It’s amazing how many parallels can be drawn between the Web 2.0 revolution and food. First, let’s look at how food got to be so popular. Here’s some Web 2.0 for thought:

Our interest in food has increased dramatically in the last 20 years and now receives a level of attention normally reserved for celebrities and musicians. We can identify television cooking shows and the internet as catalysts for this shift, delivering new ideas and trends in food production to the mainstream.

Our consciousness about health and wellness has put food right under the public’s noses. Most mass-produced food contains chemicals added either during the production process, manufacturing process, or both. With cancer rates on the rise, food recalls receiving more press than shark attacks, and obesity an epidemic issue, consumers are fighting back against the supposedly “regulated” products that government agencies and their producers have deemed fit for consumption.

And most importantly, we want the truth, and unlike with television or newspaper articles, the internet is a medium where we can be immediately heard, and have, in effect, become a vocal driver in how businesses operate.

Consumers want accountability and transparency from the companies with which they do business. Big corporations have been attached with horrible stigmas for years, and with social media the opportunity for unflattering news to spread has never been stronger. Smart companies realize this, so they’re going right to the source for their validation: their customers. The customer is either your most valuable asset or a force of complete destruction. Word travels fast (bad news many times faster than good) so reputation management is becoming just as important as the actual product produced.

Our evolved obsession with food came about because food has a tremendous amount of “trend-worthiness.” Every good trend requires a high-volume interest base, prolific players within the activity or idea, and a level of accessibility.

The first proof of this is to consider the simple fact that everybody eats. Who wouldn’t take an interest in food? But food can be looked at from a necessity and interest standpoint. Yes, we all have to eat, but we also need constant hydration without just drinking water all the time. Gatorade, juice and soda all provide a little spice and variety to the experience. And it’s the same reason people still eat out at restaurants despite the fact it’s discretionary spending. Eating at home is uninspiring at best, unless you live with a professional chef. There’s only so much the average person can do in the kitchen, so they need restaurants to satisfy their needs for elevated taste experiences.

As a culture, we’re very keen on keeping up with celebrities. I think professional chefs make the perfect celebrities because they’re very enigmatic, charismatic, and often have unique personalities. They’re a lot like artists; they express food in extraordinary ways which can take your breath away. The fact that the best chefs in the world just do it better than most everyone else means that people are going to find them interesting, follow them, and thus the best ones are exceedingly popular.

The final reason food is ripe to be a lasting trend is that it can be prepared by anyone. Only the fortunate few ever become celebrities from cooking, but the ones that have made it are constantly in our consciousness, selling products, starring in television shows, releasing cookbooks, and opening restaurants. And people love them. I can’t think of a single celebrity chef that isn’t positively embraced (or, at least, not hated), but I can think of countless athletes, businessmen, actors and generic celebrities that are less than desired by the public. All in all, it’s great to be a celebrity chef, and if you have a stove, some ingredients and a few good ideas, you can impress your date, serve high-rollers, and maybe one day get a cooking show of your own.

The sixth annual Gold Metal Plates competition, celebrating the trio of premiere local cuisine, internationally-acclaimed Canadian wines and some of our most revered Olympic athletes, was held Wednesday, November 5th at the Westin Bayshore in downtown Vancouver.

The seeds for this enormously popular national event were planted right here in some of our local pubs, and its grassroots organizers have seen it grow to include six cities and hundreds of restaurants and athletes across the country. To date, Gold Metal Plates has generated a combined total of $2.3 for Canada’s Olympic and Paralympic athletes.

All hands were on deck as the venue was bulging at the seams to host what may go down as the city’s most elite event of 2008. Front and centre as we walked in was a large round table featuring all the judges for the competition. They worked from this spot all evening (maybe I’ll send them a resumé) as the event unfolded.

The wine available for auction was beautifully presented in the centre of one of the rooms, and some of the other available prizes in the raffle included a Napa Sonoma Wine Country Cycling Experience, an amazing Grand Canyon Adventure, and the chance to meet and dine with Canucks legend Trevor Linden and retired coach Pat Quinn.

I think it was all the winning energy in the room because all twelve of the competitors brought their “A” games to the table, which, fortunately for the attendees, translated into offerings which put a whole new meaning to the term, “culinary arts.” The dishes were a dream to behold, and I sincerely hoped my eyes wouldn’t become too big for my stomach (I myself trained for the event by leaving my wallet at home so I won’t be tempted to buy lunch).

For the chefs and their crews, who worked from behind white tables which lined the circumferences of two large rooms, it must have felt like a busy evening dinner service. They showcased their masterful multi-tasking skills by seamlessly preparing and plating the dishes while simultaneously entertaining the jovial and eager crowd. And when the athletes weren’t meeting with and kindly offering personal photos to the guests, they managed to jump behind the line and help prepare food.

Drum-roll please…After much difficult deliberation, the judges selected Frank Pabst and Blue Water Café + Raw Bar as the 2008 Gold Metal Plates Champions! Their beautifully prepared ocean harvest cuisine wowed everyone in attendance, as they’ll add this award to their already impressive list of accolades.

The Silver Medalist was “The Island’s Project”- featured chef Hidekazu Tojo. Tojo’s creatively presented dishes and wonderfully magnetic personality wowed the judges and once again proved that the conversation on great Japanese cuisine starts and ends with him (no wonder I have to wait so long in line to get a table at his restaurant – but it’s worth it every time!)

And last but certainly not least, the Bronze Medal was awarded to Andrey Durbach of Parkside, Pied a Terre and La Buca Restaurants. Chef Durbach also made winners of Olympic rower David Calder and Stag’s Hollow Winery, whom he was paired with for the competition.

