Recap: Hot Chefs, Cool bEATS

As the date of Hot Chefs, Cool bEATS grew near, I became more and more excited. Although Gurvinder had done his best to explain his vision for the event, I really wanted to see how it would manifest itself in reality. A fundraiser for Culinary Team Canada and the High School Culinary Challenge, a success in its first year would really help boost its profile for future years.

Well, Mack and I were floored by what we encountered in the lobby of the Shaw Conference Centre’s Hall D two weeks ago.

Hot Chefs, Cool bEATS

Street fair!

You might think it difficult to transform a carpeted, dimly lit hallway into an outdoor street festival, but they did it. Colourful flag streamers hung from the ceiling, alongside graffiti art and a fenced area meant to replicate a back alley. On this stage, break dancers took to the floor, wowing the crowds with their rhythm and acrobatic moves.

Hot Chefs, Cool bEATS

There were even shoes strung up over streamers (though that might be a little too much street for me)

Hot Chefs, Cool bEATS

Graffiti artists

Hot Chefs, Cool bEATS

Break dancers

Food (and drink) vendors lined the rest of the lobby, serving up different interpretations of street cuisine. To be honest, we actually didn’t sample all of the dishes available – too much chatting, and not enough eating!

Hot Chefs, Cool bEATS

We loved Drift’s wooden booth

That said, we particularly enjoyed the Filistix’s sisiq, a roasted pork belly (I’m selfishly hoping Filistix puts it on their What the Truck?! menu in June). Drift’s jerk chicken sandwich had a nice bite to it, and after several meat-heavy offerings, Wild Tangerine’s tofu and vegetable curry was a nice reprieve. And though we’re huge fans of poutine in all its incarnations, Culinary Team Canada’s duck fat fries poutine was a bit too salty for us.

Hot Chefs, Cool bEATS

Sisiq from Filistix

Hot Chefs, Cool bEATS

Jerk chicken sandwich from Drift

Hot Chefs, Cool bEATS

Poutine from Culinary Team Canada

On the drink side, I absolutely loved the St. Germain cocktail made with champagne, lemon and soda water – simple but fantastic. (On a side note, we welcomed the idea of using the wine glass we were provided with upon entry, but most of the beverage purveyors actually handed us their own cups, so it was a bit redundant.)

Hot Chefs, Cool bEATS

St. Germain cocktails

The program didn’t include the exact time when festivities would shift to Hall D, and we heard there was some confusion about it, so perhaps for next year the transition between the two parts of the event could be more pre-defined. That said, it was a pretty grand reveal when the hall doors were thrown open.

Hot Chefs, Cool bEATS

Hall D

Little India, the French Brasserie and Granville Island/Little Japan each occupied a corner of Hall D, while individual vendors like Elm Café, Duchess and Transcend were sprinkled throughout the rest of the space.

Japanese drummers Kita-No-Taiko started off the entertainment, and because sound easily travelled in the hall, performers traded off with one another. This was quite well organized – there wasn’t a moment when music wasn’t audible.

Hot Chefs, Cool bEATS

Allez Ouest

MC Bridget Ryan also provided great commentary on a live Iron Chef-style challenge that saw two Team Canada chefs prepare salmon for a panel of judges selected from the audience. Clearly, there was more than enough to take in that night!

Hot Chefs, Cool bEATS

And…go!

The hall easily accommodated three hundred people, and could have held several hundred more. Because of that, it was curious why there wasn’t more seating available. We saw many small parties “reserve” tables for the entire night, and as a result, didn’t get to sit down until the later part of the evening. More cocktail tables also would have been a welcome addition – it was challenging to balance plates and wine glasses.

Hot Chefs, Cool bEATS

Ledges helped

Still, we found ways to sample most of the food available at the various stations. Among my favourites was Culinary Team Canada’s take on fish and chips (fried cod with potato foam – I could just see the Top Chef Canada judges frowning), and Duchess Bake Shop’s warm macaron with caramelized chocolate cake and fresh raspberries (I loved that they even brought a tiny chandelier with them to decorate their booth – it’s always the little things).

Hot Chefs, Cool bEATS

Fish and chips

Hot Chefs, Cool bEATS

Macaron

On the drink side, the novelty of the vodka luge was tough to beat, especially with ice carvers hard at work demonstrating their craft, though a close second was Transcend’s latte.

Hot Chefs, Cool bEATS

Cool art

Hot Chefs, Cool bEATS

Tito’s Handmade Vodka and Hpnotiq martini

Hot Chefs, Cool bEATS

Josh hard at work

At some point, guests were told to make their way to a table in the centre of the hall. This was the only seated portion of the evening, and trays of pre-plated desserts were waiting.

