Eating-up Stratford
Bite by Byte

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A Screaming Stratford Chef School Reunion

A few weeks back, I donated some fiddleheads and wild leeks I'd foraged to the Stratford Northwestern Secondary School Culinary Club (aka the gang from the Screaming Avocado Cafe), who were leaving that weekend for Sooke, British Columbia, to complete the second half of their exchange program with Edward Milne Community School. Although the fiddleheads never made it to BC (due to a minor scandal that included an announcement on the SNSS PA system in frantic search of the missing produce!) Culinary Arts teacher Paul Finkelstein showed his appreciation by inviting Lisa (my wife) and me to the Culinary Club's May installment of the Guest Chef's Dinner Series known as the "Screaming Dinners".

Lucky us!! The Guest Chef leading the students in the kitchen this month was none other than Winlai Wong from the Spice Route in downtown Toronto, and two whole seatings were fully-booked! Thanks for the hook-up Fink!
Chef Wong is renowned for her expertise in Chinese, Thai and Indian cuisine, so we knew we were in for a evening of Asian delights. The first course did not disappoint - we shared a bowl of beautifully-spiced chicken and rice by rolling the earthy mix into lettuce wraps [above].
Hat's off to the up-and-coming chefs who were learning under Chef Wong that night - the main course was executed perfectly. A pan-seared filet of pickerel (a nice little infusion of Canadian content) was served over two scallion pancakes, with an Asian slaw on the side [above]. The flavours danced between salty-peanut, umami savouriness, cool crunch, and a little spicy zing: Screamingly scrumptious.
The dessert was a tempura banana creation [above] that was crispy on the outside and warm and luscious on the inside. I was glad to see the students in the kitchen enjoying these sweet co-creations near the end of the night: they were way too good to not save some for themselves!

After dinner, I asked the Guest Chef what it was like working with the Screaming Avocado students, "I love the energy. Their all professional, passionate, and focused." As I was speaking with Chef Wong, I learned the night was a bit of a Stratford Chef School reunion: Paul and Winlai both graduated in 1997, where they were the star students of Dean Elieff, who now teaches Culinary Arts alongside Paul at SNSS (and who was our gracious host for the evening). Seated with Winlai, Paul and Dean was former Chef School Director Elisabeth Lorimer. When I asked her to comment on the illustrious achievements of her former students and teachers she spoke like a true matriarch: "They were all like my kids. I'm very proud of them."
Keep at it, Culinary Arts Clubbers - maybe you too can attend the Stratford Chef School, become the executive chef at one of the most successful and hippest restaurants in Toronto, and return to be a Screaming Dinners Guest Chef yourself some day!
PS: To keep abreast of the fun food stuff going on at the Screaming Avocado, give Fink a follow on Twitter, username: paulfink.

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