As the sun slipped down below the western hills across Okanagan Lake, wisps of smoke rose from the barbecue amongst the grapevines, eggplants and fruit trees at the Djordjevich family’s Stoney Paradise organic farm in East Kelowna.
Seated around a linen-draped table, silhouettes of a couple of dozen guests could be seen enjoying a meal made almost entirely from locally-sourced products, most of which were picked that day from the vines, plants and trees that surrounded the clearing where dinner was served.
Organized by the Okanagan Chefs Association, it was a farewell dinner for the four junior chefs from all across Canada, prepared by those young people in thanks for the hospitality shown during their two-week exchange visit.
Each also contributed a unique item brought from their home culinary region to the dishes they prepared, including red lentils, maple syrup, mustards and sunflower seeds.
Melanie Robinson of Muskoka, Candice Edonomakos of Toronto, Kimberley Knourek of Regina and Ryan Baker from Lethbridge agreed the most remarkable concept they would take home with them was one thing they found is done quite differently in the Okanagan.
“Everything here comes straight from the fields to the restaurants,” explained Baker, who said he was heading home to create a garden outside the kitchen of the restaurant where he works.
Armed with their broader knowledge of Okanagan cuisine after a week touring game ranches, organic gardens and orchards, cheesemakers, wineries such as Mission Hill and Quails’ Gate and working in restaurant kitchens such as RauDZ Regional Table, the Grapevine at Gray Monk Estate Winery, the Bistro at Summerhill and the Wild Apple at Manteo—all agreed that fresh is best.
This was the first of what will become an annual exchange for junior chefs from across Canada, organized by the Canadian Culinary Federation and sponsored by Saputo, to provide an opportunity for them to explore a new culinary region. Next year it will be hosted by Prince Edward Island chefs.
Dinner guests included local chefs Willi Franz, Rod Butters, Geoffrey Couper, Jesse Croy, Roger Sleiman and Jon Garratt as well as special guest and president of the CCFCC, Donald Gyurkovits from Vancouver.