After his February win at the Gold Medal Plate Championships, Chef Ryan O’Flynn has embraced his elevated status as an opportunity. Not one of personal gain, but a chance to showcase his interpretation of Canadian cuisine – featuring homegrown ingredients and traditional techniques that few other chefs are utilizing in Edmonton.
Mack and I were invited to a special dinner at The Westin’s Share Restaurant in June. Chef O’Flynn has completely revamped the menu, and we had the privilege of tasting nearly every new dish.
Diners can expect what he calls the “Canadian experience”. In the last few months, Chef O’Flynn has been spending time with Aboriginal elders, learning ancient cooking methods and then adapting them for use in a modern kitchen. It was obvious Chef O’Flynn’s is not only passionate about his craft, but also about learning from others, hungry for a connection between food and the stories behind them.
Chef Ryan O’Flynn
Perhaps the most special offering at Share is their version of a chef’s table. Starting at $80 per person for a minimum of six people, diners will be treated to a customized meal. The experience will include the opportunity for a one-to-one consultation with the Chef, where you will be able to share your favourite foods, childhood memories, and travels to inspire an entirely personalized dinner. It’s not everyday that diners can sit down with a Gold Medal Plate winner to create a menu, so it is definitely a unique offering in the city’s culinary landscape.
A number of dishes stood out that evening. The vegetarian course was absolutely stunning, a shock of fuchsia set against a charcoal backdrop. Comprised of marinated beets whipped with Innisfail goat cheese, beet relish, orange and a hibiscus petal, it was a dish light as air.
Innisfail goat cheese and Okanagan beets
Those who followed Chef O’Flynn’s Gold Medal Plates competition will be happy to see his award-winning entry on the menu. A labour of love, the terrine of sturgeon and Quebec foie gras takes one week to make. It marries pine smoked BC sturgeon with foie gras rubbed with pine nettles, and is served alongside morels sourced from the Northwest Territories (a company Chef O’Flynn has a stake in), Alberta wheat brioche and Okanagan apples. All of us around the table went quiet, enjoying the textures and concentration of flavours. Interestingly enough, Chef O’Flynn shared that because of his win with sturgeon, his supplier has had to increase production to meet the demand.
Terrine of pine smoked sturgeon and Quebec foie gras
My favourite dish was the “Prairie seabass”, or Northern Lake Pickerel, which Chef O’Flynn and his team receive whole twice a week. Dressed with a toasted pine nut crust, the fish was fatty and delectable, garnished with sea asparagus atop cauliflower puree.
Grilled Northern Lake pickerel and toasted nut crust
Chef O’Flynn’s playful nature was showcased in his version of “chicken of the sea”. “Ficken” involves sous vide poached chicken as well as pan roasted halibut with a layer of crispy chicken skin. It was actually not as odd as I thought it might be, as it was similar to crisped up fish skin. The rest of the plate perhaps deserved more of the spotlight – the perfectly prepared chicken just melted away, and the combination of Taber corn and wild Winnipeg rice was ready to anchor a vegetarian main.
“Ficken” pan roasted halibut and free range chicken
The item closest to the hotel menu mainstay of steak and potatoes is actually the bison. But unlike the usual grilled meat, Chef O’Flynn has chosen to adapt an Aboriginal method that would have involved cooking over hot stones buried in the ground. Instead, bison cured in pine salt is wrapped in foil with onion puree and coffee is smoked for twelve hours under soil, birch bark and pine nettles. The potatoes are also given special treatment, with smoked cream and butter whipped into them.
Bison rib of Alberta bison
The menu will officially be launched on July 16, though intrepid diners may have already noticed the shift at Share.
No doubt Chef O’Flynn’s passion for Canadian cuisine was known before his Gold Medal Plate fame, but it is likely to be cemented with this new direction at The Westin. His growing repertoire of techniques and willingness to experiment can only serve him well – he’ll be one to watch for in Edmonton, and starting this week, you can see for yourself what he has to offer.
Thanks to Chef O’Flynn and the team at The Westin for having us!