9 days to go - how to launch a festival

THE INVITATION…

The date circled on my calendar looks awfully close now.

I must admit that there is a real mix of excitement and trepidation with the start of the festival just 9 days away. I would love to say that every ‘t’ is crossed and every ‘i’ dotted, and that we could simply relax and look forward to a great event, but the reality of festival organization means there are always lots of last minute work. Still, I can always dream can't I…?

How to formally launch the festival is always a big question. Unsurprisingly we always want to have a champagne-popping moment – to ‘uncork Uncorked’ as you might say – and as the festival grows the first-night event offers a great opportunity to try new ideas and invite new talent to the table. So today I will take you behind the scenes of the Canmore Uncorked Kick-Off Party, taking place Wednesday May 3rd at Cornerstone Theatre.

Last year we ran our first chef competition, crowning our Chef of the Festival from a group of local contestants who prepared small sample plates for the audience and panel to judge. This year, being a significant birthday for our great nation, it makes sense to try something different and host an event themed around Canada’s heritage, and we are thrilled to be welcoming some highly talented chefs from Calgary to compete against some of Canmore’s local stars, as well as each other.

The event will be an exciting kick-off for Canmore Uncorked 2017, it will celebrate Canada, the food and drink will be fabulous, and one lucky guest will walk away with a VIP pass for the rest of the festival!

FOR STARTERS…

Cornerstone Theatre will play host to the Lick-Off Party; after all what better place to host a Canada-themed event than a Manitoba barn-board building? I have always thought of Cornerstone as a giant log cabin in the mountains and love presenting events there – the Big Brunch and Whisky Festival will also be hosted there as part of this festival. The fact that it comes with an excellent chef and kitchen, full-service bar and theatre-quality sound and lighting is also rather convenient!

Cornerstone Theatre

Cornerstone Theatre

This year we are honoured to have a judging panel of well-established regional food media – including freelance journalist Twyla Campbell, Julie Van Rosendaal from Dinner with Julie, Linda Garson from Culinaire Magazine, Karen Anderson from Alberta Food Tours, and Calgary Herald Journalist John Gilchrist. All will be providing their insight and opinion on the dishes for the audience, who will also participate in the judging.

And most importantly four teams will be competing at the Kick-Off Party – representing four distinct parts of Canadian culture, and each serving an exciting dish that represents its heritage, together with a paired beverage.

THE MAIN COURSE…

Drum roll... and now it is time to meet the chefs that will be providing an array of wonderful tastes for our guests at the event.

Chef Bill Alexander

Chef Bill Alexander

I will start with the Indigenous Canada team led by Bill Alexander, Executive Chef at the Grey Eagle Resort & Casino. Originally from Ontario’s Akwesasne Mohawk reserve, Bill grew up on a family ranch and apprenticed as a chef at Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa before hitting the road and working in Italy, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Czech Republic, Japan and across Canada. After 18 years as an Executive Chef, Bill now calls Calgary home and happily fuses his experience, his heritage, and his belief that “passion is the magical ingredient to great tasting food” to influence a new generation of young chefs. Bill and his team will be serving Applewood Smoked Wild Elk Rack with an exciting twist on traditional Fry Bread.

Chef Neil McCue

Chef Neil McCue

Next on the scene are the British, led by award-winning chef Neil McCue from Whitehall Restaurant in Calgary. Neil was born and raised in Yorkshire, and has worked with talented chefs in fine restaurants around the world. He has been guided by his earliest memories of sharing food as a boy in the English countryside, and believes that the best food is the simplest food – if it’s cooked well. Having worked in Calgary in the early 2000s Neil returned to England as head chef at Curlew, where in 2011 the restaurant won a Michelin Star. Now back in Calgary Neil perfectly blends local Alberta ingredients with his British heritage, and his dish for the event will be Lamb Tartare, with flavours created to match a traditional British roast lamb dinner.

Chef Anthony Rabot

Chef Anthony Rabot

The French of course play an integral role in Canada’s history, and here are led by Canmore’s own Anthony Rabot, owner and chef at Market Bistro at Three Sisters. Anthony hails from the Perigord region of western France and brings his love of “cooking up a storm” using fresh ingredients, authentic flavors, and good wines to the mountains. His Bistro has become locally renowned and you can read more about his plans for Uncorked here. For the Launch Party Anthony will be preparing a traditional French Bouillabaisse – a Provençal stew featuring fish and shellfish.

Chef Trevor Whitehead

Chef Trevor Whitehead

And lastly, but by no means least, there is the Modern Canada Team, led by last year’s Chef of the Festival winner Trevor Whitehead. Trevor is the head chef at Hogshead on Main Street and is a Calgary native who has been in Canmore for the past 13 years. His inspiration is always to get people to try something they have never tasted, and his dishes are heavily influenced by the changing of the seasons, using fresh and locally sourced or foraged ingredients. Trevor supported at the event by Chef Kris Lowes from Where the Buffalo Roam and Chef Matt Mitchell Sage Bistro – creating something of a Canmore all-star team! Trevor will be serving Alberta Hanging Tender with foraged Spruce Tips.

THE DESSERT…

Regular readers know that I try not to do desserts. I will however finish with something pretty sweet!

After eating and drinking their way through the competing teams, Kick-Off Party guests will be entertained by the judging panel and will then participate in the judging themselves. Once a winning team has been declared they will officially pop the champagne to ‘uncork’ Canmore Uncorked, and they will draw the lucky winner of the FESTIVAL VIP PASS – a lucky guest who will go home with tickets to the sold-out Long Table Dinner, the sold-out Wine Festival, as well as 3 other great festival events.

Sweet enough? Don't miss out!

 

 

 

Andrew Nickerson