Chef's Choice: Milestone's Bruce Worden stirs the pot before the annual Harvest Soup Contest 

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - SOUP'S ON Milestone's Bruce Worden hopes to defend his title at this year's Harvest Soup Contest at the Whistler Farmer's Market, Sunday, Oct. 11.
  • Photo submitted
  • SOUP'S ON Milestone's Bruce Worden hopes to defend his title at this year's Harvest Soup Contest at the Whistler Farmer's Market, Sunday, Oct. 11.

Milestone's Chef Bruce Worden isn't given away any soup secrets, other than to say he's got something new up his sleeve this fall.

Worden is the defending chef at the annual Harvest Soup Contest at the final Farmers' Market on Thanksgiving Sunday.

"I'm going to play it close to the chest," said Worden, of his plans to defend his title. "I think we'll do all right. I'm not going to do the same soup. That was the thought originally, but I'm going to come up with something a little bit different... I don't think it's right to do the same soup. What do you think?"

Last year's winning soup was the delicious Laughing Crow's Mother Hubbard's cupboard squash purée with a crisp spice pecan and goat cheese wonton with chimmichuri.

A mouthful to say... and a delightful mouthful to taste. The inspiration for the name comes from the main ingredient: heirloom Hubbard squash, and the main supplier: Laughing Crow Organics of Pemberton, which had a stall at the farmers' market.

At the time Worden asked them if they had an abundance of anything, and they said they had all this squash that they didn't know what to do with.

And squash just made sense in a harvest soup competition.

Add in the flavours of fall with a little onion, some garlic, cinnamon, maple syrup and more for a winning harvest medley.

"It was sort of a surprise that I won last year but I'm definitely looking forward to tasting some good soups again," said Worden, who had only been in Whistler for a month before taking the title.

Worden moved back to Whistler after spending 18 years in the Niagara region working for renowned establishments like Queen's Landing and Pillar and Post.

Winning the harvest soup competition after just a few weeks back in Whistler was certainly one way of letting the community know he had arrived.

The annual soup contest is a fundraiser for the Whistler Waldorf School, an event that typically raises about $3,000 for the school.

"This fundraiser is one of our favourites," said Diane Riley, director of development at the Whistler Waldorf School. "The restaurants are so supportive and love the friendly competition each year, and the community always comes out in droves to support it! We even have 'regulars' that come up each year from Vancouver, as well as all the busy shoppers at the farmers' market. Our parent volunteers really look forward to working the Harvest Soup Contest."

This is the 14th year hosting the Harvest Soup contest. Last year, nearly 700 people cast their votes.

"I think it's good to help out the local school," added Worden. "It's definitely the right time of year for soup. I think every good cook or restaurant is judged by their soup. It's the first thing people eat and it definitely leaves a lasting impression and people like to replicate it and make it at home. So, creative ideas on that front are always good."

Roughly a dozen contestants took part last year and Worden said it was a close call.

"I'd like to win it again but we'll see," he said.

Several restaurants have confirmed they will be coming to the table with soups to tempt the judges including: the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, the Four Seasons, Table 19, Olives Market, the Mexican Corner, the Green Moustache Organic Juice, Smoothie + Live Food Bar, Legs Diamond, the Longhorn, Tapley's and the FireRock Lounge.

More groups may join closer to the date.

For $6 customers can sample several soups and then enjoy a bowl of their favourite one, thereby casting their vote.

The soup contest will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (or until it sells out) rain or shine on Thanksgiving Sunday, Oct. 11 at the Whistler Farmers' Market.

This is the final farmers' market of the summer season. Stay tuned to Pique to see who takes the title this year.

Laughing Crow's Mother Hubbard's Squash Purée

Yield: Approx. 2.5 - 3 Litres

Ingredients

1 kg Laughing Crow's Hubbard Variety Squash

1 cup Onion sweet diced

1 Tbsp Garlic (roasted in oil @ 350 for 35 in foil)

3 stalk Celery, diced

1 cup Diced Potato (peeled, diced)

¼ tsp White Pepper

½ can Coconut Milk

2 L Vegetable Stock

1 oz White wine (to deglaze)

1 tsp Cinnamon

¾ tsp Cumin

2 Tbsp Maple Syrup

1 oz Canola Oil

1 oz Salt ( to taste)

Garnish served either as a wonton or chopped and placed.

¼ oz Goat Cheese

1 halve Pecans(spiced)

1 piece Wonton wraps

Chimmichurri - Yield 2 cups approx..

4oz Cilantro

1.5oz Garlic

4 oz onion

6 oz Lime juice

1 tsp Chili flakes

1 tsp Salt

2.5 oz Red wine vinegar

Preparation

Gather all spices, except salt and pepper, and lightly toast them together in a pan. Set aside. Peel and dice all of the vegetables separating as such: onion, celery, squash, potato and roast garlic

Finally, prepare all of your other items ready for use.

Take your soup pot and on a medium high heat cook the onions and celery in oil until soft.

Add the diced squash and potatoes and cook for five minutes. Season with a little salt and pepper.

Add ¾ of your toasted spices and one bay leaf.

Once melted the spices and starches will start stick to the pan; turn the pan down to medium and deglaze with the white wine, stir with a wooden spoon.

Add the stock to cover the vegetables by about ½ inch of liquid and simmer until the potatoes are tender. Adjust seasoning.

Using a blender or stick blender, purée soup while adding coconut milk in a steady stream, then strain through a sieve. Serve or chill and serve the following day.

For the Garnish:

If making a wonton, simply take the wonton skin and wet the edges with water. Place a small amount of goat cheese and pecan in the centre and crease the edges until sealed. Fry to golden brown.

If using a loose garnish, julienne wonton skins and fry until golden, crush pecans and add goat cheese to the soup.

Chimmichurri:

Mince garlic and onion then add all ingredients.

Finely chop cilantro and fold into other ingredients, marinate for at least two hours.

Add a small amount to each soup.

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