I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: no one does more for charities and good causes than chefs. Over the last six weeks in Toronto there have been four riotous culinary gatherings where a bunch of chefs – some from Toronto, others from farther afield – have cooked for highly appreciative crowds to raise funds for Community Food Centres Canada. They’ve called themselves Chefs for Change and they are another razor-sharp facet of the new movement that is energizing the country under the leadership of Nick Saul. I was lucky enough to be at one of the events, held at The Propellor Coffee Roastery on January 30. Chef Antonio Park flew in from Montreal, on his way to the Canadian Culinary Championships in Kelowna (see my last 4 postings), to join Nick Liu from DaiLo, Anthony Walsh from Oliver & Bonacini, Matty Matheson from Parts & Labour, Joel Rousell from George Brown College and Chris Brown from Citizen Catering, who is the mastermind behind these gatherings. Great to see a bunch of George Brown students also there, helping in the kitchen and gathering invaluable experience. Krystina Roman of Rosewood Estates winery donated some splendid wines, breads came from Blackbird Baking Co. in Kensington Market (I buy bread there almost every day). Other sponsors included Beau’s, Georgian Bay gin, Provender, Core, Beretta, Higgins Event Rentals and uniiverse. Singer-songwriter Jory Nash offered a musical interlude.
The food was entirely representative of the individual chefs involved. Nick Liu began it with a sturgeon fin soup, rich and textured like a shark’s fin soup but with much more flavour and much more going on, including a trembling, runny-yolked, soy-cured egg topped with Acadian sturgeon caviar. Fascinating.
Anthony Walsh wrapped a gorgeous kushi oyster from Honest Weight in a pounded beef fillet then paired it with various dainty iterations of cauliflower, dulse and mustards. Awesome.
Matty Matheson draped sea urchin roes over a stunning piece of mackerel that shared a fishy broth with two turned potatoes, then pushed the whole concept way over the top by adding bacon and brown butter. Intense!
Antonio Park’s dish was as impeccable and composed as his work always seems to be, and a reflection of his multi-cultural talents. He presented slices of unilaterally grilled dorado as a Peruvian tiradito-cum-Japanese sashimi, with ahi sauce, all topped by a pan-seared shishito pepper filled with marinated and slow-cooked baby anchovies. Ethereal.
Dessert drew gasps of admiration from our table – a round, sticky-toffee squash pudding on tangy apple purée with ginger beer ice cream, black walnuts and crumbled sponge toffee. Irresistible.
The plan is to do this again next year – maybe grow it? A brilliant idea.
And meanwhile the work of Community Food Centres Canada goes on apace. This from a recent press release:
“We organized our first national conference! Last weekend, staff from Community Food Centres and Good Food Organizations across the country — 100+ people representing 40+ organizations — came together in Toronto to share the good food work that’s happening in their communities, trade best practices, and brainstorm program innovations and joint actions. In addition to those practical sessions, our Saturday plenary session speakers, Dr. Mike Evans, farmer and organizer Damian Adjodha, and Dr. Valerie Tarasuk, leader of the University of Toronto’s PROOF food insecurity research project, explored levers for individual, community and public policy change. It was a totally inspiring weekend.
“Speaking of Community Food Centres… On March 13, we’ll launch Canada’s fifth Community Food Centre — the first outside Ontario! The NorWest Co-op Community Food Centre is located in Winnipeg’s high-needs Inkster neighbourhood, and is already increasing access to healthy food and bringing the community together through its community lunches and breakfasts, community kitchens, community action program and affordable produce market.
“And speaking of Good Food Organizations… Next week we’ll announce 36 new Good Food Organizations that will bring the total number of GFOs across Canada to 73! By joining the initiative, these organizations are committing to offer dignified food programs based in shared principles of equity, health, and respect. Having reps from most of these organizations at the Food Summit really underscored the amount of amazing community food work that’s happening across the country, and the ways CFCC can support that work, and amplify it to a national audience.”
Excellent work all round!