Food, Fundraising, and Friends: a Feast at Workshop Eatery

The secret to successful fundraising is to put good food in the bellies of the attendees—a ‘feed-them-and-they-will-give’ approach, you could say.

Paul Shufelt and his crew at Workshop did exactly that at their Garden Party on August 16th, raising $4530  for the High School Culinary Challenge.  The Challenge is an annual competition that sees local high school culinary teams compete for gold, silver and bronze.  Each year, the foundation also awards three scholarships to the three-year Cook Journeyman Apprenticeship program at NAIT.

That $4530 will help cover costs for one student’s three-year apprenticeship as well as their knife kit, uniform, and books.

Before dinner, guests strolled the front garden area of the restaurant’s lot and admired the abundance of herbs and vegetables that Shufelt grows for his restaurant. Most of those plants come from August Organics, the people who also supplement and supply him with the produce he can’t grow. If you haven’t purchased their goods yet, seek them out at farmers’ markets. They raise and sell incredible foods.

The garden at Workshop.

For me, a fun part of the night was talking to people and asking them straight up why they came. Most said they were return customers of Workshop, but first (and foremost) they wanted to support him because Shufelt supports local producers. This made me happy. What made me even happier was hearing the servers talk about the ingredients in the appetizers and cocktails they brought us as we mingled before dinner. They knew what was in the dishes and from where the ingredients were sourced.

I get a little cranky when servers don’t know what they’re serving. (I get even crankier when chefs don’t know the origins of the ingredients they’re using.)

So, the main focus of the event was to raise funds for HSCC, but the main reason people attended was because of Shufelt’s commitment to quality ingredients from local producers. This is the type of commitment that creates the backbone of a respected food scene. We must continue to promote producers like August Organics (produce), Irving’s Farm Fresh (pork) and Jeff Nonay (beef) whose ingredients were prominently featured in that dinner, and are regularly used in Workshop’s seasonally based menus.

Alan and Nicola Irving supply pork to restaurants and customers, and raise free range Berkshire pigs on their farm near Round Hill. They, like August Organics, have been on the food scene for quite a while, but Jeff Nonay is relatively new to the scene.

Jeff owns a dairy farm business north of Edmonton but he also raises his Holsteins for beef. The night of the Garden Party, Paul Shufelt served Jeff Nonay’s Holstein/Wagyu cross. Not many people have heard of his product yet, but those who have, know that there is hardly a more delicious beef being raised in the province. Jeff is constantly tweaking his breeding program to raise the best product possible. I’ve been fortunate to have tasted the results from the beginning, and all I can say is his beef keeps getting better which is crazy. I always think there’s no way he’ll outdo himself, but he does.

You can find Jeff’s beef in only one store (currently) and that’s D’Arcy’s Meat Market in St. Albert. It’s more expensive than commodity beef because it’s not commodity beef. It’s like meat gold. Is it worth it? Absolutely.

Eye of Round Nonay Wagyu Carpaccio with anchovy vinaigrette, garden parsley, pickled shiitakes, pecorino.

The beef is a result from breeding a highly pedigreed Wagyu bull to a Holstein cow selected for certain attributes — good lineage, disposition, quality of calves, etc. Some of the finest Alberta beef I’ve tasted is this wagyu raised by Jeff Nonay, and we got to taste it in four dishes that night at the Garden Party.

The food was fantastic, yes, and a pile of money was raised for a good cause, but best of all, I met great people and made new friends, and isn’t that what gathering over food is supposed to do?

Bean & bacon salad – yellow, green, purple beans, onions, hot peppers, herbs.

Garden Salad with two dressings: lemon herb vinaigrette, and creamy gorgonzola
Fire-roasted Nonay potatoes with garlic, red onion, summer savoury, rosemary, thyme.
Wagyu beef three ways: chipotle lime marinated skirt; ancho/coffee braised chuck; roasted sirloin (cooked open fire, and oak finished).

You can be a part of another fundraising meal—this one on September 15th. Paul Shufelt and some of his chef peers are holding the 9th Annual Bacon Day Collaboration fundraiser. Last year, they raised $25,000 for the Youth Empowerment and Support Services (YESS).  That’s incredible. This year, they want to reach $30,000  by donating 100% of ticket sales (“except GST, darn laws and such”) again, to YESS.

The food for this event will feature all porky things from appetizers to a full pig roasting to dessert. Tickets and more information on the event can be found here.

I suggest you get in on this one because who doesn’t love a pig roast? And you’ll be doing a good deed in the process.

Please support local producers and the restaurants who use their product. A strong food scene is nothing without them.