Chefs have become modern-day rock stars. The Naked Chef, Jamie Oliver, sexed up the culinary arts and Hell’s Kitchen Chef Gordon Ramsey turned the kitchen into an entertaining war zone.
Chefs reaching celebrity status step out of the back-of-house cooker and onto the red carpet.
However, it wasn’t a splashy television show that gathered guests around the chef’s table for autographs at Quattro last Wednesday, nor the reinventing-the-wheel theatrics that led to the dinner host announcing the winemaker’s dinner would take the untraditional turn of showcasing the chef instead of the wines.
Despite his Michelin stars and fame in Italy, Chef Lorenzo Vivalda was as seemingly modest as the traditional dishes he presented.
It is not very often a Michelin-star chef graces a Whistler kitchen, let alone one all the way from Piedmont, Italy. Needless to say, only word-of-mouth advertisement was needed to sell the coveted dining experience.
Quattro manager Jay Pare explained what spurred the special winemaker’s dinner event was to celebrate the passing of the Olympic torch from Italy to Whistler/Vancouver. The dinner showcased the wines of Beni di Batasiolo, located in the finest Barolo growing areas of Italy. In the Olympic spirit, two of the Chardonnays, Serbato and Morino, which opened the dinner, included grapes from vineyards in the Torino region.
Gold medal wines – our table’s podium winner the Barbera d’Alba D.O.C. Sovrana 2003. Gold medal chef.
Founded by the Vivalda family in 1835, Lorenzo’s restaurant, Antica Corona Reale, is steeped in both Italian tradition and awards. The Michelin-star restaurant was awarded Best and Original Utilized Raw Material at the National Espresso Awards as well as first place standings in the provincial restaurant awards. Lorenzo was also named Chevalier of the Italian Republic by the president of Italy – a high distinction awarded to Italians who have proved themselves in contributing to the country’s economic development. Lorenzo will soon receive his second Michelin star. Receive a third and a chef is looking eye to eye with God.
"It is the biggest accolade you can receive in Europe," Pare said.
It was obvious a man of Vivalda’s standing had nothing to prove. The seven-course engagement bore no garish frivolities, just ingredients presented simply: no towers of food piled to teetering artistic proportions; however, the effect was anything but simple.
Highlights for the evening were the opening appetizer pairing thinly sliced veal with what I later learned was a traditional Italian mayonnaise of tuna and capers. The ravioli lined up like perfectly packaged presents, with the pasta unwrapping in a bite to wield a meaty centre of veal and duck complemented with a butter sauce. Who says you can’t have Christmas in July?
The rock stars of the night were the veal and polenta entrée. So tender, you almost didn’t have to chew the meat paired with the wonderfully grainy texture of the corn-meal pasta alternative. Guests were also privy to Lorenzo’s specialty escargot dish, a far cry from the rubbery, garlic-saturated snails of the ’80s.
"To watch (Lorenzo) go through the different stages, slowly working the flavours in, is something I will take with me," said Quattro executive chef Jeremie Trottier of the infamous dish.
Working with an authentic Italian chef only confirmed the confidence Trottier has in the Quattro kitchen.
"Working with everything that is in season and fresh: quality to start and quality to finish," Trottier said of both Lorenzo and Quattro.
While Lorenzo extended an invitation to return to Quattro to host one of his legendary white-truffle dinners, Italian revelers can live out authentic Italian cuisine dining at Quattro any time. The main dining room and sunny summer patio serves fresh, simply presented food, letting the quality of food and chefs shine on their own. No television star required.