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International chefs take a crack at each other’s dishes for Calgary charity

Model Milk hosts the 5th annual Plate Swap event

Justin Leboe first opened up Model Milk in 2010. A year later, he launched Plate Swap.

Aaron Chatha / Metro

Justin Leboe first opened up Model Milk in 2010. A year later, he launched Plate Swap.

When five renowned chefs go mucking about in each other’s kitchens, it’s sure to turn out some amuse bouching results.

Model Milk brings back their annual Plate Swap fundraiser for the fifth year in the world, where chefs from around the world descend on the Calgary restaurant and put their own spin on each other’s signature dishes.

The event raises donations for Brown Bagging for Calgary Kids, a program that ensures thousands of Calgary kids receive a well-balanced and nutritious lunch.

Model Milk first opened in 2010, and Plate Swap started a year later.

“It became important to me that the restaurant be more than just satisfying the people that come through,” said Justin Leboe, Model Milk chef and owner. “It became a need for me to find an outlet to give back, and Brown Bagging was originally the charity we chose and gravitated towards.”

The chefs have already selected who’s dish they’ll be taking on and Renzo Garibaldi from Peru will be handling Leboe’s duck dish. Once the ideas marinate in another chef’s mind however, it rarely looks anything like the original.

Chef’s aren’t even given recipes – the only info they’re given is the description straight from the menu, then they interpret (or skewer) as they wish.

“For me, I approach their food with more love, care and caution. I try to do something really nice with it,” Leboe said. “I personally, am really excited to see what someone does with mine.”

While the process ignites Leboe’s imagination, it’s not hard to get the chef excited about food. He started working in kitchens while in high school, to save up money for important things (like skateboards).

“Something clicked for me. I went to university for something unrelated, and worked in kitchens all the way through to help pay the bills,” he recalled. “When I came out of school, I threw myself into this.”

Like him, the chefs coming to Calgary for the event are renowned and passionate about their food.

Plate Swap takes place on Jan. 20. For more information, visit

The Chefs:

Joel Watanabe from Kissa Tanto, Vancouver

Lee Cooper from L’Abattoir, Vancouver

Daniel Burns from Luksus, New York City

Renzo Garibaldi from Osso Carniceria, Peru

Justin Leboe from Model Milk + Pigeonhole, Calgary

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