For the past seven years, the culinary arts program at Longfields-Davidson Heights Secondary School has put on a swanky soirée in support of a good cause. And to give its student chefs a chance to work with the pros. If you’ve a hankering for fine dining at a bargain price, this night delivers. Fifty-five bucks buys you an oyster bar, plus six (generous) small plates, each paired with a well crafted (non-alcoholic) beverage. Food and drink are created and executed by community chefs and their LDHSS student teams. The school jazz band plays, The Whalesbone shows up to shuck oysters, and 120 smart people come to be fed well.
This year’s Food For Thought dinner was to help out the good work done by the Parkdale Food Centre and the World Central Kitchen. The real live community chefs supporting the budding high school chefs were Marc Doiron of Town Restaurant (and the newly opened Citizen), Marysol Foucault of Edgar, Christopher Lord of Knifewear, Tarek Hassan of Gongfu Bao, Steve George of Olivea in Kingston, and Jonathan Korecki, formerly of Sidedoor and e18hteen. Ian Kennard of Willie’s Café & Catering drove in from London to manage service. All chefs and students were under the direction of chef-instructors Kent Van Dyk and Tony Christoforatos, who run the culinary program at the Barrhaven high school.
The evening began with Whalesbone oysters, (The Whalesbone Group seems always game to shuck for a cause) and music by the LDHSS jazz band under the direction of Carey Godfrey.
There is always a theme to this annual dinner party, and this year it was Canada 150, with each of the seven dishes served representing a Canadian region. Music played in the spruced up cafeteria to match the dish and drink.
We began in The North, with chef Marc Doiron and his team of students plating of Elk Tartare with a mushroom duxelles, served with bannock toasties and spruce ‘beer.’ Then to The East for the finest smells of the night – Chef Chris Lord’s Salt Cod and Yukon Gold Fritters propped up with a frisée salad, and sided with scrunchions. Marysol Foucault of Gatineau’s Edgar represented her province with a darling little tourtiere, the individual tarts served on a caramelized rutabaga purée floating in a shallow pond of well-reduced onion broth. A thyme infused birch tea was served alongside.
To the West, with Chef Tarek Hassan’ fabulous Steelhead trout char siu, the fish removed from its sweet and fragrant bath, then torched to caramelize the sugars, paired with braised gai lan, shards of crisped Jasmine rice and a classic green tea. Representing Ontario, from his home base in Kingston, Chef Stev George worked on quail with his student team, the wee birds nestled on a pilau of Ontario grains dotted with poached grapes and napped with an icewine reduction. And finally, to The Prairies, to chef Jonathan Korecki’s Eastern European roots. He and his kids produced a lovely Ukrainian Walnut Torte robed in a mocha glaze, served with a Saskatoon Berry Spritzer.
Bet you feel well fed just reading this! My suggestion is to be on lookout for the 2018 Food For Thought. Come support a good cause and the next generation of this city’s cooks; applaud the remarkable generosity of this region’s chefs community; and be well and truly fed for a pittance.