Sunday, 18 December 2016

Serve with Humility and Tranquility

I am SO proud of my students!

Last Wednesday night's catering for a condo association in Forest Hill ...

We were ready to go with ginger and pear shooters with sherry and creme fraiche, horiatiki and Sicilian bruschetta on house croustades, home-made ciabatta or olive cheeks with Kozlik's mustards and 24-hour slow-roasted HiLow Farms brisket
with caramelized sugar onions, simple salad
with house croutons, gravelax
with piped cream cheese on house crackers, a selection of Canadian cheeses and mini
cheesecakes with 5 offered coulis styles (orange, raspberry, blackberry, pear and blueberry).

Conclusion = happy happy people!


The very next afternoon (after spending all morning cleaning equipment from the night before), the whole brigade went down to The Good Shepherd Mission on Queen Street East. There we served lunch to about 350 street people and others in perilous, precarious circumstances. I took no photos of this event, but will share the following:

For the young student chefs it is an absolute eye - opener ... we have done this now for three months, and they recognize some of the people they're serving. It can be jarring. Being part of this service, even for a while, can be a hard personal challenge.

Before offering ourselves to their community yesterday we gathered together, and I told them "I don't care what or who or how you have any faith, if at all. I have great faith in your ability as decent human beings to choose to be kind. I have that on the door of my chefs office and you see it every morning upon arrival ... "Be kind, Do kind, Spread kind".

"In the end it is our choices which will define us, not our money, for kindness is a wealth that no one can purchase but can have in great abundance just for the decency of choosing.

"So offer your service today in exactly the same spirit as last night ... we are all one group of people in this city, each of us needy in some ways. Sometimes great wealth hides desperate need, and poverty just lays it bare and more easily seen. So today we are kind, we do something kind, we spread our kindness. And that is good."

My students served with care, interest, willingness, a friendly smile and compassion ... they are growing into being fine young adult Canadians with decent values and willing hearts.

I am impressed.

Thanks, everyone ... from the bottom of this old chef's heart.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Hot Date with Turkey(s) on Saturday Night!!

Well, Saturday Night has come and gone ... and created wonderful memories along the way.

Again this year we catered the Christmas party for H.O.T.T. (a community service agency here in Toronto). This is our fourth year doing this event for HOTT ... and we're always delighted to be welcomed back!

This year the real trick was the cooking in our kitchens at Monarch Park starting before 08h00 ... Chef and Mrs Chef turned up and got the ovens going. My students had prepared the turkeys on Friday and everything was ready to go ... Jenn and Cecelia got involved int he carving as soon as possible so things would go smoothly.

One of our wonderful teaching aides, Jenn Martone, and her grade 8 daughter Meghan both came and donated an entire day of hard work ... preparing,
carving, storing for transport ... there is so much to do.

Cecelia Spread, another teaching aide who works with Jenn, came and volunteered a whole day of work.

Somehow in all this Meghan found time to make, from scratch,
a simply delicious chili which was served to our little team and Ahmad Motlagh, the head custodian on duty on Saturday at Monarch.

Ladies, you all just rock!

Jenn, Meghan and Cecelia took all the food over to the Ralph Thornton Community Centre in our big hot-box that fits into the back of her van, and other students met us there for the final preparation and service.

We got everything ready for the feast, then enjoyed our own 'staff dinner' mas a stand-up in the kitchen ... a delicious lasagne that we'd made the previous week and frozen for just this purpose.

Final instructions were delivered.

Then ... SHOWTIME! A service for about 85 people ...
all happy to be welcomed, everyone delighted to be served and made welcome by my student chefs. It all went off without a hitch.

After the main course, pumpkin pie was served and a high-speed clean-up crew went to work in the kitchen, led by Cecelia. You rock for all those dishes with your team, Cecelia!!

My former student, Erin, helped out a lot and came over to thank her old teacher. she is now a special education teacher and is heading to work in East Africa in the new year.
Bon Voyage, Erin!

Then, we stuffed everything into the van at the end of the night, and gathered on the chilly sidewalk for our own good-byes. Christmas has come to us all in its own way ... and we are each the richer for being able to contribute.

Thanks to all the volunteers this year ...

Mrs Chef (Gail)

You are truly wonderful people and it is my good fortune to be able to work with you.

We have one turkey left over ...

Thursday, 1 December 2016

November -- What A Hard-Working Month!

Well, here we are ... the end of November ... and so much has gone on!

First, and always, we try to enjoy ourselves. Work hard AND play hard. And taste everything ... sometimes not in moderation.

We have cooked for a variety of organizations ... H.O.T.T., WoodGreen, private clients ... and traditional 'seasonal' food has begun to dominate. Special equipment has been used ... like this amazing 14-legged potato-peeler!
There's nothing else like this ... anywhere.

The first Meyer Lemons of the season have come out ... they will get sweeter as the season progresses, but as our schedule pushes us around a bit, we have to take opportunity when it comes. One of my favourite desserts of all time is Meyer Lemon Semifreddo ... and we made a bunch of them. Toast the nuts, make the mousse, fill the forms, then ... Quinn made a load of coulis today, and we all got to taste. Well done!

We have a couple of VERY fancy events coming up and we're making gravelax. Here are the simple steps ... take a nice big whole fillet of salmon
and treat it with sugar and a little salt and lemon juice and fresh dill.
Lay one piece on top of the other and gently wrap, not tightly. Stick it in the fridge for about 2 weeks, turning every 48 hours.
Slice paper-thin and enjoy as you wish!

Hard work and sometimes-frayed nerves have all been part of this November ... but the results have been worth it. Every week I crank up the pressure in the kitchen ... I demand more and more, better and better ... and every student is rising to her or his very best.