Of Latin America

The Day of the Dead is not a day of mourning in Latin America, but a day of celebration. Families gather at the graves of loved ones who have passed and have a party. They bring the deceased’s favourite foods, music and things in a celebration honouring their life. This annual event, which takes place on November 1st and 2nd (coinciding with All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day), is a day of feasting and joy.

To coincide with this year’s Day of the Dead, 7 local Latin American chefs have joined forces for a one-night extravaganza that is sure to have diners jumping and the dead wishing they were here to take part.

OLA – Of Latin America (“7 chefs, 1 kitchen, 1 hot night”) will take place on October 26th at Caju Restaurant with proceeds from the event directed toward the charity Youth Link which allows street kids to make a new start. Tickets are $100 or $140 with wine pairings.

The evening is also a celebration of local Latin American cookery, with the participating chefs hailing from Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and Venezuela. Each chef has taken on a course in this 7-course meal but everyone is pitching in to help each other in the spirit of co-operation. During the media preview, at one point we all stopped mid-bite as the chefs started singing together in Caju’s kitchen. And if that’s what happens at the preview luncheon, just imagine how much fun the dinner itself is sure to be!

Each dish will be accompanied by Latin American wine pairings selected by sommelier Drew Innis.

The OLA – Of Latin America event is sold out as of publication of this article, but don’t let that stop you from checking out the work of the participating chefs at their own establishments.

From Mario Cassini at Caju (922 Queen Street West), a selection of appetizers including pao de queijo (above – cheese puff balls made with cassava flour), moqueca shrimp shooters and caipirnhas made with organic Cachaca.

A selection of empanadas created by Marina Queirolo of Sûrkl Empanadas. Filled with sweetbread and corn, served with chimichurri sauce.

From Luis Valenzuela of Torito (276 Augusta Avenue), a delectable octopus salad with artichokes, fingerling potatoes and spicy citrus dressing.

Steven Gonzalez of Latino 5 Spice Catering offers up a palate cleanser of granita of Lulo  (aka naranjilla, a tropical fruit) between courses.

Also from Steven Gonzalez, oxtail sancocho – consommé with plantain ravioli, lime and bananito.

Cornish hen in mole poblano with rice, frijoles refritos and toasted sesame seeds – the main course from chef Jose Hadad of Frida (999 Eglinton Avenue West).

Two desserts! The first from Carlos Fuenmayor of Sabrosito (who is also serving arepas – not shown), is a cake made from layers of ripe plantain, honey, pistachio and queso fresco cheese.

Tres leches cake from Elizabeth Rumebe of Alpine Bakery. The OLA logo is made from chocolate and the orange marigold on top (the traditional flower of the Day of the Dead) is edible, but possibly too beautiful to eat.

The chefs stop cooking and singing long enough for a group photo; from left to right: Steven Gonzalez, event organizer Mary Luz Mejia, Luis Valenzuela, Elizabeth Rumebe, Mario Cassini, Carlos Fuenmayor, Jose Hadad, sommelier Drew Innis, Marina Queirolo.