Ottawa has experienced its first Canadian Celebrity Chefs Event, which for many attendees, was a mixed success. As an inaugural event, it had its issues and its triumphs.
Jenn and I were not able to attend the event in its entirety, she working in the evening. She missed both the afternoon demonstrations and evening wine and food tasting reception. My not being able to take the entire day off work, I could not attend the morning demonstrations from their early start at 8:30 am. I can assume, this was the same for many attendees as I saw a number of different faces in the afternoon.
Here are our combined thoughts after some discussion:
The most informative demonstration was held by Chefs Michael Howell of Tempest Restaurant (Wolfville, NS) and Norm Aitken of Juniper Dining (Ottawa). It sparked an intelligent and lively debate on farmed fish, in particular farmed salmon. The discussion was initiated by an attendee. Both Chefs Howell and Aitken proved themselves to be well informed on the subject and sustainable fish in general.
The standout demonstration (Jenn’s favourite) was held by Chefs Paul Rogalski of Rouge Restaurant (Calgary) and Robin Bowen of Empire Grill (Ottawa). Theirs was a perfect balance of playful banter and professionalism. They showed good chemistry, seeming to genuinely enjoy each others’ company and their audience. Chef Rogalski even took a photo of the audience from the stage. They explained their shared connection, the dish they came up with, and how they sourced their ingredients. Moreover, they were able to convey to their audience of mixed culinary backgrounds how to prepare their dish at home.
The hardest working chef was Chef Cesare Santaguida of Vittoria Trattoria (Ottawa), both during the demonstration and the reception. His team was the only one whose principal members had different roles. During the reception, David Rocco of Dolce Vita (Toronto) was essentially the front of house, greeting event attendees, serving them their dish, and selling his cookbook. Chef Santaguida and his team, made up of several family members, prepared the dish. They were the back of house. During the demonstration, while Chef Santaguida was busy prepping the the apple slaw and searing the scallops on a salt brick, Rocco held the audience’s attention, even inviting people down to stir his risotto. Now risotto is a relatively easy dish to make, but not one easily made well. It takes practice to be able to cook the rice beyond raw and stop before it turns into mush. Still, Chef Santaguida’s deft work of his mise en place, even off-camera, was an impressive distraction.
From fellow foodiePrints blogger Claire’s interview with Chef Santaguida, we learned he conceptualized the pig cheek component in association with Chef Renee Rodriguez of Navarra (Ottawa). We would learn Chef Rodruiguez worked Chef Santaguida’s kitchen at Vittoria Trattoria that Monday evening. He dropped by the National Arts Centre (NAC) after evening service. Lucky attendees met both Chefs Santaguida and Rodriguez towards the end of the event.
Our major issue with the demonstrations had to do with host Kevin Brauch. While Brauch should be commended for the tremendous energy he brought to the event, he largely misjudged his audience, adapting badly to their expectations. His antics were distracting and grew tiresome, many attendees asking him to let the chef teams speak.
Minor issues involved inside jokes again from the host about the chef teams’ after hour activities. The demonstration sessions, their averaging 45 minutes in length, also made the day a very long one.
Now, Chefs Michael Lyon of Hotel Eldorado (Kelowna) and Michael Blackie of le café, NAC (Ottawa), being our assigned chefs to profile, we anticipated their session resembling a live-taping of an episode of their Food Network Canada series CheF*OFF. From Chef Lyon demonstrating how he is hardened against Ottawa winter weather to the session being sidetracked by Brauch instructing the chefs how to sabre champagne, the cooking component was less than successful. During the reception, however, their dish of sweet grass cold smoked Charlevoix veal, crisp potato girdle, Clarmell on the Rideau feta and sage infused retention, spotted prawn spring roll, and Cloud Horse mead, lychee, and sriracha “sting” was a crowd favourite.
There were some hits and misses dish-wise. While I was unable to try all the dishes or all the wines, my standout dish came from Chefs Ray Bear of MIX (Halifax) and Clifford Lyness of Perspectives, Brookstreet Hotel (Ottawa). Their dish of Atlantic lobster (poached in Bridge sparkling wine beurre blanc), Le Coprin mushrooms, sweetbreads with candied fennel and corn flan, water cress sprouts, and black olive purée was delicious.
The fresh sweet lobster, expertly poached in beurre blanc, was spectacular. The sauteed local mushrooms provided savoury and umami flavours, which were balanced by the sweet licorice of the candied fennel and creaminess of the corn flan. The black olive puree (essentially a more finely processed tapenade) was overpowering with the lobster alone. A combination of everything made a wondrous adventure of a bite.
