Just Trust the Chefs: The Parlour Kitchen & Bar

I have a lot of respect for the Century Hospitality Group. They are one of the most successful local restaurant companies, reaching a total of eight properties this year, but they don’t rest on their laurels. They were the originators of the “alley cuisine” trend in Edmonton with their back alley Hundred burgers, created a pop-up dining room in a pedway, and this year, reached culinary heights with Corporate Chef Paul Shufelt’s win at the local Gold Medal Plates competition.

As Century Hospitality continues expanding their reach into neighbourhoods like Magrath and soon, Terwillegar, they have not forgotten about the core. Lux and Hundred have become stalwarts in the downtown restaurant scene, and now, a few blocks west, the Parlour Italian Kitchen & Bar offers an additional CHG dining option.

Situated on Capital Boulevard, Parlour was the only storefront on that cold Friday December evening that was drawing any foot traffic (yes, I am discounting Denny’s). In the future, once the Boulevard streetscaping is complete, in addition to the construction of more retail along this signature street, one can only hope this will change.

The Parlour


No doubt, Century Hospitality excels in creating trendy, upscale casual environments. Parlour is no different, with a bold, masculine space accented by a vintage-inspired “EAT” fixture (we saw a similar sign at Olympic Provisions in Portland). What sets this dining room apart from the others, however, is the grand mezzanine, which takes advantage of the building’s lofty ceiling, and the curved bar anchored by a tiled pizza oven.

The Parlour


The menu at Parlour is large, ranging from the requisite sandwiches, pastas, and larger entrees, but with the oven front and centre, it’s no secret that pizza is their focus. Comparisons can be drawn between their pie and the Neapolitan style made popular in Edmonton by Famoso, but Parlour stresses that the deviating tomatoes and cheese they chose were selected because of their superior flavour when compared with their standard Neapolitan counterparts.

We opened our meal with an order of arancini ($12). It was a generous serving, but for me, they were rolled a bit too large, decreasing the ever-important shell-to-rice ratio. That said, the spritz of lemon provided a welcome freshness to the dish.

The Parlour


I don’t normally build my own pizzas, typically trusting the tried and true formulas crafted by the kitchen, but on this occasion, I couldn’t get the idea of a meatball pizza out of my head. So on a base of fresh mozzarella, I requested the heritage angus meatballs ($16).

The Parlour

Pizza tiers

I probably should have left the creativity to the chefs, as the delicate base did not seem intended for the weight of such hefty toppings (the meatballs themselves were tasty, and I’m certain well suited to pair with spaghetti).

The Parlour

Heritage angus meatball pizza

The crust, thin but satisfyingly chewy was better served with a lightweight layer. Mack’s order of Gamberi ($17) showcased the dough best, with what should be their signature sauce going forward, a sriracha pesto, and fire roasted garlic prawns that made me rethink my opinion that seafood and pizza don’t mix.

The Parlour

Gamberi pizza

As if we weren’t full enough, we opted for dessert. The tiramisu ($9) was beautifully plated, a modern take on an Italian classic. Cookie crumbs surrounded a bed of espresso-soaked lady fingers, with marscapone gingerly piped on top. The crumbs added a unique texture not normally associated with lush tiramisu – it’s a dish I’d definitely order again.

The Parlour


Service was friendly throughout the evening, and even as the restaurant filled up, we were never forgotten. Although our server didn’t expect to be busy on that bitterly cold night, we weren’t surprised – diners are interested in what’s next for CHG.

Our parting shot – by the door, a gumball machine had been repurposed to dispense cherry tomatoes. We couldn’t resist taking a photo.

The Parlour

Eat your veggies!

The Parlour Italian Kitchen & Bar
10334 Capital Boulevard
(780) 990-0404
Monday-Saturday 11:30-late, Sunday 4-11pm

Alley Burger 2013

I was craving a burger all week, so the 2013 resurrection of the #yegalleyburger last Friday was the perfect timing! Set for 10pm, I chose to have a light dinner after work, while Mack opted to forego supper altogether.

