One of the really cool advantages of going to SAIT for culinary school, is all the opportunities to volunteer at industry events. One such event is the Annual, Jackson’s Memorial Garden, Harvest Dinner. This is a pretty swanky event, and not just anyone can attend. Its invite only.
I was so excited to be picked as one of the volunteers to work this event. Its an incredible opportunity to be in a big commercial kitchen getting valuable experience, on how it all works. Its also a really great way to get to know the insanely talented chefs who instruct us, outside of the classroom environment. Watch them in their element, and try to take a lot of mental notes on the things that could someday come in handy.
All us volunteers were told to arrive at the kitchen by around two in the afternoon. Full chef whites on, and our kits with us. We were then split into several groups and divided up amongst the chefs, to do whatever they needed us to do. We prepped a lot of elements for the plates. As you will see in the photos, these were incredibly well thought out plates. We counted and wiped down plates. We chopped, and cleaned, and eagerly awaited our next set of instructions whenever we finished a task.
The garden reception was to start at 5:30 and the dinner in the Highwood at 6:30. We were having a “family dinner” set out for the staff and volunteers at 4:30, so time to get everything in order was tight.
The garden reception was beautiful. I wish I had photos to share of the garden itself. We had harvested and cleaned it up just a few days before. Its really one of the most lovely spaces in the city.
Many of the elements on these plates came right from Jackson’s Garden. It was pretty inspiring to see what the chefs came up with, utilizing the food that was grown right on campus.
Garden Reception Menu
Chef Scott Pohorelic, Chef Andrew Winfield,
Chef Michael Mandato, Chef Andrew Springett
Flatbreads from the forno
Crab and corn fritter, spiced garden herb aioli
Roasted red beet borscht shooter, goat cheese and chives
Albacore tuna, green tomato verjus, lemon verbena
Smoked Oyster & Beef tartare, Chicken Crackling, Lovage, Pickled Radish
Sait cured prosciutto (ham and lamb – bone in)
Once the garden reception started to wrap up we were up to the Highwood kitchen to prepare for the main event. To say there was an air of excitement in the kitchen would be a huge understatement. The chefs had set up an example of each course and how it had to be plated. We the volunteers were helping with the plating. When I saw the complexity of their dishes, I was terrified. Haha. Thankfully, I learned that each plate would take many people to bring together.
Pre-dinner chef’s meeting.
Before the first course plating began.
Chef Vanessa Mendoza & Chef Jason Boyd
Jackson’s Garden greens drizzled with sea buck-thorn and rooftop honey vinaigrette
Grilled vegetable and cheese scone with nasturtium butter
That savory scone was one of the best things I have ever tasted. Although, to be fair, I had that thought as I sampled every one of the dishes. I did not assist in plating the first course, which is why there are more photos of this course, than any of the others.
Chef Michael Allemeier & Chef Kyle Groves
Textures and Tasting of Carrots with White Gold Ricotta Gnudi, Anise and Tarragon
Those purple carrots on the end were AH-mazing. They tasted like grape juice.
See that lovely arugula? That was my task on this plate. Someone was responsible for each and every element. Then, before going out, each plate was inspected, to ensure nothing was missing.
Chef Hayato Okamitsu & Chef Michael Dekker
Forno Roasted Rainbow Trout
With Kombu braised Turnip, Green Tomato Broth with Seasonal Green Accompaniments
Sorbet course – palate cleanser
Chef Mikael Volke & Chef Glenn Monk
Roasted Alberta Lamb Loin and Braised Shoulder,
Roasted Heirloom Beets
Garden Root Pave, Rösti, Sour Cherry Gastrique, Mint Gelée
5th course – Dessert
Pastry Chef Kevin Conniff
Buffet in the Caleb room
Unfortunately I did not get any photos of this. We did get to sample some of the amazing creations at our “family dinner” though. Take my word for it. They were delicious.
At the end of the meal we were all led out to the dining room where we received a standing ovation from the diners. I’m not going to lie, even though my part was small in the coming together of the entire dinner, I was super proud to have been involved. It was such an incredible learning experience.
If you are familiar with the goings on in the Calgary food scene, no doubt you recognize quite a few of these chefs names. We are so incredibly lucky to have chefs who have cooked in the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, for dignitaries and royalty. Chefs who left top positions at prestigious restaurants. Rouge, River Cafe, and Mission Hill Family Estate in B.C. (also awarded the title of Certified Chef de Cuisine (CCC), Canada’s highest professional culinary accreditation designation), in order to come teach us, and that is just to name a few. Its obvious we are in very good hands. I can’t wait to learn from each and every one of these chefs, over the next two years.
Thanks for reading. I’m sure you are very hungry by this point. I won’t apologize. Reliving the event has made me hungry also.