Forging Alberta’s food culture identity
by Mary Bailey
In October, top chefs from around the world—Albert Adria, Spain; Elizabeth Falkner, Amanda Cohen, Preeti Mistri and Brandon Baltzley,US; Magnus Ek, Sweden; Jp McMahon, Ireland and Syrco Bakker,Holland— join the Alberta Cook It Raw chefs in Kananaskis for a week of discussion, cooking, foraging, discovery and creation, culminating in the creation of seven iconic Alberta dishes.
Win dinner with the chefs: every week Cook It Raw shares a question about Alberta gastronomy. Post an answer with a photo or video to social media using hashtag #rawAlberta @cookitraw.
The Edmonton Cook It Raw chefs worked on the farm and in the kitchen this summer with their southern Alberta chef partners and video producers Two Words Productions. The Cook It Raw food stories will air later this year online and at the Relish Food on Film Festival.
Here they talk about their ingredients, the collaborative experience and what happens next in defining the Alberta food culture identity.
Blair Lebsack, Rge Rd
and Cam Dobranski, Brasserie Kensington
“It’s fun that we’re getting to work together in a way that makes us focus on the community as a whole,” says Blair. “The question is: how can we be true to what we are doing in our restaurants and collaborate? Not Cam’s food, not Blair’s food but Alberta’s food. And it’s not about how wierd we can be, but what can we do with ingredients people love every day.
“So far we are thinking about potatoes, beets, turnips, some sunchokes we hope, and then we’ll get into how to draw out extra flavour—maybe salt baking some of the veg. When you salt bake they steam a bit more, push out their juices and concentrate flavours. Our thinking is revolving around the fire—we like those natural ways of cooking with hot rocks or wood to help to finish off the dish.
“Kananaskis is still out there as this mystery goal. Working with the international chefs will be like having a whole new brain, one that has never seen this territory before. We’ll have freedom and creative juices flowing, as we don’t have a chance to think about this every day.
“It’s all coming together in an organic way. I’m ready to get together with our group of friends and do some cooking.”
Shane Chartrand, Sage
and Andrew Winfield, River Cafe
RED FIFE WHEAT
“We met at SAIT to make our Red Fife dish,” says Shane. “I hadn’t met Andrew before and it could have gone in many different directions but it was almost too easy.
“He opened his cooler from the garden and we had a few ideas.
“We stood face to face at the SAIT workstations and started drawing our dish on paper. We were talking about making bread, that was the obvious choice. We started grilling green onions and bouncing ideas. Ok, what do you think about Red Fife lightly battered quail legs, little lollipops?
“I started pickling beets; Andrew made some baby gnocchi. We made a quail and chorizo sausage and a quail reduction—adding the chorizo to the carcasses with morel mushrooms, wild garlic. It looked like a stony mustard.
“We had 15 ingredients on that plate— pickled veg, kohlrabi puree, quail eggs, charred baby carrots, all small and bitty, gorgeous baby cherries, super bitter. We made the ragout out of the Red Fife heart, took about five hours to cook it down. Our dish ended up looking unreal with lots of colour and tasted great.
“We pulled a great dish. What I took from it all was how different we all are. He’s very knowledgable about gardening, has his own gardening lady. Last time I did any gardening I was a kid.”
Brayden Kozak, Three Boars Eatery
and Paul Rogalski, Rouge Restaurant
“I was excited to work with Paul because of his time in the industry and his restaurant is very successful,” says Brayden. “He has a lot of knowledge about cooking and food in general. I did not know him before we met on the island (Cook it Raw part one, Lac la Biche in May) and we clicked on our farm tour. He is one of those people you like being around and want to be around. That was nice.
“After being part of the bison kill and having been to kill days at Jeff Senger’s, I wanted to highlight that this was once an animal. We came up with a landscape of farm/kill floor starting with beet gastrique in a gunshot pattern with steel cut oats. We honoured our Ukrainian backgrounds with beet green rolls. We gave each other feedback. The dish itself is not practical, you won’t have this in a restaurant—we took a philisophical approach.
“My experience with Cook It Raw? It’s new every time we do something. On the fly is how we roll.
“Kananaskis will be an absolutely exhausting week. Satisfying and grueling. It’s good for Alberta and good for us individually. The idea is to brainstorm; the international chefs will have their own perspective on what to do with the ingredient. I’m looking forward to rubbing elbows.
“I didn’t really know Blair or Shane until now and it’s really interesting how Cook It Raw is blurring the line between Edmonton and Calgary. I’ve gone from not knowing anyone to knowing a decent handful of top chefs in that city. Cook It Raw has already achieved what they wanted it to do—bringing chefs together to think collectively.
“It’s mind blowing to be a part of it and a pretty surreal experience overall.”
Visit the Alberta Culinary Tourism Alliance web site www.albertaculinary.com for more insight on their work with Cook it Raw.
All photos Mary Bailey