Chefs Go Deep Into A Regional Cuisine At Cook It Raw Alberta
MRCA's own Chef Cam D was one of the regional chefs choosen to particpate in Alessandro Porcelli’s Cook It Raw gathering, the eighth in the series of the international culinary events. He says the experience was nothing short of mindblowing.
Earlier this year I had an amazing opportunity to be part of the 8th edition of Alessandro Porcelli’s Cook It Raw gathering, which took place in my home province of Alberta. It was an honour and pleasure to be chosen as one of the participating chefs.
Much of the two-stage event, organized with the Alberta Culinary Tourism Alliance, took place behind closed doors. Some people have questioned this approach, especially when Calgary was less than two hours away for the second part of the gathering. But in the end it was necessary. There are a few reasons why.
First off, it was important to be fully immersed in the experience. Without distractions! We were being asked to explore our own approaches as chefs and to help define a regional cuisine. That meant wading into the deep end.
We also needed time to bond with each other, which we Alberta-based chefs did during an outdoor wilderness retreat on Lac La Biche (northern Alberta) in the spring. For the second part of the gathering in the fall, when a group of top international chefs got thrown into the mix, the bonding process had to happen all over again.
Having a real personal connection was important because we had had to trust each other. We worked in teams (Canola, Root Veg, Bison, Saskatoon Berry, Honey, Beef and Red Fife), with each team responsible for developing a single dish designed to highlight a key regional ingredient.
When you’re isolated on an island in the middle of nowhere, or in the Rocky Mountain backcountry, without cell or internet service, you get to another level fast, believe me. We got to see how each other works, to see how another person thinks, up close. This was a personal experience that needed only the chefs’ input.
The development process also involved critical feedback, where essentially each dish was presented to the group to be dissected by everyone. It was a little intimidating, but nothing was personal and the “critique” was honest. I don’t think we could have done this in another setting.
All our hard work was revealed in an amazing public event in the garden at Rouge Restaurant in Calgary, but getting there was a deeply personal experience. We rediscovered our own culture and cuisine, and in the process, we learned a lot about ourselves.
I am thankful for the connections I developed with the other chefs and for the opportunity to narrow my focus down to what really matters. These were the gifts of isolation. It was an incredible life experience.