Food

Do Chefs Have Fun with Food?

Canadian Living
Food

Do Chefs Have Fun with Food?

Work in a professional kitchen is pretty serious. After all chefs are dealing with sharp knives, hot stoves, demanding food safety issues, making a living, and what it's all about, creating delicious food for their customers. There's never enough time! But chefs do have a fun side, adding little playful touches to their dishes. Last week was the final week for visiting international chefs to work with the graduating students of the Stratford Chefs School. I have to confess my attachment to the School. Stratford is my home town, and I'm on the board of the School I have seen grow in stature since its first class 25 years ago. The rigour that goes into SCS training makes graduates very employable in top restaurants across Canada. Some proof of their respect? Rheanna Kish and Alison Kent, valued members of the Canadian Living Test Kitchen are Stratford grads.  Part of the graduating class curriculum is working with up-and-coming international chefs, often from France, Italy, England and the US. Together the chef and students prepare a series of dinners with all the trimmings - five courses, a wine maker or sommelier to explain the wine matches, a maitre d' who coaches the students in service, correct table setting with linen, glassware and china. Just like the real world of the fine dining business. Since there's no point cooking and serving an excellent meal to an empty seats, the invitation goes out to locals to come dine and offset the costs of the food and wine. Lucky people in Stratford and environs - they vie for the chance to be part of this Chefs School Dinner Club.   [caption id="attachment_28" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Chef Alexandre Gautier (rear centre) working top speed with his team assembling lobster and gnocchi"] Chef Alexandre Gautier (rear centre) working top speed with his team assembling lobster and gnocchi[/caption] Happily there were no blizzard or drifting snow the late afternoon George and I drove up to Stratford to attend one of these dinners. The international chef for the week was Alexandre Gauthier from La Grenouillere located just outside Montreuil in Le Pas de Calais, northern France. Gauthier, just 29, has a boyish charm and the ease of someone who loves what he does. He connected right away with the students even though their French and his English were basic, though expressive. Over a quick glass of before-dinner champagne his face lit up as he described his enchantment with Stratford, the snow, the school and notably the students. He was thrilled to be chosen to represent France in Canada. Quite the opposite of the steriotyped French chef. The chef's champagne break was brief. He went back to the kitchen, adding that he had eggs to scramble.   Some scramble! Gauthier's playful interpretation of scrambled eggs was a cloud of egg mousse scented with truffle oil and served in a cup brought to each guest. And right behind the student delivering the cups was another student holding a flat of egg shell halves, each cupping a yolk that looked raw, but was in fact cooked sous-vide. The yolk was slid off the shell into the mousse and spread unctuously throughout. To eat it? Fingers of toasted baguette to dip, like English "soldiers" into the egg.  What a simple pleasure made exquisite and fun.The airy mousse, creamy yolk, and crunchy sourdough toasts. A light hearted start to the meal that went on to feature veal lobster and the very best gnocchi I've ever tasted, thin slices of lemon laquered magret of duck on a raft of crispy basil spring rolls, and for dessert, a perfect oval of fresh milk ice cream and a drizzle of chestnut honey. While there were five course, all were small and together they provided an array of flavours and textures, and plenty of talking points.   But even after dessert, the dinner was not over. Student servers toured the tables with a large copper bowl of clean Stratford snow dotted with lemon caramels, a platter of homemade marshmallows and an array of slim sugar-dusted beignets (doughnuts), a traditional treat in France at Candlemas in early February. A meal that was lighthearted to start, and equally fun to finish.       . My husband thinks a cheese souffle requires a whole lot of expertise, and a little magic. I haven't told him how easy souffles are to make, and make them for special occasions.  How do you prepare eggs when you entertain?
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Do Chefs Have Fun with Food?

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