I’m not sure how I failed to attend a dinner by the Group of 7 Chefs up until now. Timing, finances, their predilection for odd bits of the insides of animals… all may play a role. But when they announced they would be doing a fish and beer dinner, teaming up with Bellwoods Brewery and serving sustainable fish, Greg and I knew we had to go.
The Group of 7 Chefs is actually comprised of more than seven local chefs. Scott Vivian (Beast), Rob Gentile (Buca), Mark Cutrara (Cowbell), Kevin McKenna (Globe and Earth), Matty Matheson (Parts & Labour), Chris Brown (The Stop), Bertrand Alepee (The Tempered Chef), and Marc Dufour (Globe and Earth) are the main crew, but they have been joined occasionally by local chefs Nick Liu (GwaiLo), Guy Rawlings and others, depending on the specific dinner and individual availability.
The premise is that the chefs get together once a month, on a Monday, when they’re all off from their regular gigs, and work together to create a multi-course dinner. There are a few sous chefs helping out, but most of the work is done by the chefs themselves, with everyone helping to cook and plate each others’ dishes, and a grand sense of fun and camaraderie, despite the stress and hard work.
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.