Chef Rusty Cox off to stone soup semifinals

There will be a new champion in the Kootenay Granite Stone Soup Challenge as chef Shelby Schiller bows out.

Chef Shelby Schiller of BJ's Restaurant and Creekside Pub faced off against Chef Rusty Cox of The Heidout Restaurant and Brewhouse in the final matchup of the opening round of the Kootenay Granite Stone Soup Challenge.

Chef Shelby Schiller of BJ's Restaurant and Creekside Pub faced off against Chef Rusty Cox of The Heidout Restaurant and Brewhouse in the final matchup of the opening round of the Kootenay Granite Stone Soup Challenge.

There will be a new champion for the Kootenay Granite Stone Soup Challenge this year.

In an intense culinary battle, Rusty Cox of The Hideout Restaurant and Brewhouse exploited a loophole to take down Shelby Schiller, the defending champion, who represents BJ’s Restaurant and Creekside Pub.

The last matchup of the opening round at the Salvation Army soup kitchen, Schiller brought a pecan pie as a mystery ingredient that Cox had to use in his soup, however, he declined to give Schiller a mystery ingredient that she had to use in her soup.

But it wasn’t out of the kindness of his heart, as there was a strategic principle at stake.

Had Cox given her a mystery ingredient and she used it in her soup—that would automatically award her five extra points. By denying her a mystery ingredient and using the one she provided for him, Cox was automatically up five points before voting even started.

“It was an act of aggression,” Cox said. “It’s kind of like going to battle and taking your opponent’s artillery away, so, by taking five points away, I hope I don’t lose by four points now, because that would be terrible.”

Cox ended up taking the win by a vote of 27-16 as polled by Salvation Army clientele.

Although an unorthodox strategy, the Cranbrook and District Community Foundation, which is taking the lead on organizing the Stone Soup Challenge, ended up sanctioning the move.

Schiller admitted being a little thrown off by the luxury of not having a mystery ingredient to use.

“I was absolutely blank. No points and no basis for my soup? It stumped me more than I thought it would have,” she said. “Not having it [mystery ingredient], I was like, ‘Well, I have so many options now, it’s gotta be good.’”

While Cox hoped his tactic would add an element of psychological warfare, he knew she would be serving up a challenging mystery ingredient, but wasn’t sure what he’d see on the kitchen counter.

“I heard rumours that Shelby was bringing some kind of habanero scotch bonnet pepper powder, and I have a chilli allergy, so that would’ve absolutely devastated me, but she didn’t follow through on it,” Cox joked. “…If she would’ve found that out, that would’ve been my doom right there.”

In the end, it turned out to be a pecan pie that Cox had to work into his soup.

Both ended up making very similar culinary creations; Schiller with a steak goulash, while Cox served up a steak vegetable soup. Both were looking over their shoulders, spying on what the other was doing with their similar ingredients.

“We kept looking over, like, ‘What are you doing? That’s what I’m doing…’,” said Schiller.

Added Cox: “Shelby and I used pretty much the identical ingredient base, just different amounts of what we used. The only difference with mine, was I had a little bit of sweetness because of the pecan pie as a secret ingredient, but it actually fit really nice into the soup.”

The Kootenay Granite Stone Soup Challenge semifinalists are now set, as Chef Graham Barnes, of Max’s Place, will face off against Lindsay Waugh of Hot Shots Cafe on Tuesday afternoon. On Friday, Cox will go head-to-head with Carmen Alaric, the resident chef at the Salvation Army soup kitchen.

The winners of the two semifinals will meet for the final event hosted by the Prestige Rocky Mountain Resort on Wednesday, March 2. Tickets are available through Max’s Place, calling the CDCF at 250-426-1119 or online at Snapd East Kootenay.

The event is a joint fundraiser split between the CDCF’s general endowment fund and the Salvation Army’s proposed 24/7 shelter.