Culinary Academy.

Jasmine Dickson and Cindy Dickson

Let’s get the cooking started, shall we?

The group of forty people were divided into three smaller sections with each preparing the starter, main course, or dessert at six different stations. There was no recipe given however the chef’s instructions were clear and easy to follow as he demonstrated step by step throughout the class.

Each group was assigned to prepare a course with the guidance of Chef John Cirillo

After the cooking was all done, each group sat down on the large communal dining tables, the conversation started flowing.  In the kitchen area, it was my group’s turn to start plating the next course.

Dinner is served!

Seared Salmon with Vegetable Slaw and Soya, Chilli Aioli

The vegetable slaw was tossed with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, honey, chilli powder and soy sauce. It made a great combination with the smoked salmon. The more I ate the hungrier I became.

Lamb Sirloin with Shallot, Mustard Herb Crust, Sweet potato Puree and Glazed Root Vegetables

Panko crusted lamb, sitting on top of mashed sweet potatoes and heirloom carrots, topped off with chef’s specialty sauce. The lamb was juicy and flavourful while the vegetables added a bit of sweetness to the dish. It was the best looking dish of the night!

The Dessert: Baked Ontario Pears in Puff Pastry with Vanilla Ice Cream

I usually do not get excited for desserts. However this dish was the highlight for me. The sliced pears were wrapped in maple syrup and egg yolk batter, topped off with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. I enjoyed the pear inside which was not too sweet. There were a thin coat of melted sugar thus the tartlet tasted crusty and sweet on the outside.

Of course wine was circulating the room to make the experience even more enjoyable.

Wine served by the friendly staff at Cirillo’s Culinary Academy

Overall the experience at Cirillo’s Culinary Academy was like no other as I felt like participating in a show on the Food Network. The staff were genuinely friendly and helpful. I had a great time preparing and eating the food, learned some knife tips, and made new friends along the way. If this was the pre-event, then I cannot wait to check out the Chef’s Challenge on December 1st!

For the recipes used at this event, please click here to get the Chefs Challenge Recipe Package from Cirillo’s Culinary Academy.

For a closer look at the cooks in action, take a look at the photo gallery below.

About Chef’s Challenge

A remarkable kitchen stadium sets the tone for a true culinary mêlée as celebrity chefs lead fundraisers into the epicurean battle of their lives, all for the opportunity to oust Mark McEwan, who led his team to victory in 2011.

To attend this exclusive culinary fundraising event, participants must raise a minimum of $2,500 to watch the battle unfold. Guy Fieri will craft a five-course epicurean dinner—but keep your keen culinary skills handy throughout the meal—members of the audience will be called upon to complete tableside challenges for Guy!

The top 50 fundraisers earn the privilege to test their culinary talent live on stage alongside their team and celebrity chef, all while under the watchful eye of Guy Fieri.

About the Cause

Funds raised at this event provide sustaining funding to breast and ovarian cancer research and education at the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute and Marvelle Koffler Breast Centre at Mount Sinai Hospital. With your support, scientists at the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute can investigate new approaches to prevent, diagnose and treat disease, while clinicians at the Marvelle Koffler Breast Centre provide priceless classes to the community on mammography and self-screening, as well as classes on health, diet and exercise for recovering breast cancer patients.

About Cirillo’s Culinary Academy

Located at 4894 Dundas St West, Cirillo’s Culinary Academy is in Toronto West’s Islington Village featuring 4,200 square feet of state-of-the-art space perfect for culinary education and entertainment.

For more information visit

Auxiliary Director Susan Davis with Ivy Knight, Simmie Antflick and Stacey Biggar

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