We headed down to Hundred at around 9:10, but there was not a soul in the alley yet, so we stretched our legs a bit more by walking around the block. Ten minutes later, we joined a line-up of just four people. Mack and I wondered why Edmonton is such a last minute town; we were certain that if CHARCUT had put out an #alleyburger announcement the crowds would have been out in full force an hour before curtain.

Alley Burger

The line (can you spot Mack?)

Anyway, just before 10pm, Chef Andrew Cowan came out to trade $5 cash for a Century Hospitality Group poker chip, good for one burger each. We heard that in total, over 50 burgers were sold.

Alley Burger

Chef Andrew Cowan serves ‘em up!

Things were running a little late, and we weren’t handed the burger until twenty after ten. But what a burger it was, a medium-rare patty with cheese curds embedded in the centre, topped with fries, gravy and a slip of lettuce.

Alley Burger

The poutine alley burger

In the time that we were waiting, the temperature seemed to drop five degrees, so we couldn’t stick around to enjoy the burger outdoors – maybe next time! Make sure to follow Chef Cowan for details on future alley burgers!

Recap: Blink, a Pedway Pop-up

Last June, I remember writing that the first What the Truck?! very much unfolded in the way I had envisioned. I am very happy to say that Blink, the February 26, 2012 pop-up restaurant that Mack and I helped organize also held true to what I hoped the event would look and feel like. In this instance, a lot of that was attributed to our partner, who understood from the get-go what we wanted to achieve.

Blink Edmonton: Pedway Pop-up

Pedway from street level

Blink had been inspired by Diner en Blanc and the spontaneous community those gatherings facilitate. As I mentioned in my introduction to Blink, I knew it was too late for an outdoor meal, but we knew of several underutilized indoor spaces in Edmonton just waiting to be colonized with good food and new friends. Mack and I centred on closing a pedway, and as he has already so aptly described, set about garnering the right support and permissions from the Downtown Business Association (DBA) and building managers.

I had initially approached Chef Tony Le of Lux Steakhouse (part of the Century Hospitality Group) about this concept back in December. Lux’s proximity to our desired pedway overlooking 101 Street was ideal, but more than that, CHG had a penchant for forward-thinking initiatives (alley burger and CHG Top Chef being two of them). And true to form, Tony embraced the idea even before we had all of the details ironed out – I really appreciated his trust in our collaboration and faith that we could pull this off. Though Tony took charge of designing the six-course menu, CHG VP Culinary/Managing Partner Paul Shufelt got involved in securing the necessary health and liquor permits for Blink. Paul’s knowledge and existing relationships and contacts really made this easy on Mack and I – Lux was able to get a caterer’s extension to stage a kitchen adjacent to the pedway (thought he majority of the preparation and cooking would still be done in Lux proper), and after a fire inspection, the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission granted us permission to offer alcohol with dinner.

Blink Edmonton: Pedway Pop-up

Chefs Paul, Tony and Matt Phillips hard at work plating dessert

To create the dining room itself, Paul was adamant about using proper chairs, to ensure it felt more like a restaurant as opposed to a banquet. That meant carting sixty heavy leather-backed chairs up one floor. Props to the Lux staff who did this over the course of many trips – I wish I could say I helped! The tables were dressed with linens from Lux; overhead costs were definitely reduced because we could borrow and poach from Lux, especially since they are closed Sundays anyway.

Blink Edmonton: Pedway Pop-up

Table setting, with custom Blink menus prepared by CHG

That left the lighting to Mack and I. Commerce Place, who controlled the pedway lighting, agreed to turn off the fluorescents, allowing us to add appropriate lighting to contribute to the mood. A friend of mine was nice enough to lend us two hundred feet of white lights she had purchased in advance of her wedding, saving us from having to rent them. With some money we had been granted for the event from the DBA, we could afford to purchase some battery-powered paper lanterns. Strung in the centre of the pedway with fishing line, I thought the room was tasteful but didn’t take away from the street view inherent from the location.

