Judges at the British Columbia Produce Marketing Association's 2018 Healthy Chef Competition & Dinner examine the Executive Plaza Hotel/Wild Fig's prize-winning entry: Beet-Cured Smoked Sous Vide Pork Loin. ( Courtesy British Columbia Produce Marketing Association )

The British Columbia Produce Marketing Association held its 19th annual Healthy Chef Competition & Dinner in March, in partnership with the British Columbia Chef’s Association.

The event serves to connect foodservice, retailers and the produce industry, building relationships and inspiring creative uses of fresh produce, according to a news release.

“An item introduced on a chef’s plate generates interest at the grocery store level,” said retailer Rob Johnson of Country Grocer, Vancouver Island, and BCPMA director, in the release. “Shoppers will often look for ingredients that they had during a restaurant meal.”

“The competition is a huge undertaking and we work closely to ensure that everyone walks away feeling like a winner,” Margie Schurko of ABC Custom Brokerage and secretary/treasurer of the BCPMA said in the release. “Thanks to the many volunteers, the generosity of the industry and the support of key sponsors like BC Tree Fruits and the Little Potato Co., we’ve become an insider’s culinary event.”

At the event 10 restaurants and culinary schools compete using lots of fresh produce in dishes prepared for the 500 guests.

“This year we saw celeriac (celery root) spaghetti, mint melon balls and torched beet root meringues,” chef and British Columbia Chef Association judge Edgar Rahal said in the release. “Each year we see wonderful ways of using fresh produce.”

The event also draws food writers and bloggers as part of a produce association’s outreach program, and they judged the best table presentations based on use of fresh produce and originality, according to the release.

The winner of the Healthy Half Your Plate Entrée Trophy, along with $1,000, was the Executive Plaza Hotel/Wild Fig for its Beet-Cured Smoked Sous Vide Pork Loin.

Vancouver Community College won Best Dessert for its Pear Custard Bar, also picking up the People’s Choice Award.

The Marriott Vancouver Airport American Grille won the Best Table Showcase with its fantasy wonderland with hand-carved fruits and vegetables including sculptures of forest creatures.

The event also raises funds for the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and the Canadian Cancer Society, the Half Your Plate Initiative and the BC Chefs’ Junior Scholarships, according to the release.