Arts and Entertainment

Whidbey chef wins Canadian TV cooking competition

Seth McKee, chef and owner of Bay City Bistro, demonstrates his cooking chops at his restaurant. He won City TV’s Black Box Master Chef Competition held Memorial Day weekend in Vancouver, B.C.  - Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times
Seth McKee, chef and owner of Bay City Bistro, demonstrates his cooking chops at his restaurant. He won City TV’s Black Box Master Chef Competition held Memorial Day weekend in Vancouver, B.C.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times

After spending a significant portion of his career cooking for various restaurants on Whidbey Island, Seth McKee decided to expand his world by competing in a televised cooking show.

He did a lot better than just compete. He traveled to British Columbia and won City TV’s Black Box Master Chef Competition held Memorial Day weekend in Vancouver.

McKee competed against 17 other chefs from Canada and around the world. He brought home an impressive trophy to prove his accomplishment.

During the two-day competition, the chef and owner of Bay City Bistro in Oak Harbor competed in several rounds against other chefs in a single-elimination tournament.

Each round he was given a different black box. He didn’t know the boxes’ contents until he opened them. Throughout the competition, he prepared sweet breads, venison tenderloin, rabbit, frogs’ legs and muskox, a large, hairy, goat-like animal.

McKee’s victory was the first time the trophy has left Canada.

“It’s a big deal in Canada to win this trophy,” McKee said, adding that people who watched the show have called and are planning to visit his restaurant. “It’s going to be good for the island.”

McKee, whose restaurant is celebrating its one-year anniversary next week, said his original goal was only to win one of the heats. He said he didn’t even make a hotel reservation for his weekend trip. Plans changed when he started winning round after round.

His winning dish was grilled muskox with smoked mushrooms and dried fruit.

“I beat a French competitor who was very upset to lose to an American,” McKee said.

In addition to the taste of his food, he was also judged on how he worked, the cooking techniques he used and his cleanliness.

“This is probably the biggest accomplishment of my culinary arts career,” McKee said as he modestly described the chefs he competed against as being a higher caliber than himself.

He has been cooking professionally for six years. The Oak Harbor High School graduate started working for Wal-Mart after high school but decided to make a career switch into the culinary arts. He said he always had a talent for cooking.

He completed the culinary arts program at the Art Institute of Seattle and worked for various hotel chains. On Whidbey Island, McKee has dished up meals through the years at Christophers, Bayside Lounge and Casino, Tara, Island Grill and The Cove.

He opened Bay City Bistro in mid 2007 then, in February of 2008, he opened Bay City Bakery just down the street from his restaurant. Now, he’s an international cooking sensation.

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