Blink: Pedway Pop-up

Pedway in daylight

We were lucky Blink sold out quickly – twelve hours, in fact – but I know we failed in setting up an official waiting list (or a proper cancellation policy), something we will improve upon in the future. Still, we appreciate the patience afforded  to us by ticket buyers as we worked through the learning curve.

Something else we’d change for next time is also allowing dining room access earlier. We used Scotia Place as a closed lounge area for the cocktail hour, in order to hold off the pedway “reveal”, but given the number of drink orders taken at the table, it would have been wise to have had guests seated at least twenty minutes prior to serving the first course.

Blink Edmonton: Pedway Pop-up

The cocktail “lounge”

Mack and I were very lucky that we didn’t have to work during the actual dinner – along with sixty other strangers, we got to experience the communal table firsthand, which of course, included all six of the exquisitely planned dishes.

Blink: Pedway Pop-up

Chef Cowan prepares his amuse

Blink Edmonton: Pedway Pop-up

Busy staging area

Never does everything work out perfectly, and in our case, we had some trouble with the lights – the fluorescents came back on just after the first course had been served, half of our string lights shut off on one side of the pedway, and the kitchen staging area went dark. We actually didn’t get to “run through” the shut off with Commerce Place prior to that night, and without a maintenance worker on-site, it was touch-and-go as to whether or not the problem would be fixed. With some scrambling, the pedway lights were shut off soon after, but we weren’t able to rectify the two other issues.

Blink Edmonton: Pedway Pop-up

Fluorescents on

Blink Edmonton: Pedway Pop-up

Fluorescents off

Thankfully, nothing else major cropped up that evening, and we were able to enjoy ourselves.

Blink: Pedway Pop-up

Sweetbread terrine amuse

Blink: Pedway Pop-up

Bread & butter – focaccia, lardo, pink peppercorns, Himalayan sea salt, brown sugar, fresh rosemary, ciabatta, bacon butter, peach chipotle jam, fresh thyme, rye crostini, quails egg, fried sage, sriracha ketchup

Blink: Pedway Pop-up

Fish – Alberta pickerel, sesame oil, fresh chili, fried shallots, pea shoots, smoked sea salt (one of my favourites that night)

Blink: Pedway Pop-up

Ravioli – roasted beet and Smoky Valley goat cheese stuffed, fennel marmalade, micro arugula, chili-mandarin beurre blanc, toasted walnuts (the beet and goat cheese worked incredibly well together)

Blink: Pedway Pop-up

Rabbit – confit rabbit pot pie, braised bacon, fresh arugula, Yukon Gold chips, northwest truffle (only Tony could get me to eat rabbit, or as he said, “the cuter the animal, the better it tastes)

Blink: Pedway Pop-up

Cow – Heritage Angus striploin, lobster croquette, bernaise, cabernet demi-glace, sauteed peas

Blink: Pedway Pop-up

Sweet – macaron, oreo terroir, micro greens, cinnamon chocolate truffles (I loved the “potted plant” presentation!)

As I mentioned above, Blink couldn’t have happened without the support of a number of parties. We cannot thank GWL Realty Advisors and Morguard enough for allowing us to use the pedway, the DBA and the Downtown Edmonton Community League for sponsoring us, and last but not least, Paul, Tony and the rest of the staff of Lux for helping us make Blink a reality.

We hope those who took part enjoyed themselves! We really appreciate that people embraced this idea, and were willing to try something a little unique. Based on the response, we know there is an appetite for dinners in unexpected places, so we are working on another Blink – stay tuned!

Check out what Paul, Liane and Linda had to say about Blink!

Blink: Edmonton’s Pedway Pop-up

When I first saw pictures of Diner en Blanc, I was absolutely transfixed. Hundreds, if not thousands of people, all dressed in white, dining al fresco with the most gorgeous urban backdrops imaginable – the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the New York harbourfront. The scenes just looked so surreal, so serene, that I immediately started imagining what such an event would look like in our fair city. Would it take place in Churchill Square? The Legislature grounds? The 4th Street Promenade? But with autumn fast approaching and winter not far behind, it wasn’t feasible for the season.

