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Culinary aesthetics: The Audain is hosting inaugural Dinner Series event

Kitsilano restaurant AnnaLena will prepare multi-course menu for April 21 event

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The visual and culinary arts converge this month for a special five-course dinner in one of Whistler's most unique settings, the Audain Art Museum.

On Saturday, April 21, the Audain will welcome a creator of a different kind for Dinner Series Vol. 1, an exclusive tasting menu devised by Michael Robbins, executive chef at Vancouver's AnnaLena restaurant.

"It is such a gorgeous art gallery," Robbins said of the 5,200-square-metre museum, designed by Patkau Architects. "Aesthetically, I really enjoyed walking through the space and looking at it, so when the opportunity came to do a dinner there, we jumped onboard."

At first glance, it might not seem like the preeminent facility for contemporary and traditional B.C. art might share much in common with a buzzy restaurant in Kitsilano. But the reality is the Audain and AnnaLena—a portmanteau combining the names of Robbins' grandmothers—are more aligned in their creative vision than one might think. Both institutions focus on showcasing the best of B.C.—Robbins calls his cuisine "modern Canadian" with a strong focus on Pacific Northwestern ingredients. And both gravitate towards compelling aesthetics, evident as soon as you enter AnnaLena, which is populated with Lego art and sculptures of teddy bears. And both places are also relatively new players to their respective scenes. (The Audain celebrated the second anniversary of its opening on March 12; AnnaLena's third anniversary was March 13.)

"This presented itself as a great opportunity for collaboration with someone in the city that is likeminded and is pushing new boundaries in creativity and innovation," said Justine Nichol, the museum's marketing and communications manager.

"AnnaLena is really interested in clean, architectural lines, as well as incorporating art into their space. I think, from their perspective, it was a very aligned venue as well."

The longtable dinner marks the first event of its kind for the Audain, planned for the museum's spacious upper-floor gallery. Nichol said it's just the latest experiment for a facility trying new ways to engage with guests from Whistler and beyond.

"What we've learned is that we're just at the very beginning of something incredible and our potential reach is really limitless. The collection itself, and the architecture, has really offered something to everyone," Nichol said of the museum. "So, what we are trying to accomplish with the different events we're doing is being able to curate events, as we would with an art exhibition, and target different demographics, different audiences with each event we're doing."

With a capacity of 120 guests, the dinner also presented a new opportunity for Robbins and his team, who are closing the restaurant for the April 21 event.

"It's doing really nice food at that volume that's a challenge for us, but that's also what's exciting about it," Robbins said. "We usually do 120 covers a night; now we're going to do it in one seating. So we're just working that out."

Priced at $369, the ticket includes tax, gratuity, a B.C. wine pairing with every course, and exclusive after-hours access to the Audain's temporary and permanent collections. The event will help raise funds for the museum's educational programming for children and families.

For more information, and to purchase tickets, visit annalena.ca/store/annalena-audain.

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