Local foods prepared by top chefs get rave reviews in Labrador
An all-star team of chefs made a mouth-watering, gourmet dinner this week for some 100 fans of fine dining at the Canuck Club on 5 Wing Goose Bay.
Chef Damian Marner of Sheraton Hotel Newfoundland, Shaun Hussey, chef and owner of Chinched Bistro, and cheesemaker Adam Blanchard, owner of Five Brothers Artisan Cheese, came up with a brand-new menu once they arrived in Happy Valley-Goose Bay where the snow has already fallen.
Marner said it can be surprising to see what ingredients they're given. But it's easy to be inspired by the quality of local produce, he said, like the collard greens, swiss chard, kale, and turnips that were just pulled out of the ground.
"Ninety-eight percent of what's going to be on the plate is from local farms," he said.
The broccoli harvested from a farm in Happy Valley-Goose Bay came as a surprise to Hussey, who was also impressed by the abundance of produce.
"We got broccoli that was packed with snow. It's so hearty. It's just beautiful. One of the most beautiful things I've seen up here," Hussey said cheerfully.
"I've harvested kale in snow before on Fogo Island," he said.
"It's just funny to be able to go out [and] pick it. It's, like, refrigerated."
The three chefs are taking part in this year's From This Rock Culinary Tour, which is visiting a dozen towns in Newfoundland and Labrador this fall. Teams of some of the province's top chefs prepare multi-course dinners inspired by locally sourced foods.
Now in its fourth year, the tour started as a way to showcase Newfoundland's bounty but this year it visited Labrador for the first time — and the five-course dinner sold out.
Arctic char, chicken and a whole array of veggies were on the menu.
Frank and Joyce Pye provided vegetables from their Grand River Farm, one of four Happy Valley-Goose Bay food producers participating in the event.
The Pyes were keen to see the tour promote local produce and create more awareness about farms in the area.
"I'm amazed still. We've been 20 years growing things," Joyce Pye said. "We still get people come to the farm saying, 'Gee, I didn't know you were down here. I didn't know there was a farm.'"
Marner says events like these are a step in the right direction. Connecting chefs, farmers, and the consumer is good for everyone, he said.
"Everybody should be working together to support and sustain a great local economy with growers."
Know your farmer
The tour promotes the idea of getting to know your farmer and eating locally like the hundred-kilometre diet, Hussey added. He says good restaurants in St. John's are already doing it.
"The inspiration comes from not only the food but the person who actually grows it and how passionate they are about growing food. They put the time and tender care into raising it to the best of their abilities, as well," Hussey said.
Blanchard said he looked forward to speaking with guests about the importance of agriculture at the event. He said it was also a chance to educate people about the province's culinary scene.
The dinner at the Canuck Club on 5 Wing Goose Bay was a big hit as guests gleefully gave it the thumbs up. Local air cadets also helped out by serving the dinner.
"Beautiful, absolutely lovely," farmer Joyce Pye exclaimed.
She even got a surprise when it came to the second course. The colourful nasturtium flowers she grew on her farm — and had never eaten before — were in the harvest vegetable salad.
The dinner was rewarding for the chefs, too.
"To see new people, to be able to go out and cook something grown in their backyard for a hundred people, it's pretty special," Marner said.