Months later, I still couldn’t let go of the idea. I especially loved the instant community created as diners gathered in underutilized or public spaces, transforming them into unique settings for elegant picnics. It was the same principle behind the locations we chose for the two What the Truck?! festivals Mack and I organized last year, hoping to make use of often overlooked areas of downtown.

This was the germ for Blink, a pedway pop-up restaurant Mack and I have put together, with the help of Chefs Paul Shufelt and Tony Le of Century Hospitality Group, and the support of the Downtown Business Association, GWL Realty Advisors, Morguard and the Downtown Edmonton Community League.

Pedway between Commerce Place & Scotia Place

On February 26, 2012, the pedway between Scotia Place and Commerce Place, overlooking 101 Street, will be transformed into a sixty seat restaurant. Diners will be seated at a communal table, and will enjoy a six-course menu highlighting some of the best local ingredients available.

While we know other restaurants in Edmonton have hosted dinners featuring guest chefs in unfamiliar kitchens, we’re really excited about this opportunity to gather around food in an unconventional space.

Pedway between Commerce Place & Scotia Place

Tickets for the dinner are $65, and can be purchased online. A cash bar will also be available, separate from the ticket price.

We hope you consider joining us for this dining experiment!

You can read Mack’s take on Blink here.

Century Hospitality Group’s Top Chef: Finale

Last Saturday saw the culmination of the gruelling, month-long competition that was the Century Hospitality Group’s Top Chef Tournament.

The dining room at Lux, filled with guests, the judging panel, former judges, and event sponsors, was abuzz. Not only were they hungry for the six course meal to come, but also to see who would come out on top. Would it be the creative and resilient Ben Weir, who had pulled off the most unique entrée the week prior? Or would it be the bold and consistent Shirley Fortez, whose plating skills were unrivalled in the semi-final round?

CHG Top Chef Finale

Ben plates while Valerie assists

Each cheftestant had to incorporate a secret ingredient into their dishes: steelhead salmon in the appetizer course; Kobe beef short rib and spot prawns in the main; and eggs in the dessert. The cheftestants had also stopped by the City Market that morning to accent their dishes with local products.

Though it wasn’t quite set up like Kitchen Stadium, guests were encouraged to visit the plating area, where Ben, Shirley and their sous chefs were busy with final meal preparations.

CHG Top Chef Finale

Plating is intense

Both young chefs looked a touch nervous, but more than anything, with blank canvas plates gleaming in front of them, they both looked like they wanted to be let out of the gates.

To help whet the appetite of the crowd (and to help get the spirit of the competition rolling), two of Century Hosplitality’s seasoned chefs, Tony Le of Lux and Andrew Cowan of Hundred, served up a plate of their amuse bouches, side by side. It was also to serve as a taste of what Indulgence patrons could expect from the CHG booth in a few weeks. The audience was to vote for their favourite with a show of applause.

CHG Top Chef Finale

A pair of amuse bouches

I thought I’d instantly grapple towards Chef Cowan’s scrapple, topped with a perfectly fried quail’s egg. And though it was a bite of velvety richness, given my absolute dislike of watermelon, the fact that Chef Tony was able to make a cube of the fruit tolerable for me (with the addition of a piece of boar bacon and balsamic vinaigrette) won my vote. The crowd, however, was partial to Chef Cowan’s amuse.

First course: steelhead salmon

Ben’s salmon tartare was up first. Visually beautiful, with colour contrast provided by an Edgar Farms asparagus puree, it was a great way to commence the competition. I loved the texture of the tartare, kicked up with the addition of red onions, and how fresh the dish as a whole presented, bright with lemon.

CHG Top Chef Finale

Salmon tartare

Shirley’s cured salmon that followed showed us just how different their cooking styles were. She chose a flavour base of aromatic soy sauce and wasabi, complemented with a daikon salad. On first bite, I preferred Shirley’s salmon – it was brash and memorable. But towards the end of the plate, I had to agree with most around our table – the dish was too salty and overpowered the fish.

