“This is a grazing event,” said Chef Roary Macpherson during his opening remarks at the Grand Toyota Perfectly Centered Culinary Festival. And graze Grand Falls-Windsor did.
Saturday, August 5, was Food Day Canada, and with ten food stations showcasing the culinary talents of chefs from across the country, there was no shortage of noshing at Joe Byrne Memorial Stadium.
“There’s lots there to pick at,” said Macpherson, referring to the nibbles at every table, like the melt-in-your-mouth Newfoundland Savoury buns that tasted like a shortbread cookie and a dinner roll had a baby.
After less-than-stellar attendance at the Food Day Canada event in St. John’s last year, Macpherson shifted focus on spearheading the event elsewhere. Grand Falls-Windsor was the central spot to showcase the culinary talents of local and national chefs at a festival.
The massive annual celebration of Canadian food had no problem selling tickets in Central Newfoundland. Todd Mercer, Assistant Director of Parks & Recreation for the town, says the 600 tickets sold out within days of going on sale in April. Twenty more tickets were released and sold out just days before the event.
A myriad of sponsors collaborated to put the festival together, with heavy involvement from the Town of Grand Falls-Windsor, Grand Toyota, and Food Day Canada, and local support from organizations like Adventure Central. Comedian Shaun Majumder, tireless promoter rural Newfoundland, hosted the evening.
“I tell ya, my favourite audience is a food court,” he said to the cackling audience of foodies.
The event did resemble a food court (albeit a nice one), with food stations neatly lining the periphery of the transformed stadium and rows of well-decorated tables in the middle for gobbling up all the grub.
The most popular station was Macpherson’s — his deep-fried cod had a line around the stadium throughout the evening, and festivalgoers polished off those in no time flat. Grand Falls-Windsor chef Allan Milley served up Newfoundland organic mussels with Thai curry coconut and pineapple cream sauce, while Niagara-based chef Craig Youdale offered partridgeberry and honey roasted chicken with fennel and carrot slaw.
Top Chef Canada All-Star Andrea Nicholson spent a few days away from her newborn restaurant, Butchie’s in Whitby, Ontario, to visit Central Newfoundland for the first time. She presented a rabbit rillette with black currant gastrique and pine nut gremolata.
The event was not only a way to appreciate Canadian food, but also to introduce CFA chefs to Newfoundland’s unique terroir. Mark’s Market in Wooddale helped to create edible centerpieces for the tables, and the day prior to the big event, Lori McCarthy of Cod Sounds took the chefs out foraging.
Chef Scott Morash from Sysco in Nova Scotia presented a shrimp tostada with pickled onions and a sauce made with sea rocket and goose tongue, an ingredient he discovered on his foraging adventure with McCarthy.
“I just had to find a way to use it in my dish,” he said. Goose tongue is a grass that grows in Newfoundland marshes or beaches, and has a hazelnut finish.