Slow Fish Mystery Chefs Dinner

The inaugural Slow Fish Mystery Chefs Dinner took place on Saturday, September 27th, 2014 at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts and thanks to the Chefs' Table Society, I had the utmost pleasure of attending. The event featured eight mystery chefs, some of whom where revealed through clues and guessing games on social media prior to the event. 

As  we waited for the event to get started, the crowds mingled,

and enjoyed sparkling wine and beer.

These wild sockeye salmon appetizers went around whetting our appetite for the main event. The salmon was on a bed of wakame salad, topped with a radish and pickled lemon. Delicious!

We could also see some of the chefs in the kitchens working away to prepare their special dishes for the night. Everyone was excited to find out how the event will go down.


Finally, Chef Robert Clark from The Fish Counter, and member of the Chef’s Table Society and Slow Fish, took to the stage to welcome us all to the inaugural Slow Fish Mystery Dinner.

Brooke Fader of Slow Fish then educated the crowd on what the Slow Food and Slow Fish is. Slow Food was founded in Italy when the first McDonald's moved into one of the heritage buildings and the disgusted Italians said "We don't want fast food, we want slow food!". Since then the movement has grown and spread across the world. Slow food focuses on the relationship of the people who supply our food.

Slow fish is the same but instead of farmers, it puts the fishermen, harvesters and foragers in the spotlight and gives them the same kind of appreciation that our local farmers get now. It is about traceability, sustainability, and quality rather than quantity. It is about connecting us to our food source and appreciating our local food sources rather than sending them overseas where they are more valued. We are lucky to live in a place where there is such an abundance of seafood! Let's appreciate it and the people who get it to us! Unlike some other events, all the suppliers for the Slow Fish Mystery Chefs Dinner had been paid. Only the chefs had to donate their time!

After Brooke's speech, Julian Bond of Chefs' Table Society introduce to us how the slow fish mystery dinner works. Unlike other grazing events, where you line up, get your sample food and leave, this "dinner" is more intimate. We got to go into the kitchens, watch the chefs prepare the food and talk to the creator of our food! Each dish was also paired with a wine from a local BC winery. The chefs don't have to rush and get all their dishes prepared at once - it`s more like a dinner service pace. It was definitely a whole new experience and I would love to experience more like it again!

There were eight mystery chefs in eight kitchens and we were told to just spread out and start at any one of them. First up was Chef Roger Ma of Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar, since his kitchen was closest to the the stage where we were.

With a big smile, he served us local uni on 'rice' - local red uni, celery root, ikura shiso, asian pear, pickled sea bean on a squid ink rice cracker.

The first time I had uni, I didn't really like it, but now I don't mind. It is quite possible because these are fresh. They are really quite delicious.

Chef Robert Belcham of Campangnolo & Campagnolo Roma was next door.

We watched as he prepared a sturgeon dish for us.

This was one of my favourites - Grilled sea salt sturgeon on a bed of chanterelles, potatoes and greens, drizzled with an oil made from Granny Smith apples! It tasted amazing!

Chef Lisa Ahier, is one of two chefs from out of town. She is usually located at her restaurant, Sobo, in Tofino. She also just recently released a cookbook, which she was selling and signing at the event.

We were treated to cocktail oysters (from Out Landish Shellfish Guild) with three melon mignonette (melons from Nanoose Edibles Farm).

There was also a cooked oyster - the Miso Oyster recipe from the Sobo Cookbook! This was very yummy; the oyster was cooked in miso mayo and topped with a piece of salmon bacon. Very flavourful!

Chef Johnathan Chovancek from Medina! I promised him I`d visit his restaurant at the new location soon!

He prepared pressured steam Sawmill Bay clams in spicy tomato sauce with veal meatballs accompanied with a piece of sourdough bread.

In the back half of the culinary school, Chef David Hawksworth of Hawksworth Restaurant was preparing some mussels for us.

This large BC Honey Mussels sourced from Albion Fisheries. So yummy with the sausage cubes and toasted garlic bread to soak up all the tomato sauce it was cooked in! 

The other chef from out of town, Chef Anthony Walsh of Oliver & Bonacini, came all the way from Toronto to be at the dinner!

He prepared some salmon tacos for the waiting crowd.

Wild BC salmon with raw roots and pickled onions topped with Chum roe. This was the messiest to eat but no less delicious!

Chef Andrea Carlson of Burdock & Co was at the next kitchen.

She was serving a geoduck dish! I was so excited because I LOVE GEODUCK. We used to dig for them out at the beach during my childhood days.

It was a Chawanmushi - a kind of steamed egg custard with shaved geoduck and fresh hazelnuts. Another one of my favourites of the night. I may have gone back for seconds and thirds. It was amazing!

Last but not least, back from his Chefs of Oceans, bike across Canada tour, Chef Ned Bell of Yew Seafood & Bar.

He also had his own albacore tuna cans!
And chocolates!

His dish was a little unusual. But hey, I`m always willing to try anything when it comes to food. These are gooseneck barnacles, or "Dragon's toes" as chef called them. Who knew we could eat them?! Well, apparently can, and they taste pretty good as well - chewy, similar to octopus.

Lastly after we gone through all the kitchens, we took a look at the prize room, where there booths set up with information about organizations who work to make sustainability and traceability a reality, such as Ocean Wise and This Fish.

This Fish is also now featuring product that has the fisherman on the label to better connect you to the source of your food. Traceability leads to accountability! I think they feature a new fisherman every month.

Thank you to all the chefs and organizer that made the Slow Fish Mystery Chefs Dinner possible! Hope there is another one! I definitely want to attend again!
The amazingly delicious evening ended with a truffle!

Learn more about the Slow Food / Slow Fish movement here and the Chefs' Table Society here.

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