Spirit of Hospitality
Last Monday, with the Leafs away and the Raptors resting, a more boisterous gathering took over the Air Canada Centre’s Platinum Club. Youthful chef and porcelain entrepreneur Rudy Guo put together his annual extravaganza of chefs from across the country to raise money for the scholarships and bursaries handed out to student cooks through his Spirit of Hospitality program.
ACC Executive Chef Brad Long was the restless but suavely fluent Master of Ceremonies, prowling swiftly between the tables in the dimly lit room as he introduced the guest chefs and sommeliers. Ryo Ozawa from EDO provided the passed hors d’oeuvres—a canapé of sea eel and foie gras on a firm cake of sushi rice was delicious enough to stop all conversation. Once we all sat down, each guest received one of two dishes offered for each course—in other words, while I hoovered up the spicy pickled oyster with icewine must jelly and wasabi tobiko, and the miniature sushi roll of tuna gravlax and avocado, and the wee shrimp ceviche with green cocktail sauce provided by Ryan Crawford of Stone Road Grille, Niagara-on-the-Lake, the guy sitting next to me had something completely different, namely a foie gras parfait from Yves Lowe of Otto at Montreal’s W hotel. “Oh ho,” I said to myself, “This system will lead either to warfare or a warm surge of altruistic sharing,” but neither eventuality came to pass.
So I watched half the table eat roasted prawns made by René Rodriguez from Black Cat Café in Ottawa while losing my soul to a beautifully balanced dish of tender lobster and chopped salt cod with watercress emulsion prepared by Splendido’s sous chefs Brian Semenuk and Geoff O’Connor. I missed the sable fish with crumbled candied olives from Luke Kennedy of Vanouver’s C restaurant, but loved the seared ahi tuna with beef cheeks and daube jus from Truffles chef, Lora Kirk. And so on through the evening. Cam Dobranski, chef of Muse in Calgary sent out some fabulous Alberta beef tenderloin with a mushroom and potato gratin. The ACC’s own Brad Livergant did rack of lamb with blue potato and scallion mash and some wild rapini (grown in captivity at this time of year by David Cohlmeyer). Desserts were the creations of Ritchie Abcede (Liberty Group), MimiYu (Spirit Catering) and Maria Cheung of Canoe. Half a dozen guest sommeliers joined the ACC’s Jennifer Huether-Vranjes in dispensing fine wines generously donated by wineries and agencies.
All in all, a very merry time was had by everyone and it was partiularly gratifying to see so many talented young chefs from across Canada cooking together, comparing notes and establishing contacts that can only serve the nation’s restaurant industry in years to come. Rudy Guo continues to impress me with his vision and energy. Why not throw one of these parties every month instead of every year?