Over 500 people came out to enjoy the spectacular creations from some of the finest chefs and winemakers in the country, and also rub elbows with our elite Olympians. With all eyes now squarely on Vancouver and 2010, it’s appropriate we continue to show our support for the men and women who dedicate their lives so that Canada is always proudly represented on the world’s stage.

So congratulations to Frank Pabst and everyone at Blue Water Café for reaching the top of the podium this year, and to all those who gave so generously of themselves to make the evening a resounding success. Our British Columbia representatives will now head to Banff in February, 2009 for the Canadian Culinary Championships. Good luck to all, and by next year the Winter Olympic Games will only be a few months away!

40 Hours of Food and Flicks

February 26, 2009

40 Hours of Food and Flicks
A Culinary Marathon with Rogue Chef Todd Baiden and Cine Friends
By Nathalie Carriere
Cooks by nature are an insular brood. They work weird hours, hang with their own, and/ or significant others. Pinch their pennies to finance their dreams. Prefer dark places, and tend to avoid, by proxy, the society and culture they feed.
Not this guy….
Starting Friday, July 11 at 8 pm until Sunday, July 13th at noon, Rogue Chef Todd Baiden of 12B, deliciously located, somewhere in the down town east side, will stand at his makeshift kitchen/ pass, built along side a film-art installation at the grace-gallery, to tackle a 40 hours straight up, alone, 20 seats every 2 hours turn-over dance, to prove a point.
IB: Ok, this guy plays by his own rules, probably hates City Hall, any Government and every ‘look but don’t touch’ group alive.
RCT: “This is an open call to all the ‘restauranteurs’ in Vancouver to have the balls to hire a couple more staff, (their paying the god dam inflated rents anyway) and present this city with eatable food, 24 hours a day. If I can cook, by myself, for 40 hours straight, somebody, somewhere, stay open please, and soon.”
IB: Well perhaps, Chef Todd, this is a zoning question, a noise complaint issue, ‘we all sleep at night so all of you all be quiet’… what of that?
RCT: “Fine, bring it. Open up the damn discussion. But, what of the most of us feeding this shit, and cleaning up after it. Going broke/ blind with crazy talk leases neck-on-the-line, showing these people a good time? Where do we go when the lights go out, where do we eat, where do we go to unwind? Don’t mention the Naam I swear you will not live through the argument.”
Grace-gallery curator Rachel Zottenberg, recently beheld Chef Todd’s intents during a recent art/food collaboration project entitled Brief Encounters, and requested a ‘let’s do it’ session for the gallery.
RCT: “First of all, the indi film makers in this town, matter. Rachel wanted to move toward audio/ visual installations, rebuild her gallery to reflect an awareness of media as art, reno, rad, and all. And I thought, hey let’s feed them too, nothing more real, than dinner and a movie.” 40 Hours (a play on time) of Food and Flicks (his reactive name for the project) became a go.
Featured, will be the cinematic works of Bienvenido Cruz, Jamie Travis, AJ Bond, Jesse Savath and up and growing Emma Campbell.
You can buy it, take it home, and hang it- installation by film maker/ photographer Matthew Walker Timmons, will round out this multi-media project.
RCT: “As far as I know, we are all sold out for the sit-down 3 course tasting menu thing. Call the gallery to make sure. But, do show up to just catch a flick, and breathe in the air. Matt [Timmons], has taken pictures of my private dinners, interpreted their social significance, and is mounting them on serving platters and plates. The framing is totally different… got the stuff at Ming Wo’s and shit. Some are wood, it’s totally sweet. We will have a separate bar thing set-up. Come down, buy a drink and hang out.”
IB Says: Booking a 10 am two top (perhaps more if we can get committed and curious peeps out of bed) on Sunday, July 13th to witness the last two hours of Chef’s Todd’s 40 hour intent. Follow up for certain.
www.grace-gallery.com

Executive Chef Marc Andre Choquette, originally from Montreal, has now been practising his profession in Vancouver for over a decade. In those years, he has witnessed the rapidly evolving fine dining scene.

He recalls his days as the Executive Chef of Lumiere, where he saw the evolution of a local chef Rob Feenie in (1998) on his way up to the Iron Chef title in (2004).

He was also there to witness the dramatic business changes that led Feenie to where he is today.
Through the years Choquette has hired and trained many aspiring cooks. The list of talented cooks that Choquette has mentored and trained include Jeremy Bastien and JC Poirier, who have now become very popular Chefs by operating their very own respective cuisine, Boneta and Chow.

When talking about suppliers, he mentions how they have changed and adapted themselves to the specific requests of the growing population of Chefs as well as the competition.

Choquette has met various suppliers along the way and maintains great working relationships with them. However, he understands the value of seeking out the new and even smaller suppliers, as he confides that often that is how he has sourced some of the best ingredients.
For his new upcoming restaurant, Voya, Chef Choquette plan on going on a short trip around BC to discover unique suppliers such as organic farmers and orchards.
Choquette’s new restaurant Voya is much anticipated by Vancouver foodies. While there is no confirmed opening date, he is excited that the brand new restaurant will be well worth the wait.
Meanwhile, he has been working on various projects for the Kor hotel group in L.A and Miami but the main focus is to get Vancouver’s location set up and launched. The task is not an easy one to say the least as there is a lot that needs to be taken care of: kitchen plan, buying equipment, hiring staff and testing new menu recipes. You can likely find Choquette in the kitchen with his Sous Chef, Tret Jordan (previously from Elixir Restaurant in Yaletown), trying out new menu ideas and flavours.

Choquette’s has provided a Mushroom recipe.

A short video of Choquette cooking up.

Some of Choquette’s favorite suppliers are:

-Ponderosa Mushroom’s
-Market Wise Fine Food
-Finest at Sea

Choquette

Voya