Hot Chefs, Cool bEATS

Stage

Hot Chefs, Cool bEATS

Dessert

While we satisfied our sweet cravings, we watched a live auction to end the night. Bridget Ryan was a fantastic auctioneer (if she ever loses her Breakfast Television gig, she’ll be fine), but as the numbers for the auction items crept to upwards of $10,000, we couldn’t help but wonder if we were in the wrong place. Was this the same fundraiser that was geared towards the 25-45 crowd? Sure, some in that age group might have the cash to legitimately bid on such items, but I don’t think it was a coincidence that most of the auction winners were 50+. It’ll be interesting to see how this aspect of the event develops, especially if they continue to target patrons in the next gen set.

Hot Chefs, Cool bEATS

A sweet takeaway

All in all, Hot Chefs, Cool bEATS lived up to our expectations. It was a great way to spend a Saturday night in Edmonton – dabbling in different food and drinks from some of the city’s most street-savvy chefs, all while benefiting a good cause.

You can see my photoset here.

An Innovative Food and Drink Event: Hot Chefs, Cool bEATS

Hot ChefsThere’s no doubt that the appetite for food and wine events in Edmonton has been growing. In many ways, this is great for consumers who have much more to choose from, though with every passing year, distinguishing one from another has become more challenging. Every so often, however, a unique concept is introduced, and a second look is required. I think the Shaw Conference Centre’s upcoming fundraiser, Hot Chefs, Cool bEATS, is one such event.

What: Hot Chefs, Cool bEATS
When: Saturday, April 21, 2012
Time: 6:30-10pm
Where: Shaw Conference Centre
Cost: $150 (all inclusive)

Mack and I had the opportunity to sit down with Vinomania’s Gurvinder Bhatia recently to talk about the event. He and Shaw Executive Chef Simon Smotkowicz are co-chairing Hot Chefs, where funds raised will support Culinary Team Canada’s quest for gold at the Culinary Olympics in Germany this fall, as well as their High School Culinary Challenge program that supports young talent with apprenticeship opportunities and scholarships for formal training. Their driving vision behind creating Hot Chefs was actually wanting to break the mould of a typical wine-and-dinner event – how far outside of the box could they go?

As it turns out, by leaps and bounds. To start, instead of a traditional cocktail reception, guests will encounter a street festival in the foyer of Hall D. All of the food was inspired by dishes that could be found in street hawker stalls from around the world: The menu includes (all food and drink samples are included in the ticket price):

  • pork belly on rice from Filistix
  • jerk chicken with pineapple and lime slaw from Drift
  • barbeque duck on arepa with fermented slaw from Transcend
  • laksa noodles with tofu from Wild Tangerine
  • beef tartar from Bistecca
  • brisket sliders and duck fat poutine from Culinary Team Canada
  • tequila, Mexican beer, wine, St. Germain cocktails

The main event will move inside Hall D, which will be transformed into a culinary tourist’s dream. Gurvinder described a space where guests will not only be able to sample different types of cuisine and liquors, but will be immersed in the sights, sounds and experiences those regions have to offer:

  • In “Little India”, Guru will be offering Kathi rolls alongside Indian beer, and Mendhi artists will be on hand for henna art
  • In the “Brasserie”, Culinary Team Canada will cook up mussels and fries, croque monsieurs, and offer a selection of cheese to accompany French wines and Alley Kat beers, with French Canadian band Allez Ouest setting the tone
  • In “Granville Island”, Culinary Team Canada will be serving oysters two ways (on the half shell and as fried oyster sliders), salmon tacos and fish and chips to be paired with Granville Island beers
  • In “Little Japan”, guests will be able to try sake and roll their own sushi with Culinary Team Canada chefs, with Japanese drummers Kita-no-taiko providing entertainment

Elm Cafe, Duchess and Transcend will also be on hand sampling appetizers, macarons and coffee, respectively, and guests can also look forward to an Iron Chef-style competition featuring Culinary Team Canada chefs.

The only sit-down portion of the evening comes at the end, with a plated dessert prepared by Culinary Team Canada’s pastry chef.

In many ways, its disappointing that the vision of Hot Chefs isn’t better articulated on either the poster or the webpage. Given the number of local restaurants involved, and the street festival and culinary tour concept, I think this event is one that food lovers cannot miss – Mack and I picked up our tickets this weekend. Hope to see you there!

Find out more about Hot Chefs, Cool bEATS on their website and on Facebook.