Supporting Aspiring Chefs: Chefs in the City 2010

With the public’s current fascination with reality television and competition-style shows, the High School Culinary Challenge fits right in, and capitalizes on that interest and thirst for fast-paced, cutthroat battles.

The High School Culinary Challenge began in 2009, an initiative of Shaw Conference Centre Executive Chef and Canadian Culinary Federation Edmonton President Simon Smotkowicz as a means of promoting the field of culinary arts as a viable career for high school students to consider. In February of this year, 39 students in teams of 3 each competed for two scholarships for post-secondary tuition, uniforms, books and knives. The two winners received the invaluable opportunity to mentor with chefs that work in some of the best kitchens in the city over the course of three years, including Red Ox Inn, Sage at River Cree Casino and Resort, and L2. For a field that relies on teaching and learning on the job, the chance to study with award-winning local chefs will provide a remarkable start to a young person’s career.

To fundraise (and promote) High School Culinary Challenge, Chef Smotkowicz has organized Chefs in the City, taking place on April 30, 2010 at the Shaw Conference Centre. Half the funds raised will go towards scholarships for next year’s challenge (the other half will go towards Culinary Team Canada). As expected, it will be a sumptuous evening of food and wine. The five-course paired meal will be as follows:

Reception: Sautéed Alpaca Loin Medallions, Warm Caramelized Fennel, Onion Compote, Toasted Pine Nuts.

Reception: Maple Wood Grilled Whole Lamb Loin with Pemberton BC Gold Pommes Maxim, Natural Jus and Honey Roasted Yam Foam

First Course: Lobster-herb Press, Seared Scallops, Pea Ravioli with Sautéed carrots, Irvings Farm Bacon and Vanilla Froth

Second Course: Pan Roasted Duck Breast and Venison Tourtiere with Confit Rhubarb Salad, Asparagus, Sauce Soubise and Duck Jus

Third Course: Local Saskatoon Berry Sorbet and Wild Cherry Chip

In addition to the dinner, guests will also have the opportunity to watch and chat up local chefs in action at six different stations, preparing dishes using the best produce and proteins area farmers have to offer (of course, the food ogling is a given).

Station #1: Shane Chartrand of L2 Grill

Galangal Spring Creek Ranch Beef Tenderloin

Sour Orange Sauce with “Moo Shu Style” Short Ribs, Salsify Crème and Crispy Leeks

Station #2 Sonny Sung of Sorrentino’s

Poached Bison Short Ribs with Porcini Mushroom And Truffle Emulsion

Slow Roasted Smoked Nature’s Green Acres Nouveau Beef Tenderloin, Foie Gras, Amarone Foam

Confit Ginger, Wild Fennel and Parmigiano-Reggiano Pate À Choux

Station #3 Paul Campbell of Cafe de Ville

North American Style Bison Short Rib with a Petit Waygu Striploin, Torchon, Alberta Wild Rice and Morel Risotto, Vegetable Medley. Balsamic Glaze

Station #4 Paul Shufelt of Hundred Bar & Kitchen

“Steak n’ Eggs” Grilled Pine Terra Farms Striploin, Soft Poached Egg, Braised Kickin’ Ash Buffalo Short Rib & Riverbend Gardens Potato Hash, Irving’s Farm Fresh Smoked Bacon & Ancho Pepper Hollandaise

Station #5 David O’Connor of the Sutton Place Hotel

Chocolate and Ancho Chili Crusted Spring Creek Ranch Filet Mignonette with Confit of Bison Short Rib, Shiraz Poached Potatoes with Roasted Root Vegetables

Station #6 Michael Brown of The Westin

Classic Wagyu Beef Tenderloin “Wellington” and Buffalo Short Ribs

Fine Morel Jus, Sautéed Root Vegetables, Creamed Potatoes and Wild Alberta Blueberry Yogurt Tart

The farmers supplying the products will be on hand to talk to the guests as well, making Chefs in the City seem like a grander version of Madison’s Grill’s Farmers’ Market Dinner.

I am fortunate enough to have been invited to this event, but there are still some tickets available if you’re interested in supporting aspiring chefs. It should be a great night!

Chefs in the City 2010
Shaw Conference Centre
Tickets $175 +GST
Reception @ 6:30pm, Dinner @ 7:30pm

As Seen on TV: Koutouki Taverna

Ever since The Family Restaurant aired on Food Network Canada, my Mum and I have been itching to visit Koutouki – not for the food necessarily, but in order to see the venue of a television production in person. As I had heard dinners at Koutouki was quite pricey, we decided to swing by for lunch instead.

Our schedules finally aligned, and with a day off on Friday, I made a reservations for my parents and I at the southside Taverna (10310 45 Avenue). Stepping into the low-ceilinged building, I found the space cramped, but in a comfortable, “get to know your neighbour” kind of way, similar to TZiN. I loved the overhanging ivy-like plants, with twinkle lights looped in-between pots – they would, as my Mum commented, be a nightmare to water, but really elicited feelings of romanticism and escapist possibilities. Even more than Blue Willow, pictures of the family behind Koutouki lined every wall (including patriarch Yianni Psalios with Kevin Lowe, and even Muhammad Ali!) and served their function of making diners feel like a part of the establishment’s growing history.

While I can’t claim to be a huge fan of Greek cuisine, I probably haven’t sampled enough of it to really make a fair judgment. It turns out Koutouki doesn’t offer a separate lunch and dinner menu, so my delay was for naught. The waitress spoke of two specials, one of which sounded good to me – a pork donair-esque dish ($15.95) that I can’t remember by name. My parents opted for the second special, a rack of lamb, also priced at $15.95.

While waiting for our entrees, we were offered bread and Greek salad (feta, tomatoes, red onion, cucumbers, olives) lightly tossed in olive oil. It was a light, refreshing way to start out our meal, and I didn’t even mind the feta in the dish.

We did get to see Yianni and his wife Kally – Yianni stepped out to survey the dining room at one point, and Kally was busy refilling coffee and water throughout our time there. Everything seemed so normal and commonplace that it was strange to think a full television crew was once stationed here.

Our entrees arrived and I immediately knew I wouldn’t be able to finish the large portion, especially given that this was my first meal of the day. The cubes of pork within my donair tasted tough and overcooked, but I was willing to overlook that if not for the overpowering lemon used in both the sauce and the potato side dish. The citrus was so pervasive that everything actually tasted sour. And though I’m not averse to parsley, overuse of the fresh herb was too much for me in this case. My parents thought the lamb was all right, though they would have happily accepted steak knives instead of the butter knives provided at the tables.

While we were treated to attentive service during our time at Koutouki, I can’t say I’ll be back. The food really played second-string to “celebrity-sighting” this afternoon.

Restaurant interior

Menu

The Psalios family

Yianni with Muhammad Ali

Certificate from Premier Ralph Klein, congratulating Yianni and Kally on their grand Cyprus wedding for daughter Dina

Greek salad

Donair

Rack of lamb