It was a whiteout in the backstage bustle of the Chefs for Life 10 th anniversary dinner last weekend at the Four Seasons Resort Fifty Two 80 Bistro.
I counted more than two-dozen white chefs jackets snowballing together over plates stroked by Chianti jus with the artistry of a paintbrush and banana leaf cones dramatically encasing the evenings one-of-a-kind street salad.
A dozen of the white jackets, all with emblems from Whistler and Vancouvers top restaurants, were master chefs who rallied together to each create a course to contribute to the 12-course dinner raising funds for the Vancouver Friends for Life Society an organization which provides alternative health and support services for people with life threatening illnesses. More than $70,000 was raised for the cause from the evening.
"Use the spoon," a helpful server instructed, the table setting lined with polished silverware as I held the banana-leaf cone in my hand.
I spooned peanuts and beans with spicy heat and mint undertones as well as made a promise to myself to visit Vijs on my next Vancouver visit.
Every course was a Picasso experience: highly unusual, crafted by masters, forever memorable and so beautiful to look at.
It was a seven-hour dining marathon broken up only by a live auction.
Sitting at the Chefs Table, staged in the kitchen, I had a front row seat to the culinary equivalent of a Broadway show. Even from across the room, you could see the united intensity of chefs collaborating their talents to replicate the plated-star of the moment 108 times: each exact, each at the intended temperature and each met with content murmurs in the elegant dining room adorned with fresh cherry blossoms and roses as well as Sarah McLachlan who attends the charity event every year.
Local chefs shined: the Bearfoot Bistros Melissa Craig opened the Moet Champagne reception with an inventive foie gras snow cone hors doeuvre. The velvety smooth inside could only be achieved with the aid of a $5,000 appliance first spotted by Andre St. Jacques in France.
Chef Jason McLeod, event host and executive chef of the Fifty Two 80 Bistro, ventured out of the usual seared ahi tuna plate, coupling tuna with a Chianti veal jus, porcini mushrooms and fava beans, dressed with a quail egg delicately adorned in tempura, the encasing looking almost like a loosely wrapped ball of yarn. Bizarre to describe, but it was the details the popcorn sweetbreads, the thin strips of Okanagan cherry jam, the warm cup of chocolate that made this event a once in a lifetime experience.
Although a chocolate aficionado (and I couldnt help checking Chocolatier Tomas Haas wedding-ring finger after stepping into chocolate heaven with the last course), the Wildflower Chef Vincent Stufanos roast elk loin course paired perfectly with the 2002 Wolf Blass Shiraz was my favourite course. I still have no idea what bard is no one was singing and relished boar bacon, gnocchi and bourbon puree for the first time.
The excitement of trying something new, something your eyes couldnt even identify, but your taste buds could, made the evening a delicious adventure. A feat I am sure our local chefs do in their own restaurant kitchens, turning a common shrimp of a night into an organic fish-mousse-stuffed and Japanese-panko-crumb-dusted prawn affair.