Iron Chef: Vernon

In the Okanagan, Vernon, the city north of Kelowna, is often overlooked as tourists tend to head south thru the valley.  With nearby Sparkling Hills Resort and Predator Ridge Resort offering wonderful off-season rates, plan a get-away that includes spending an afternoon or evening shopping and dining in downtown Vernon.

Vernon’s main downtown street is located on 30th Avenue between 29thth Street and 34th Street. Adorned with beautiful hanging flower baskets and sidewalk patios in the summer and Christmas lights in the winter, enjoy a stroll up and down the main shopping street.  Highlights include the Bean Scene coffee shop which serves up excellent lattes and is the hub of the downtown community. Nature’s Fare Apple Bistro is ideal for a casual healthy lunch or picking up dinner to go.  A must visit for kitchen lovers is the Good Gracious and Practical Kitchen store.  Don’t miss the charming old-fashioned Pooh’s and Bean’s Sweet Shop, a delight for both children and adults.  There are many restaurants to choose from on 30th Avenue, including Bamboo Beach Fusion, Phoenix Steakhouse (which has a beautiful rooftop patio), Italian Kitchen, and a must visit for wine-lovers, Crush Bistro.


EAT magazine was pleased to sponsor Vernon’s third annual Iron Chef competition held at Turtle Mountain vineyard and benefitting the Family Resource Centre.  Before the start of the competition, guests enjoyed canapés from the two competing teams, Gum Tree Catering and the Italian Kitchen. Beverage stations included cider from Left Field Cider, cocktails from Okanagan Spirits, beer from Okanagan Springs and wine from Mission Hill Winery and Ganton & Larsen Prospect Winery.  Gum Tree Catering, owned by Kyla MacAulay and Sarah Pruckl, has become the go-to catering company for special events and weddings in Vernon.  They also offer a delicious range of gluten-free baked goods and salad dressings that are available for sale thru their website. The Italian Kitchen, which opened in 1995 and is a Vernon tradition, is owned by Brad Brousseau and Katie Bellamy. They sell their own pasta sauces, including tomato basil, zesty tomato and roasted garlic, under the Italian Kitchen Sauce company name and have released their first cookbook, “The Italian Kitchen Company Classics”, available for sale at the restaurant.


A true Iron Chef competition, guests sat and watched as the chefs and their teams prepared five dishes using the secret ingredient—dried Incan Golden Berries (similar in texture to a raisin and starts with a  sweet note but ends with a tart finish).  A berry native to the high altitude, tropical regions of South America, this was the first time for the chefs, the judges and most of the audience  to try this exotic dried fruit. The secret ingredient was provided by locally based dried fruit and nut supplier Rancho Vignola.  Highlights of the competition included Italian Kitchen’s excellent main course of a perfectly prepared pan-fried scallop topped with Inca berries and Gum Tree Catering’s rack of lamb stuffed with Inca Berries.  Both prepared fabulous desserts—tiny donuts infused with Inca Berries by Gum Tree Catering, and strawberry goat parfait finished with Inca Berries from Italian Kitchen.  Congratulations to Gum Tree Catering, the winner after an extremely close competition to secure the title of Vernon Iron Chef for 2013.   As the Iron Chef Competition illustrates, Vernon’s culinary talent is worth exploring.


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