CHG Top Chef Finale

Cured salmon with soy and wasabi

Second course: short rib and spot prawns

There was no doubt that Ben’s short rib had been expertly prepared. Braised in veal stock and coffee, a collective sign of contentment could be felt around the room when diners tasted the fork-tender meat. His accompanying spot prawn ravioli was less successful, more dumpling than pasta, and a rather unfortunate deconstruction and cloaking of an ingredient that should have been better showcased.

CHG Top Chef Finale

Short rib with spot prawn ravioli

As an overall dish, Shirley’s main fared better. The prawn was front and centre (literally), with a whimsical presentation that ensured diners knew every part of the shrimp had been used. The prawns lent their essence to the coconut red curry sauce, a rich concoction that again highlighted Shirley’s love of bold flavours, and helped tie the two proteins together. Her short rib, however, was tough to get through. Some of the cuts around our table were extremely fatty, and as a result, was rather chewy and unpleasant to eat.

CHG Top Chef Finale

Short rib with coconut red curry sauce

Third course: eggs

To be fair, Ben did have a slight advantage in this course. One of his sous chefs, Valerie, was in charge of dessert, and with her “team” of Thermomixes, had decided to make a zabaglione, which would emphatically highlight the eggs. Served with Canadian winter berries and a raspberry cream, it ended his meal in a similar way to how it started – light and refreshing.

CHG Top Chef Finale

Zabaglione with winter berries and raspberry cream

Shirley’s dessert of carrot cake wasn’t the best use of eggs, but was transformational for many people, including myself. I’m not typically a fan of carrot cake, but Shirley’s version, moist and studded with pineapples and almonds, was one of the best versions I’ve ever had.

CHG Top Chef Finale

A sea of carrot cakes

The judging panel, which included Chef Blair Lebsack, the Journal’s Liane Faulder, Up! 99 and Telus TV’s Kari Skelton, and CHG’s Corporate Chef Paul Schufelt, had a tough decision to make. But given they would only be awarding up to 100 points each, diners, who each received a CHG poker chip, would also have a say. With 67 diner chips up for grabs, the crowd would definitely be able to influence the results.

CHG Top Chef Finale

Judging is serious business

In the end, the diners did sway the decision, given there was only 1 point separating Ben and Shirley as far as the judges were concerned.

CHG Top Chef Finale

Hearing the final verdict

So, after four weeks of intense competition, with fifteen other chefs in his wake, Ben Weir was crowned the CHG Top Chef!

CHG Top Chef Finale

Congrats, Ben!

Both Ben and Shirley deserve accolades for the meals they put together under such high pressure – both of them undoubtedly have bright futures ahead of them. Congratulations are also due to Paul, Tony and the rest of the CHG crew for putting together such an exciting event. It sounds like something that will happen on an annual basis – I’m sure it will soon become the hottest ticket in town.

Thanks again to CHG for the invitation!

Liv’s write-up of the finale is here, and you can see Mack’s Flickr set here.

Century Hospitality Group’s Top Chef: Final Four

Century Hospitality Group has been doing some really exciting things as of late. You’ve probably read about their smashing success of bringing the alley burger to Edmonton, and heard about their weekly farmers’ market dinners. But perhaps most innovative is their internal Top Chef tournament.

In order to help their young chefs grow, they’ve provided them with a creative outlet to flex their kitchen muscles and tackle cooking challenges. And really, what better outlet is there than an in-house competition modeled after the wildly successful reality programs Top Chef and Iron Chef?

It all started on May 7, 2011 with sixteen eager cheftestants. March-madness style, the competitors were reduced to eight after head-to-head battles. On May 14, those eight were cut down to four. This past Saturday saw those four remaining chefs fight for the two spots in the final. At stake: $1000 in prizes, and the title of “Century Hospitality Group Top Chef.”

Mack and I had been fortunate enough to be asked to be a part of the judging roster, who would be called upon to help narrow the field. Though Mack was remiss about the lost opportunity to judge the scallop challenge due to a schedule conflict, it did mean that we were able to sit on the panel together.

CHG Top Chef: Final Four

Mack is ready to judge!

