• Hannah Sabourin

Cooking under pressure

Wakefield chef Wapokunie Riel-Lachapelle will soon compete with four fellow Canadian chefs in a prestigious competition called Canada’s Great Kitchen Party – Ottawa, scheduled for Sept. 26, 2022 — an event revived after a two-year COVID-19 hiatus.


These chefs will compete at Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa — one of nine preliminary competitions across Canada. The gold medalists from these preliminary competitions, held in cities across Canada, will move on to compete at the Canadian Culinary Championship, which will also take place in Ottawa on Feb. 3-4, 2023. The chef with the best dish will be named the Canadian Culinary Champion. Judges will evaluate plates based on taste, visual presentation, technical achievement, texture, and beverage pairing.

Riel-Lachapelle will compete against a number of the region's top chefs this September for Canada's Great Kitchen Party. Photo David Irvine

Riel-Lachapelle, who opened Nikosi Bistro Pub in 2017 in Wakefield, specializes in combining traditional French and Indigenous cuisine.


Despite her busy schedule, Riel-Lachapelle said she’s happy to make time to compete in Canada’s Great Kitchen Party Ottawa, doing so to help her restaurant in the wake of the pandemic.


“The ripple effect of COVID- 19 and the lack of staffing is a massive challenge that I am facing,” she explained.


On days that her restaurant is open, she works long, grueling hours in the kitchen and on days that her restaurant is closed, she preps for her upcoming work week. “It’s been a difficult summer — I’ve mostly been working alone in the kitchen,” she said about staff shortages.


“You know, I’ve worked hard since I opened the restaurant. It’s not an easy job to do. And, you know, after almost six years [of being in the business], it feels nice to be recognized,” she said about being selected to compete. “Especially as a Métis woman.” She added that she feels “humble and grateful” and wants to “wow people” during the competition.


And while she cannot reveal specific details about the dish that she will present to judges, she said she’ll “make something that represents [her heritage] and the season — which will be fall.”


Those who’d like to attend the Ottawa competition can inquire about tickets by contacting Lisa Pasin at 780-448-5945 or lpasin@greatkitchenparty.com