Although the guests couldn’t know it, this dinner would prove to be the most challenging northern food dinner of all. First off, Chef Charest was busy creating culinary masterpieces for over 200 guests in Ottawa at the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards the night before the James Beard Dinner in New York. That meant he would finish there, grab a few winks and get up to catch a flight at dawn to New York.
The students were amazing. After touring a few New York hot spots, they’d hustle to the kitchen, put the aprons on and work until they could hardly stand. Paul also enlisted the help of three reliable chefs: Beja, Phil and Jared — Fink’s previous students and now chefs in their own right. These three came from various parts of Ontario and Prince Edward Island to be a part of this event. Impressive.
There is a lovely garden in the back and guests are seated in rooms that once served as bedroom and office-space when James Beard lived there.
By the time guests started to arrive around 7 pm, the kitchen was humming.
Steve and Paul relayed the history about how our northern food dinners came to be and what went into preparing for an event such as this. And then the food came. After the first two courses, I remembered I had a camera with me.
While the guests were sighing and moaning and licking their lips, I wandered around the room asking people how they were enjoying the food. One person said out of the two dozen James Beard events he’s attended, this one was, by far, the crown jewel. I sent a text to the kitchen to let them know. I think they were happy to hear how the food was being received. Paul, Louis and the team deserved the praise; they certainly worked hard for it.
Who knows where we’ll end up next. Wherever it is, I know the team will come together again from whatever corner of Canada they’re in at the time. There’s a ton of skill and passion in every one of them and it’s a very wonderful thing being a part of it.
Well done, chefs and students, well done!