On Saturday morning, we headed to Lux to join our fellow panellists, Che Bechard of Baseline Wines and Spirits, Chef Andrew Fung of Blackhawk Golf Club, and resident judge, CHG Corporate Chef Paul Shufelt. Liv Vors of Vue Weekly was on hand as well to chronicle the competition.

CHG Top Chef: Final Four

The judges (I suppose we really shouldn’t be smiling…)

The set-up reminded me of the Top Chef judges table – long and narrow, with several lengths between the table and where the cheftestants would stand and receive their feedback. If there was a camera to do one of those trademarked shots that sweep behind the judges table, I’m sure Lux could have easily been mistaken for a studio.

CHG Top Chef: Final Four

“Please pack your knives and go”

The chefs would have 90 minutes to complete 4 plates each of an entree and a dessert. They would have access to the kitchen’s pantry, but would have to use two secret ingredients in their dishes – bison striploin and chocolate. In addition, a bonus ingredient of rhubarb, picked up at the farmers’ market that morning, would also have to be incorporated somehow.

CHG Top Chef: Final Four

Shirley Fortez plates her entrees

Andrew, Paul, Mack and myself could award each chef with up to 20 points each, judging the taste (10 points), presentation (5 points) and creativity/use of the secret ingredient (5 points). Che would also be awarding 20 points, but specifically on the wine pairing with the entree.

CHG Top Chef: Final Four

Judging form

While the chefs were preparing their dishes, we occasionally popped into the kitchen to check out the action, but it was clear they were feeling the pressure, so we thought it best to let them work.

CHG Top Chef: Final Four

Ben Weir hard at work

CHG Top Chef: Final Four

John Dykeman has his eyes on the prize

Unlike the previous two rounds of competition, where chefs would receive their scores and feedback immediately after their presentation, because we would be choosing the finalists, Paul had decided that no comments would be shared until all of the dishes had been judged.

Shirley Fortez

CHG Top Chef: Final Four

Baseball-cut striploin accompanied with garlic roasted potato mash and a roasted tomato with truffle oil

Shirley’s sweet and sour sauce was one of my favourite tastes that day – there was something so aggressive and bold about it, and in a competition where a memorable dish can win it all, it was a great start. The steak was on the rare side, however, and the potatoes were too rustic and unevenly mashed for my preference.

CHG Top Chef: Final Four

Rhubarb lemon flan with blackberry rhubarb compote and chocolate sauce

Shirley’s dessert was also the most beautiful plate of the day – great composition and colour. We were told later that Shirley had spent a lot of time practicing the flan recipe, something that definitely paid off. There was consensus, however, that the secret ingredient of chocolate had thrown her off – the chocolate sauce ended up overwhelming the subtleness of the flan, instead of complementing it.

Cedric Boeglin

CHG Top Chef: Final Four

Mini bison striploin with a rhubarb beurre blanc

Mack and I disagreed about the cut of Cedric’s steak – I thought it was on the thin size, which resulted in overcooking in parts – but Mack thought it had been perfectly done. The rhubarb in the sauce also gave it almost a sour quality that I didn’t enjoy. However, the vegetables had been cooked well.

CHG Top Chef: Final Four

Chocolate crepe suzette with orange sauce

Cedric very smartly incorporated the chocolate into the batter of his crepe, which turned out nicely both in texture and flavour. He was perhaps too heavy-handed with the sauce though, and the citrus took over. Paul and Andrew also pointed out that a true crepe suzette is stewed in the sauce, and cautioned the cheftestants on their use of terminology.

John Dykeman

CHG Top Chef: Final Four

Bison rubbed with juniper berries, served with bernaise sauce and mashed potatoes with chives

Neither Mack or I could taste the rub on the steak, which was a bit of a disappointment. The steak also hadn’t been rested properly, which left an unappealing pool on our plates. Both of us agreed though – if the competition could have been won by the potatoes alone, John would have taken it with his creamy, smooth, and well seasoned mashed potatoes.

CHG Top Chef: Final Four

Rhubarb cheese cake with pastry cream and milk chocolate

John admitted that his original plan was to make a trio of balls, but because of time constraints, this was the dessert he ended up with it. It was pretty clear to everyone that John was capable of much more – none of us could understand why he separated the cheese cake from the accompaniments. As well, the dessert was much too heavy. It would have benefitted from a fruit compote or some other lightening agent.

