Lobster, Mussels and Moonshine

By Sue Mercer

Every year, chefs make the pilgrimage to a different Canadian city to explore and experience the culinary traditions of a different part of our great nation. In 2018, we gathered in Charlottetown on Prince Edward Island, known as Canada’s Food Island, where for four days we networked with one another, learned new skills, ate award-winning food and were treated to unmatched East Coast hospitality.

The conference agenda was planned with an emphasis on giving delegates a true island experience. The welcome reception — naturally — offered a taste of PEI, featuring local lobster, oysters and mussels, as well as the island’s famous blueberries and preserves. Then, an unusual and delicious dessert: chocolate cake made with PEI potatoes. Chefs also chased shots of PEI moonshine served in a hollowed-out mini potatoes with fresh oysters during the “spudding in” ceremony, and later enjoyed a traditional lobster supper prepared by Culinary Federation member and Delta Prince Edward Hotel executive chef Javier Alarco.

A full day of island tours gave delegates the opportunity to truly engage with the food culture of the island. They enjoyed a hearty steak-and-eggs breakfast at the Atlantic Beef Products plant before viewing mussel processing at Prince Edward Aqua Farms. Afterward, they took a tour of Canada’s Smartest Kitchen at the Culinary Institute of Canada where they enjoyed delicious local cheeses from Glasgow Glen Farm and Cows Creamery.

Not only did we execute a full day of serious culinary competition, we also held the second annual Culinary Team Challenge — a fun event that seems to bring out the very best competitive spirit!

As always, the conference culminated in an exceptional President’s Reception and Dinner, with each course curated by a different local chef team and with a special appearance from PEI’s food ambassador, chef Michael Smith! Among many other awards, it was particularly rewarding to see our host PEI branch president chef Irwin MacKinnon take home the well-deserved 2018 Canadian Chef of the Year Award.

The Delta Prince Edward Hotel and the Culinary Institute of Canada provided the perfect backdrop for our jam-packed schedule of seminars and workshops. Thanks to our amazing CF partners for hosting such informative and fun sessions, including:

  • Cooking Lobster the PEI Way (Lobster Fishers of PEI)
  • Butchery (Canada Beef)
  • The Secret to Cooking the Real Italian Way (Barilla)
  • Sturgeon and Caviar Academy (Acadian Sturgeon)
  • Preserved Seafood, Preserving Oceans (Marine Stewardship Council)
  • Healthier Menu Options (National Sunflower Association)
  • Edible Economics (Restaurants Canada)

We also had more than 40 partners featured in our products showcase, where manufacturers and distributors sampled, demonstrated and showed off new products and engaged face-to-face with our chef members.

Without a doubt, the members of the Culinary Federation’s PEI Branch went above and beyond to welcome our Delegates and Guests and give them an unforgettable taste of what makes Prince Edward Island such a magical culinary destination. We raise a glass to everyone who helped make the conference so amazing. Thank you Chef Irwin and Team for a fantastic week!

And remember, save the date for the 2019 National Conference in Niagara Falls, Ontario, from May 26–30. Registration is open, so sign up now. See you next year!

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