One of the highlights of the 33rd IACC-Americas annual conference was the 11th annual gathering of IACC conference centre chefs from around the world to compete for the prestigious culinary award – the Copper Skillet – and the distinction of becoming the IACC Conference Centre Chef of the Year. This year’s competition proved to an emotional triumph for Chef Murray Hall who had taken the Canadian prize for five years and earned a rousing and enthusiastic ovation from the audience of IACC members from nine countries.
The competing IACC conference centre chefs included:
- First Place – Murray Hall, CCC, Canada, BMO Financial Group Institute for Learning, Toronto, Ontario
- Second Place – Robert Budd, United Kingdom, Barnett Hill, Sundial Group, Surrey
- Third Place – Flemming Enkebølle, Denmark, Comwell Sorø Storkro, Copenhagen
- Philip Edwards, Australia, Lindenderry at Red Hill
- Jason Smith, USA, The Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center
- Ulf Eriksson, Sweden, Stora Brännbo Conference & Hotel
Three judges included Peter Griffiths, MBE, President, British Culinary Federation; Jeffrey Jimenez, Lead Instructor of Cordon Bleu, Hollywood, CA; and Thomas Moran, Executive Chef, Pacific Palms Resort, City of Industry, CA. Judging criteria included originality of the creation, presentation, texture, flavour combinations and hygiene standard of the work area. Chefs were presented with pantry items including fresh produce, grains and other ingredients to use in their preparation. The mystery basket of proteins included baby octopus, hanger steak, and bream. Vegetable options included: asparagus, Swiss chard, peppers, green beans, tomatoes, pears, mushrooms, shallots, potatoes. Each chef was given 15 minutes to review the items and plan their dish, and then 30 minutes for the cook-off.
The judges awarded the Copper Skillet to Chef Murray Hall from BMO Financial Group Institute for Learning in Toronto, Ontario, Canada for his creative dish of mushroom risotto, seared hangar steak with asparagus and a balsamic-vinegar reduction, pan-seared bream with heirloom tomatoes, and Swiss chard with red pepper.
Chef Hall is accredited with the CCC (Certified Chef de Cuisine) designation by the Canadian Culinary Federation. The CCC professional designation is the highest level of culinary achievement recognized in Canada. His extensive culinary experience draws from his love of travel. He has spent time cooking at resort properties in Bermuda and Hawaii and learned to love Asian fusion from his exposure to Japanese and California culinary approaches.
Chef Hall had won the prestigious Copper Skillet Award in Canada for five consecutive years. He commented that “the past five years taught me a lot about conference centre cuisine, current international trends, and creative competing. Many of the chefs in the competitions have become great resources for sharing ideas and culinary concepts – as well as friends.”
IACC’s popular Copper Skillet competition was introduced in 2004 to highlight the artistry and skill of the best chefs from IACC-member conference centres around the world and to honour their contributions to the shared goal of providing an outstanding conference centre experience.