Jenn was fortunate enough to sample Chefs Rogalski and Bowen’s dish of bison hash, goat cheese and cauliflower ravioli, preserved lemon and bacon hollandaise, and chili plum gastrique during their demonstration. It was memorable enough she hopes Chef Bowen will add it to his menu, at least for a short time. If not, she wants us to attempt the recipe at our earliest convenience.
The reason I was unable to sample all the dishes had to do with my using the opportunity to take photos of the much more successful wine and food tasting reception for our readers. Unfortunately, due to the lighting, many of my photos failed. The following is a slideshow of event photos that worked, beginning to end.
The Canadian Celebrity Chefs Event has a lot of promise. Attendees got the opportunity to meet chefs from across Canada, many familiar faces from shows on the Food Network, all in one place. These celebrity chefs being paired with Ottawa chefs, attendees got the opportunity to learn about the rich personalities in the professional kitchens of some of our best local restaurants. Chefs and line cooks from non-featured local restaurants, The Courtyard, E18hteen, and Navarra even pitched in. The event showcased good quality ingredients and a national selection of wine. It explained how everything was sourced. It gave out recipe cards attendees were encouraged to bring to the evening event’s booths for signature.
We hope the Canadian Celebrity Chefs Event will be a recurring annual event, one that grows, develops, and eventually achieves its lofty goals of being an international invitational. Chef Blackie is very right. Canada has a lot of culinary talent. Ottawa has a lot of culinary talent. It is high time we showed it off.
Live Tweets from the Event:
@foodiePrints (Jan 24, 04:32 PM)
SOOOO… In a perfect world how should that look? Said the Lyon to the Blackie… #CelebChefOtt
@foodiePrints (Jan 24, 04:27 PM)
10 minutes into their demo, one chef Michael just blinded the other with a honey champagne…. #CelebChefOtt
@foodiePrints (Jan 24, 04:08 PM)
Chefs Michael Blackie and Lyon are up. Chef Lyon isn’t wearing pants… (shorts…) #CelebChefOtt
@foodiePrints (Jan 24, 03:52 PM)
Said the fellow food bloggers confit cured pig cheek is better than bacon #celebchefott
@foodiePrints (Jan 24, 03:33 PM)
David Rocco is a proponent of cooking to taste -#CelebChefOtt
@BrookstreetOtt (Jan 24, 03:31 PM)
What a great lesson! RT @foodieprints: David Rocco teaching audience the opportunity to learn how easy it is to make risotto #CelebChefOtt
@spotlightcity (Jan 24, 02:45 PM)
@foodiePrints no need for Eye-fi. You just need the Ipad Camera Kit, and plug in your camera directly (or SD)
@foodiePrints (Jan 24, 02:34 PM)
@spotlightcity Eye-fi? Bluetooth ad reader?
@foodiePrints (Jan 24, 02:32 PM)
@Lexxxxy Ticketmaster and the Nac website. Or come to the Nac box office!
@foodiePrints (Jan 24, 02:30 PM)
Says Chef Brad Long food is fuel, medicine, love, family, passion #CelebChefOtt
@Lexxxxy (Jan 24, 02:18 PM)
“@foodiePrints: There are 50 tickets left for #celebchefott reception! $75 each” where can I find out more info about this??
@spotlightcity (Jan 24, 02:15 PM)
@foodiePrints I use a camera + the kit, works like a charm when live tweeting with the ipad.
@foodiePrints (Jan 24, 02:14 PM)
Bloody iPad needs a camera! Live tweet lesson learned!
@foodiePrints (Jan 24, 02:12 PM)
Chef Ray Bear brought 200lbs of lobster with him from the East coast for #CelebChefOtt gonna be amazing!
@foodiePrints (Jan 24, 02:07 PM)
There are 50 tickets left for #celebchefott reception! $75 each
@foodiePrints (Jan 24, 01:54 PM)
@OttawaJantine (Jan 24, 01:12 PM)
I’ve been living vicariously through you! RT @foodiePrints You’ve eight independent bloggers here. Photos will be forthcoming. #celebchefott
@foodiePrints (Jan 24, 01:08 PM)
@OttawaJantine You’ve eight independent bloggers here. Photos will be forthcoming. #celebchefott
@foodiePrints (Jan 24, 01:01 PM)
Chefs Bear and Lyness are coming up #celebchefott
@PrincessDoubt (Jan 24, 12:27 PM)
Maybe something new or Ottawa breakfast menus? @foodiePrints: #celechefott Smelling foie gras first thing in the morning. It’s heavenly!
