Cooks in the Wood

22 Sep 2008

The first biennial Canadian Chefs’ Congress commenced yesterday in Southern Ontario, at chef Michael Stadtlander’s 100-acre farm, where around 400 of Canada’s best chefs gathered to mark what has been considered a milestone in Canadian gastronomy.

Stadtlander invited one or two chefs – including Vikram Vij of Vij’s in Vancouver, Scott Pohorelic of Calgary’s River Café, and Nunavut chef Ray Lovell – from each province and territory to represent his or her region at the ‘Best of the Country’ dinner – where each of the thirteen chefs will contribute a local dish.

The renowned chefs will also highlight the environmental, social and political issues involved in food production and around twelve workshops are being held to discuss these issues, ranging from biotechnology to food security and contemporary Canadian cuisine.

Born in Lübeck, Germany, and later emigrating to Toronto in 1980, chef Michael Stadtlander often hosts food and wine festivals on his wooded property near Collingwood. He established this two-day long congress – accompanied by music sessions and kitchens set up in the surrounding woodland – to serve as a platform for Canadian chefs to share their ideas and experiences, and to reconnect them with the roots of local food and culinary traditions.

When commenting on the idea of this congress, Stadtlander said ‘So many things are happening now: There’s the debate over genetically modified organisms. Organic versus conventional agricultural methods. The disappearance of small slaughterhouses. There’s so much to talk about’.

In relation to the gastronomic tradition in Canada, he added ‘Canadian food culture is so versatile. It’s about survival. It’s constantly evolving’.

The mission statement of the congress is: ‘The Canadian Chefs’ Congress connects chefs to our land in solidarity with farmers, fishers, gardeners, foragers and all artisanal food producers. The Canadian Chefs’ Congress is a biennial gathering of chefs from across Canada that reinforces the passion and integrity of Canadian Food Culture’.

If you would like to find out more visit Canadian Chef’s Congress.

The Globe and Mail

Victoria Blackshaw

[email protected]

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