Last week I had the chance to attend a fantastic dinner event called Chefs For Change. Yes, there are a variety of these types of events taking place throughout the year, many of which are formal with a high ticket price. However, this very reasonably-priced event ($75, drinks extra) not only directed funds to a very worthy cause, it was one of those great occasions when guests got to see a gang of local chefs from different restaurants all working together. Food was mostly served family-style with all the chefs and a team of students from George Brown College creating the dishes.
This series of events (there are three more – Jan 30th, Feb 20th & Feb 27th – all sold out) all take place at Propeller Coffee, a spacious coffee roastery on Wade Avenue (Bloor/Lansdowne) that has both a huge prep area and event space.
Of the many courses offered at the Chef’s School at George Brown College, the Italian cuisine programme is one of the most popular. Heck, part of it is taught in Italy – what’s not to love about that?
For the second year, the school has opened its doors to the public in a week-long festival of Italian food and culture. Events included tastings, dinners, demonstrations and a gala tasting event that was held this past Thursday evening that featured chefs from both Italy and Ontario serving up food and wine that high-lighted the best flavours of Italy.
These events are wonderful learning experiences for the students as they work with some of the top Italian chefs in preparation for the dinners and tastings. We were lucky enough to be able to attend the gala and sample some of the food and drink.
There’s an ongoing joke in the restaurant biz, where executive chefs are regularly asked – who cooks the food when you’re not there? The answer is always given with a smirk – the same people who cook the food when I am there.
Presumably most foodies are wise enough to know that the product emerging from restaurant kitchens is the work of an entire team or brigade of staff, not just one person. Brigades can range in size from two or three people in small, family-run restaurants to hundreds of staff in large hotels. From dishwashers to sous chefs, sauciers to pastry chefs, the average restaurant runs on the concerted effort of many people, and that’s the just the staff at back of house.
Which means now more than ever that a career in just about any aspect of the culinary arts is a hot commodity. Canada’s hospitality sector currently employs over 1.7 million people and will require another 300,000 professionals by 2015 to remain competitive. Sure, some people have a natural talent for cooking, but for most, the key to landing jobs in the top restaurants is more easily attained through proper training.
I have had what might possibly be the best day ever. The only thing that could make it better would be if someone were to show up at my door with a huge tray of oysters.
I hauled my butt out of bed this morning and headed to my alma mater, George Brown College, to take part in the Peace of Cake event. Every year staff, students and assorted volunteers get together and back a thousand or so fruitcakes, cookies, brownies and other treats and then package them up to be given to needy families, youth centres and the veterans in the long-term care facility at Sunnybrook hospital.
As is always the case when I leave early to give myself time to get somewhere during a storm, I arrived a half hour early. I was given an apron straight away, though, and was quickly put to work wrapping fruitcakes in saran wrap. As more volunteers arrived, I was put in charge of a group of kids from a local high school.
Many of the cakes meant for the veterans have to be diabetic-friendly, but when the baking was taking place yesterday, someone didn’t label the cakes made from Splenda properly. All that hype about how it tastes “just like sugar” is not exactly true. Sugar doesn’t make your tongue tingle.