Pam Collacott will now takeover this space, with an account of the chefs-takeover of OZ Kafé last week.
Who doesn’t know Pam? Lunch-hour TV star and brilliant cook, food stylist and teacher, cookbook author, recipe developer, and serious giver-backer when it comes to food education in this city, Pam is also a member of the judging panel at Ottawa Gold Medal Plates.
She and her husband Read ate dinner at OZ Kafé while its chef, sous chef, cook and owner were all in Kelowna, competing at the Canadian Culinary Championships. She wrote to tell me about it. I asked her to elaborate and am delighted she has agreed to share her report with you.
Chefs Helping Chefs in Ottawa
It seems that the top chefs in Ottawa are a congenial and supportive group. When Marc Lepine won the 2011 Ottawa Gold Medal Plates culinary competition, and then headed west for the national event in early 2012, Chef Matthew Carmichael organized a group of area chefs to cook at Lepine’s Atelier restaurant each night he was away. They presented a fabulous feast for all who attended, volunteered their time and talents, while giving back to community: each evening fifty bucks of the $150 prix fixe meal was redirected to the Ottawa Food Bank. It also insured that Atelier didn’t lose several nights revenue, significant for such a tiny restaurant.
As we well know, Marc Lepine went on to win the gold medal at the Canadian Culinary Championships, to the delight of all of us at home.
This year Lepine returned the favour. He organized 4 evenings of take-over dinners at Oz Kafé. And last week, while Oz chef Jamie Stunt, sous chef Simon Bell, cook Michael Bednarz and owner Ozlem Balpinar were all in Kelowna – Stunt’s turn to represent Ottawa at the Canadian Culinary Championships – twenty volunteer chefs kept the home stoves burning, and $20 from the $80 dinners was donated to the Food Bank.
My husband Read and I called to reserve a space for last Friday as soon as the dinners were announced. We drove in from our home in the country during a snowstorm and arrived at the cosy restaurant to find the place almost full in spite of the weather. Chefs involved in the Friday dinner included Matt Carmichael (who will shortly launch his latest restaurant El Camino); Mike Moffatt from Beckta, Play and Gezellig; Ben Baird from the Urban Pear; Chloe Berlanga from The Whalesbone Oyster House; Arup Jana from Allium and Marysol Foucault from Odile and Edgar.
I didn’t have my little food notebook with me but can report that we dined well on prawn ceviche, meaty rare tuna, crisp but melting pig cheek, spicy lobster sausage with Cajun overtones, duck leg curry and, for dessert, a comforting pear cake served with pear compote and a dollop of blue cheese ice cream. Each chef described his or her attractive and delicious dish to the waiting diners. They suggested a wine to match their course, offered in half portions if desired, perfect for sampling.
Happily, while we were feasting at Oz Kafé, Jamie was winning silver at the Canadian Culinary Championships. I wonder if having such great support at home these past 2 years has helped Ottawa chefs do so well at the national level?
Though I think this is a lovely tradition, one for all cities to embrace, perhaps we should keep it to ourselves. It’s just working so well for us!
Pam Collacott, Ottawa GMP judge
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