George Brown College's The Chefs' House recently launched another season of their Rising Star Chef Dinner Series. Once a month, the cooking talent of an emerging, local chef is showcased in a four-course, wine-accompanied meal. Recently, Cava Restaurant's Doug Penfold hosted an evening.
The Chef's House is a fully functional restuarant that supplements the culinary program at George Brown College, giving culinary students a chance to get their hands dirty and feet wet in a live dining environment. The Chefs' House regular hosts guests for lunch and dinner (The Chefs' House is open Mon-Friday, details are here) and oftentimes will host special dinners with guest chefs. It's a unique opportunity for the students, allowing them to gain real world experience as a server or cook, and also allowing them to learn from seasoned chefs with a variety of culinary backgrounds. As part of George Brown's Culinary Arts program, first- and second-year students are required to work at the The Chefs' House for 14 weeks in both the front and back of house.
The Rising Star Dinner Series brings in notable chefs and sous chefs from Toronto to work and prepare a meal with George Brown students. The list of previous featured chefs includes Patrick Kriss (Acadia), Michelle Usprech (Beer Bistro), John Vetere (Yours Truly), and Charlotte Langley (Cafe Belong). The chefs and students host guests with a wine focused four course tasting menu at $85 per person. (Wine pairings, taxes, and tip are included in the price.)
When I chatted with Penfold about his involvement in the dinner series, he commented that many of the students appreciate the opportunity to work with experienced chefs. "It's really important for students to see as much of the outside world as possible" he experessed on the importance of culinary guidance. "Nothing prepares you for the reality of kitchen lives. I'm not a great teacher, but enjoyed working with the students. The dinner ideas came from a recent trip to Madrid and collaborating with Chris, it was meant to showcase Spanish cuisine at a very everyday level."
Cava restaurant's focus is Spanish cuisine. Opened six years ago by chef Chris McDonald, the restaurant offers tapas style dishes from a fun and approachable menu. Co-owner and chef Doug Penfold has worked for a variety of top chefs in the city and has been with the restaurant since it opened in 2006. Doug's recent dinner at the GB Chefs' House highlighted Cava's philosophy and he also drew from his recent travel experiences in Spain. As guests started to arrive, Doug and students plated supergildas – escabeche of sardines wrapped with anchovy, green olive, and pickled peppers. It's a popular dish at Cava and perhaps the most iconic tapa from San Sebastian.
Continuing with the tapas theme, a trio of plates followed along with a glass of Terras Gauda 2011 Abadia Di San Campio Albarino (wines were provided by TWC Imports). The trio included charred octopus with romesco, baked clams with chorizo, and piquillo pepper stuffed salt cold.
Jamon sauce laced Rainbow trout came next, along with Cocido Madrileno, a traditional chickpea-based winter stew from Spain's capital city. It's an old, traditional dish that most restaurants serve on Tuesdays and as a specialty.
Penfold's dessert was a Majorcan Almond Tart. The valldemossan cake's moist texture was highlighted by the savouriness of olive oil ice cream, grapefruit acidity, and the sweetness from fig. Doug was kind enough to share his adapted recipe for the tart.
Doug's Majorcan Almond Tart recipe
- 8 eggs separated
- 1 tsp grated lemon zest
- 1 tsp freshly ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 cups blanched almonds, coarsely ground
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 8 black mission figs
- Preheat oven to 400 F
- Butter and flour a cake pan that is 11 inches in diamter and two inches tall.
- In a large bowl, combine yolks and sugar and whisk together until smooth and foamy
- Add lemon zest, cinnamon and extract, mix well
- Fold in ground almonds in 3 stages
- Beat egg whites to a soft peak
- Fold in whites in 3 stages
- Transfer batter to prepared pan
- Cut figs into 2 pieces each and arrange on top of batter
- Bake 30 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean
- Let cool till warm, serve
Olive oil ice cream
- 100 g good quality, fruity olive oil
- 50 g powdered glucose
- 250 g granulated sugar
- 600 g homogenized milk
- In a thermomix or high power blender mix all ingedients and process till well mixed. Strain and chill
- Freeze in an ice cream machine
The Chefs' House returns in 2013 with a number of dinners:
- Wednesday February 6, 2013. David Sider from Langdon Hall
- Wednesday March 13, 2013. Chris Brown from The Stop Community Food Centre
- Thursday April 11, 2013. Douglas McNish, Raw Food Chef & Cookbook Author
- Wednesday May 15, 2013. Andrea Nicholson-Jack, Killer condiments.
To reserve tickets, please contact the Chefs' House directly at 416-415-2260. or email chefshouse [at] georgebrown.ca
George Brown Chefs' House
For reservations, call 416-415-2260
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Written by Suresh Doss
Suresh Doss is the publisher of SpotlightToronto.com and Rickshawmag.com. Founder of the Food Truck Eats festival, Suresh has been a pioneer for the Street food movement in Toronto. In 2011, He was awarded the VQA Promoter’s Award for outstanding achievement in the Media category in the promotion of Ontario VQA Wines. Suresh is also the Global Editor for Whitecap’s StreetEats series of travel guides, which focuses on the best street food across North America.