Mark Picone addresses the crowd at Benchmark Restaurant during his Chef Signature Series event.
It was a full house when chef professor Mark Picone kicked off the The Canadian Food and Wine Institute debut of the Chef Signature Series on Feb. 7.
Held at Benchmark Restaurant, the event was the first in a series of six that will each put a different chef professor in the spotlight.
The attention may have been on Picone but, for him, it was all about the student experience.
“In a nutshell, I believe the highlight was although I may have taught and given the students the opportunity to showcase their skills, it is what the students taught me,” he said. “Is that what teaching is all about … an exchange of ideas put into practice?”
Picone describes the first course, Sweet, Salty Sour and Bitter, as “simply creative” when matched with the 2010 Sparkling and Sassy Riesling by Sue Ann Staff.
“It was a great way to start the evening,” he said.
Students involved included Erin Danic and Kathleen Weaver who, Picone said, were spectacular.
This was followed by students Scott McInerney and Alex Todd’s Duck, Quinoa, Cinderella Squash Clouds, Jus. It was served with a 2010 Reserve Cabernet Franc from Picone Vineyard, Ravine Winery.
“This may have been the most well received dish of the evening,” he said. “Guests are still talking about it!”
The third course was Lip Smack’n Short Rib, Smoked Apple Slaw, Winter Succotash and Parsnip Puree, served with 2009 Dean’s List Pinot Noir, NC Teaching Winery. Students Trevor Littlejohn, Adam Sheridan, Daniella Germond assisted with this course.
Picone noted that LittleJohn’s approach to the main course was the make it user-friendly.”Here, he capitalized on family-style service that was a unique way of bringing the table together and, maybe even more so, the whole dining room,” said Picone.
The final course was an abstract of colours and flavours: Red/White, Green, Orange, Purple, Blue, FG. It was comprised of smoked sweet potatoes, black current gelle, beet strands, heartnut and pecan nut, and bleeding heart radish. It was served with 2010 Charles Charles Baker Riesling, Picone Vineyard, Stratus Winery. This involved students Elena Romos-Martin and Travis Bowman.
CFWI chair Craig Youdale said the event was an amazing success and a great start to the dinner series.
“The crowd was thrilled with the experience and the evening was a culinary and wine triumph,” he said. “The idea of the event was two fold: to showcase the amazing talent that CFWI has in our chef professors and to give our students a chance to work with our professors in their true creative environment outside the traditional lab.
“The students experienced the true culinary talents of Chef Mark while also getting the chance to deliver a world class meal to give them a glimpse of their career to come.”
The event was a hit with the guests, including brewmaster Jon Downing, and wine program instructor/ coordinator Jennifer Wilhelm who both commented posted comments via Facebook.
Downing enjoyed the fact that guests were able to view live broadcasts from the kitchen.
“Being able to see all the work that goes into putting that plate in front of you makes you realize how much work is really involved,” he said. “Thank you Mark and all your students and the Benchmark staff.”
“It was an incredible night and dinner! What creativity and flavour in each dish,” said Wilhelm. “The culinary student team and Chef Picone were simply amazing.”
The Chef Signature Series continues on March 6 with chef professor Olaf Mertens.
Also on the lineup are Chef Osvaldo Avila (March 22), Tony deLuca (April 4), Avi Hollo (April 25), and Michael Olson (May 9).
Tickets are $79 for the four-course meal, including wine or beer pairings, taxes and gratuities. Contact Benchmark Restaurant at ext. 4619 or email@example.com.