Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to mentor some stellar cooks. I feel very fortunate to have had such hard working, talented, focused and dedicated staff work for me. I feel that investing effort into their training and passing knowledge on to your staff is the most important and gratifying part of being a good chef. As Corporate Chef of La Grotta Del Formaggio, I’m not spending that much time in the kitchen these days, but my sous chefs of yester-year are, they are thriving and are currently running some of the best restaurants in Vancouver. I’m so proud of these guys; I’m grateful for their loyalty, thankful for their continued support and consider them some of my closest friends. I frequent their restaurants often, not because they are my friends, but because the food is consistently delicious, well seasoned and cooked with care. I eat out a fair bit these day, always trying the “latest and greatest” places around town, but I constantly end up re-visiting Maenam, Longtail Kitchen, Espana and Secret Location more than my waistline says I should.
A few months back, over an evening of Champagne, Burgundy, caviar and truffles, we talked about cooking a dinner, a special reunion dinner of sorts. We’d cook current interpretations of some of my signature dishes and hopefully have some fun doing it. We all thought it was a peach of an idea and I thought it would be a fantastic opportunity to showcase “The Great Wall (Chef de Cuisine at Longtail Kitchen),” “Boomer (Chef de Cuisine at Espana),” “The Godfather (F/T Treasury Consultant and P/T Cooking Instructor at William Sonoma” and “Remington Ho (Pastry Chef at Secret Location)” and their culinary growth. A few months later, over a few plates of jamon and a few bottles of Tempranillo, we set a date, we wrote a menu, re-told a few war stories and we were off.
Truth be known, our dinner came together rather seamlessly. Tickets sold out quickly, we prepped a little bit the day before and then we gathered together on Saturday, like a band of brothers. We ate family meal, finished our dinner prep, mocked each other endlessly and converted Longtail Kitchen into our Reunion Dinner Popup venue. By 6:30pm, we were ready for service; the tables were set, the room looked quaint, the wine was poured and guests started to arrive like clock work. Overall, we feel like the dinner was a smashing success. Considering we’ve never worked in Longtail’s environment before and we have not cooked together in a couple years, we threw caution to the wind, cooked off the cuff, service was silky smooth and it really was like riding a bike. It was great to see so many happy guests; every guest loved the food and wine pairings and everyone had a blast. The boys introduced the dishes they cooked, I “recycled” a couple of stories and Patrick Murphy (owner and winemaker of Vista D’oro Farms) gave us the back story on his delicious wines. I know we had a lot of fun cooking together and there has already been many requests for another dinner. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens next.
Special thanks to Andrew Wong of Wild Rice for the last minute wine glasses, to Pamola Bakery in the River Market for the amazing bread, to Daly, Ron and Vincent from Longtail Kitchen for all their hard work, to our darling Christine Palichuk for pitching in and being awesome, to Patrick Murphy of Vista D’oro Farms and Winery for his generous viniferous support, to Domenic Bruzzese of La Grotta Del Formaggio for the amazing products and to Dustin Skeoch of Cedarlane Culinary for the modernist cooking equipment. Your generosity is greatly appreciated.