Restaurant on ice lands celebrity chefs

A Canadian chef used to working with the world’s hottest spices is coming to Winnipeg’s coldest kitchen.

Vancouver's Vikrim Vij to join the lineup of chefs at RAW: Almond

RAW:almond, Winnipeg's pop-up restaurant at the confluence of the frozen Red and Assiniboine Rivers, will host guest chefs from around North America for its 2014 edition. The three-week event was created in 2013 buy chef Mandel Hitzer and designer Joe Kalturnyk (Jacqueline Young)

A Canadian chef used to working with the world’s hottest spices is coming to Winnipeg’s coldest kitchen.

Renowned chef, restaurateur and cookbook author Vikrim Vij brings his modern Indian cuisine to RAW: almond, the city’s pop-up restaurant on ice, during a guest cooking stint.

Vij is one of several guest chefs coming to Winnipeg to take a turn inside the kitchen during the temporary eatery’s three-week run. Vij, who has appeared as a guest judge on Food Network Canada, will cook and play host at the tapas bar Feb. 3 and 4, it was announced Monday.

RAW:almond, in its second year, starts its three-week run on Jan. 24.

In addition to Vij, Winnipeg-born, Houston-based chef and Ryan Lachaine, most recently executive chef of Underbelly, joins the team of chefs.

The duo also join Calgary-based chef Jason Barton-Browne of Teatro, whose addition to the roster of chefs was announced late last year.

Winnipeg’s Gold Medal Plates winner, Kelly Cattani of Elements restaurant, and one of two female chefs, will also cook inside the outdoor restaurant.

“I’m really excited about it. I hemmed and hawed about my menu,” said Cattani, 31, who cooks Jan. 27. “This is completely out of my comfort zone and maybe that’s a good thing,” she said.

The addition of guests chefs is one more step in co-creator Mandel Hitzer’s plan to create an international food festival every winter in Winnipeg.

"RAW:almond 2014 is not only about being friends with all of the chefs involved," he said. "We’ve all grown in the past year. Now, coming back to the river we know what we’re up against and what we can do better. The growth and evolution of this project has also brought new faces, too. To get people together around a table is a beautiful thing, and it’s a great honour to feed people."

This year’s edition includes: a bigger dining room that seats 30; a new tasting bar for 10; weekend brunches; and surprise visual arts screenings projected on the tent.

Sit down, weekend brunches cost $22 per person and a new $7 walk-up, hot chocolate, coffee and breakfast-on-a-stick bar was also announced Monday.

Co-creator Joe Kalturynk of RAW Gallery once again designed and will build the tent— which resembles a piece of ice thrusting up from the surface—with aluminum scaffolding and steel connectors.

Last year, an estimated 1,300 dinner guests fought freezing temperatures to experience the meal on ice. Chefs, too, battled the elements of making five-courses inside a makeshift kitchen. At times drinking water froze, the heating failed and electricity blacked out.

Chefs are given carte blanche on their menus.

Seventeen chefs will each get a run at the restaurant, serving five courses during three nightly seatings of 30 guests each. A chef-run tasting bar seating 10 will also serve three bites with an alcoholic drink. A first-come-first-served weekend brunch for $22 will be served by Talia Syrie, chef at Tansi inside Neechi Commons.