@foodiePrints (Jan 24, 12:05 PM)
Just sampled Bowen & Rogalski’s dish. It is fantastic. Looking forward to more of it tonight!
@ErinLannan (Jan 24, 11:50 AM)
thanks for the tip “@foodiePrints: If u tell Bowen & Rogalski that their food is orgasmic tonight u might get extra food on your plate”
@foodiePrints (Jan 24, 11:49 AM)
If u tell Bowen & Rogalski that their food is orgasmic tonight u might get extra food on ur plate. These two are putting on a great demo
@foodiePrints (Jan 24, 11:46 AM)
@OttawaJantine Will put up photos. Promise!
@OttawaJantine (Jan 24, 11:44 AM)
Photos?! RT @foodiePrints Bowen & Rogalski in the house with Rogalski rapping, Bowen decked out in cowboy hat #CelebChefOtt
@foodiePrints (Jan 24, 11:39 AM)
Eggs are falling at #CelebChef Ott with insults flying from Bowen!
@foodiePrints (Jan 24, 11:36 AM)
Bowen & Rogalski are now in the house with Rogalski rapping and Bowen decked out in a cowboy hat
@Cestboncooking (Jan 24, 11:07 AM)
@foodieprints Indeed. Somebody’s gotta fix this-it’s becoming a big issue.
Enjoy the day!
@foodiePrints (Jan 24, 11:04 AM)
@Cestboncooking Spotted your chef earlier this morning. So sorry that online scratch and sniff does not exist. Sea bass is sizzling away
@foodiePrints (Jan 24, 10:47 AM)
Back in the studio at #CelebChefOtt with Howell & Aitken. One of the Michael named chefs stuck a smoke in the sea bass to make smoked fish
@morelsottawa (Jan 24, 10:39 AM)
@foodiePrints foie + french toast + blueberries + maple syrup = heaven
@foodiePrints (Jan 24, 10:28 AM)
LOL RT @gadgetgirl_ca Audience just @marc_lepine how to make bacon foam at home….that’s y u go 2 the restaurant…so u dun have to!
@foodiePrints (Jan 24, 09:49 AM)
Cloutier & Lepine are a great team for #CelebChefOtt. Mmm … Another dish with foie gras Getting hungry
@mygoldfly (Jan 24, 09:12 AM)
I’m hearing rumours of fois gras in the kitchen already @foodieprints. Hope it’s a fabulous food day for everyone! #celebchefott
@foodiePrints (Jan 24, 09:05 AM)
Watch for live updates on the Celebrity Chefs Event from @foodiePrints and @gadgetgirl_ca #celebchefott
@foodiePrints (Jan 24, 08:59 AM)
@bitofmomsense (Jan 24, 08:52 AM)
@foodiePrints I bet!
@ottawaDonC (Jan 24, 08:52 AM)
@kmacnaull My friend, you & me both! I’m sitting in the office while @foodieprints’ editor and wine blogger are watching the demos #jealous
@BrookstreetOtt (Jan 24, 08:49 AM)
They really need to work on online smell capability! RT @foodieprints: Smells so good here in the studio!
@foodiePrints (Jan 24, 08:47 AM)
Smells so good here in the studio!
@foodiePrints (Jan 24, 08:42 AM)
1st demo Walsh&Moffat making drunken squab &newfie screech
@ottawaDonC (Jan 24, 08:27 AM)
@thelemonkitchen If Jenn & @gadgetgirl_ca are there, you’ve 2/3 of @foodieprints for #celebchefott Have fun! Hope to join you later on 2day
@thelemonkitchen (Jan 24, 08:16 AM)
one half of foodiePrints has arrived!
@MomRedefined (Jan 24, 06:41 AM)
@foodiePrints Looking forward to those tweets (and living vicariously through you!) #celebchefottawa
@foodiePrints (Jan 24, 06:39 AM)
Follow our wine blogger @gadgetgirl_ca! She and our editor Jenn are heading to the NAC this morning for #celebchefott
@foodiePrints (Jan 24, 06:38 AM)
Expect some tweets from Canadian Celebrity Chefs Event today at the NAC #celebchefott For our coverage to date http://goo.gl/dg3IN