Ben Weir

CHG Top Chef: Final Four

Bison shepherd’s pie with a rhubarb compote and salad with rhubarb vinaigrette

It was as if Ben knew grinding the meat would win him some extra points: his shepherd’s pie was the first non-steak entree we had seen. There could have been some improvements – a more consistent mince of meat, a sauce of some kind to bind the filling, but as a whole, I enjoyed it. I also really liked the rhubarb twist on the savoury dish – it was unexpected, and tied the pie to the vinaigrette drizzled on the side salad (which I nearly finished…I was a bit starved for vegetables by that point). Che also liked Ben’s wine pairing of the Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon best of the group.

CHG Top Chef: Final Four

Strawberry, rhubarb and cream cheese crepe with chocolate ganache and rhubarb compote

Mack absolutely tore through this dessert, and complimented Ben on his restraint when it came to the sweetness of the dish. I didn’t mind the crepes, though a serving about half the size would have been better for me – the cream cheese filling was undoubtedly rich. Similar to the use of crepe suzette, Paul also called Ben out for calling the rhubarb puree a “compote.”

Scores tallied, Paul let the chefs know that only 8 points separated the top from the bottom. It was a tough call, given the finalists would be tackling the task of not only cooking for a panel of judges, but also a room of sixty guests.

CHG Top Chef: Final Four

Drumroll please…

Shirley Fortez and Ben Weir will be continuing on to the finals, but congrats to all four chefs for a hard-fought battle! To help them in the finals, each of them were able to choose one of the non-chef judges, as well as one of the competitors that they had beat along the way. Shirley picked Che and Cedric to be her sous chefs, while Ben drafted Valerie and John.

Mack and I had a blast participating on the judging panel; thanks again to Tony for the invitation! We are very much looking forward to the finals on Saturday, because we have no doubt Shirley and Ben will be putting their best dishes forward. Good luck to both of you!

Follow along on the CHG Top Chef blog here.

Century Hospitality Group’s “Top Chef”

It seems reality cooking competition shows are all the rage as of late, and with Top Chef Canada currently airing on Food Network, there is no doubt the profile of some of our nation’s chefs will definitely be raised in the process.

But did you know that Edmonton will soon be crowning a “Top Chef” of its very own? For a second year running, Century Hospitality Group (which runs Century Grill, Delux, Hundred and Lux, as well as a catering business) is showcasing its kitchen talent through an in-house culinary competition, dubbed “CHG Top Chef”.

This year though, the cooking throwdown is bigger and better. Not only will the finale be open to the public, but members of the external food community have been asked to help with judging duties. Mack and I were thrilled (and humbled) to be asked to be a part of a group of judges that includes Valerie of A Canadian Foodie, Mary Bailey of The Tomato, Liane Faulder of the Journal, and Chefs Blair Lebsack and Andrew Fung. It should be fun!

For some more background about why Century Hospitality decided to host such a tournament, I asked CHG Corporate Chef Paul Shufelt a few questions:

1. Why the “Top Chef” format?

We used the term “Top Chef” for the tournament, but, perhaps, it’s a hybrid of the Top Chef style challenges and the head to head competition of Iron Chef, or similar style cooking contests. We are holding a single elimination tournament, where 16 of our top young chefs are competing head to head, with the winner of each bracket going through to the next round. Each week the challenges will become more involved, with Top Chef style twists coming as the weeks go by.

2. What do you think are the qualities of a “CHG Top Chef” champion?

A CHG Top Chef, will be the person who best exemplifies the skills of a great chef. Often on cooking shows, it’s all about the dish they make and that’s it. Little value is given to other keys that make a chef great. Throughout the challenges we will be testing the chefs abilities to “sell” their dish, their ability to pair it with wine, and in the final challenge 20% of the total score will involve their ability to lead a team, which will include a competitor that they beat along the way, and a guest judge, who may know a lot about food, but little about the expectations of cooking a 3 course dinner for 50+ people. They will also be judged on organization of their time, use/waste of ingredients, cleanliness of work environment, etc. So the goal with this challenge is to determine who can not only prepare a great meal, but handle leading a team, manage a kitchen, and successfully feed 50 happy people. A little more involved than making dinner for four judges.  The successful chef will have to be creative, passionate about food, organized, poised, and possess strong leadership skills to win this competition.

