Blog # 1 by the Stratford Chefs School’s 2014-15 student blogger Eli Silverthorne.
The theme of this year’s Savour Stratford event (July 19-20th) was Canada from Coast to Coast, meaning top chefs from across the country would deliver their vision of “local”, by showcasing distinct produce, impressive skills, and complete breakdowns of signature recipes and methods, exactly as used in their renowned restaurant/kitchens “back home”.
The two-day Savour Stratford event was host to a number of celebrity chefs who showcased their skills on the Toronto Star Celebrity Stage (many of them Stratford Chefs School graduates): James Walt, Paul Rogalski, Rich Francis, Derek Dammann, Dale Mackay, Todd Perrin, Carl Heinrich & Ryan Donovan, Doug McNish, etc. A link to all of the cooking demonstrations can be viewed on the Fanshawe College website. On top of these “celebrity” demonstrations were many other speaking engagements, led by chefs and other industry innovators: e.g. Ryan O’Donnell on Fermentation.
For me personally, the first day was busy. It began early with usual prep for an unusually busy “Savour Stratford Weekend” Saturday evening service at The (Old) Prune, where I am stationed as Garde Manger (i.e. appetizers). It was an exceptionally early start in order to account for my privileged opportunity of working with chef James Walt from Araxi (Whistler, B.C.) for the second time this year, after already completing a 5-week stage with him at Araxi earlier in the season. This obviously meant all necessary prep work had to be done before leaving: #cheflife.
Working with Chef Walt, I assisted in the preparation and demonstration of two non-heat-based cooking methods: salt cure and acidulated ceviche.
Once on stage, the veteran Chef Walt quickly and gracefully showcased how to cure an untreated sockeye salmon side (already butchered and pin-boned), which he brought with him from British Columbia.
The salt-curing-agent was made using a half-and-half salt-sugar cure; which was applied with coriander, gin (made from Pemberton Valley potatoes), and dill. This was finished methodologically by wrapping the fillet in saran/plastic wrap and placing it between two casserole dishes, the top of which was to be weighed down and allowed to rest in the fridge for two days (48 hours), flipping every 12 hours or so.
The second cooking method demonstrated by Chef Walt was a ceviche, which means cooking by way of acid. He used a plethora of seafood, all Ocean Wise Sustainable, including: wild scallops, spot prawns, octopus, salmon, and last but not least geoduck! This collaboration of elegant seafood made for an exceptionally entertaining show for the 50+ crowd in attendance!
After both demos were complete, we sampled a pre-cured, and thinly sliced, gravlax salmon, which was served on dressed (boiled) new potatoes with crème fraiche, dill, and extra virgin olive oil. We also served the small sampling of ceviche available, as prepared by Chef Walt on stage.
Aside from all these “celebrity” stages or ”talks”, Savour Stratford is primarily built around a street celebration/festival experience, showcasing food vendors, local artisans, music/entertainment, etc.. In conjunction with these free-to-all-events came Sunday’s Grand Tasting Tent, where local restaurants (Prune, SCS, Pazzo, Rene’s, Rundles, etc.) aimed to delight those patrons who were lucky enough to have purchased tickets to the sold-out event.
As an employee of The Prune I am a bit biased as to favorites, so, to keep things objective, here is the complete list of official winners of the 2014 Savour Stratford Culinary Awards.
The festival was a great success. Even the change of date (from fall to mid-summer) proved worthwhile, as the clouds broke and sun appeared to close out the event on Sunday evening. Considering the range and caliber of chefs who took part in this year’s event, it is hard to imagine how they will top the experience next year. I am however looking forward to seeing, hearing, and tasting, what they come up with!
Savour Stratford website: www.visitstratford.ca/culinaryfestival/