3. Given we’re now in spring, and Lux’s recent foray into farmers’ market dinners, will seasonal ingredients be incorporated into the challenges?

The simple answer is Yes! Last week, we kept things very simple, because the time was limited and I was more concerned with seeing quality cooking, rather than overly complicated failures, but this week we will be adding a little something picked up from the downtown market before things get started. For next week, we will be incorporating even more ingredients from the market, and the secret ingredient for the dessert course in the Finale will be from the market, not to mention a foray of other great springtime ingredients picked fresh the day of. To take it a step further we have decided to provide the finalists with a $100 budget and an extra 30 minutes to peruse the downtown market to find complimentary ingredients for their dishes.

4. What can people expect from the finale on May 28? Why should they buy tickets?

People can expect a fantastic six course meal prepared by two of our most talented upcoming chefs, plated right before their eyes, in the company of other great food lovers. I can’t share with you what the secret ingredients are, but I can tell you they will be incredible. This will really be a foodie’s night! They will also get to be an active part of the decision process, as each guest will have one vote for their favourite chef. The total judges’ score will only be 100, so with 50 guests, and each one of their votes counting for one bonus point, they can really sway the decision. This will be a great evening of not just great food, but some fantastic entertainment, topped off with the crowning of Century Hospitality Group’s Top Chef.

I think this tournament will help to not only raise the profile of young chefs in Edmonton, but also help diners further understand and appreciate what goes into every plate at a restaurant. A girl can dream, but perhaps this will set the stage for a city-wide Top Chef competition to take place…

You can read more about the CHG Top Chef tournament on their blog. And if you want to buy tickets to the showdown, you’ll have to act fast – there are only 5 remaining as I write this!

Edmonton’s Own Alley Burger

When an idea is as great as Charcut’s alley burger – involving $5 versions of their upscale burger sold from their back alley door – you know it is just a matter of time before it appears in other cities as well. Edmonton has jumped on the bandwagon, with Century Hospitality Group’s Hundred embracing their back alley to purvey $5 gourmet burgers.

Friday saw the debut of #yegalleyburger, widely publicized in both the Journal and Metro. For that reason, I figured it would be best to line up early, just in case, so we joined the line-up of half a dozen people at 9pm.


Felicia and Amanda made sure to dress for the weather

Hundred’s alley was without a dumpster, patrolling security guards, or the threat of passing cars, so it provided a bit of a different experience than standing in line outside Charcut. But perhaps the biggest disparity was the lack of devices and cameras being used. Sure, there were a few people snapping photographs and updating their statuses, but relatively few when compared with that night in Calgary.


The line at about 9:15

Eventually, there grew to be about 30-40 people standing in line, eagerly awaiting the back door to open. A few minutes before 9:30, Chef Andrew Cowan appeared, trading $5 for a Century Hospitality Group poker chip that would guarantee the bearer a burger.


Doesn’t it look like a shady exchange?



The kitchen was on top of things, as the burgers started coming out right at 9:30. We grabbed our burgers, loosely wrapped in paper, and headed back to the warmth of the condo.



It was well worth the wait – the patty was well cooked, with a ton of flavour, and the duck egg was a nice touch, but what the three of us were most drawn to was the peppery hit of the arugula. I’m sure that even Mack, ever the rocket-hater, would have enjoyed it as a fresh counterpoint to the beef. On that note – Jerry posted a video of his friend devouring a burger – warning: don’t watch it while hungry!

We read later on Twitter that some people were turned away, so if you are planning on snagging one next week, make sure to get there early! It was fun, Hundred – looking forward to the next one already!

Follow @cheftonyle, @chefcowan and @chefpshoey to find out the details of the next #yegalleyburger!