NAIT’s Hokanson Chef: Where’s My Clutch? and, I really don’t do anything for fun. Nah. Nope.
Those two phrases accurately sum up my evening with David Adjey last night at NAIT.
Cheeeese! Chef Adjey, pleeease put away your i-phone and and give me a little smile? And look at him. He is totally enjoying being a stinker. That’s because that is what he is. He is a rebel who revels in saying and doing the unexpected.Â Decked out inÂ a soft pink plaid shirtÂ withÂ glitzy cuff links, bleached blond hair, faded jeansÂ andÂ his Louis Vuitton folder and clutch, he is quite the contradiction. When asked how he sees himself in his retirement years, he answered: “In a one piece nude coloured body suit playing with a boa lounging around my spacial home. I hope to be just be weird enough to keep everyone away from me. Me in a nude one piece body suit should do that.” Yet, here he sits, the centre of attention and not willing to give up the limelight anytime soon!
Chef David Adjey was completing the end of his second day spent at NAIT tonight as the new Chef in Residence following Rob Feenie as the first chef in this position which was initiated in February 2009. This meet and greet was put together by Diane Begin for NAITÂ as an opportunity for 13 local food bloggers to have some time with Chef Adjey. The culinary students at NAIT prepared five generous “tastes” from David Adjey’s recipes for us to enjoy during the hour. Each was a beautiful little meal unto itself. As I was hoping to glean from his expertise, I decided to take advantage of the opportunity and contribute to the dining fare by preparing one of Chef Adjey’s signature dishes which will be presented in full in a following post. Diane told me to go for it, so I did!
We were graciously greeted at the door and guided through the restaurant to a classroom kitchen set for a formal dining experience. I was not expecting such a lavish affair, and it was such a treat to be seated at white linen at the end of a long day at work. David followed us into the room chatting away to someone and immediately filled it with his over the top personality.
Diane had thoughtfully placed name cards around the table and provided us with a menu and a recipe package. Beavie was thrilled to get a spot in the centre of my place setting. He wasn’t expecting such a fine event, and brushed down his fur and puffed up with pride. Next time I will have him fit for a tux. It was a very comfortable and casual 20 minutes chatting with David and one another. Champagne was poured and the conversation began to flow.
There was a couple of minutes for each of us to get a picture with him. Here he is smiling in his ever so sincere manner with sweetÂ Marianne whom I didn’t get a moment to chat with, but was really happy to meet “in the flesh”!
Then the incredibly kind staff of NAIT brought in the lobster fingers I had made for Chef Adjey to critique. Everything was taken from my bag, warmed, plated beautifully and brought in for me to present. I stood and explained to Chef Adjey that I had chosen a recipe of his that I had admired and made it for him to critique. I then took it over and sat it beside him….pitter pattering with anticipation.
HeÂ was talking about something else for quite some time and I was trying to will him to please eat them while they are hot! He didn’t. He later told me that I hadn’t cooked the binding agent enough. Now,Â I was very keen to learn about what I could do better. That was the entire point beside the obvious one of the honour demonstrated toward his achievements. And this was not about me. It was about him, and I was eager to hear his expertise.
Unfortunately, that never happened. The time to start the “live session” on videoÂ came upon us while I was in the middle of understanding what the binding cream should have looked like before I took it off of the stove. He just wasn’t interested.
So, time to go live. We introduced ourselves around the table. Sharon started by asking the first question and there were many that followed the remainder of the evening.
He really wasn’t interested in talking about food. That surprised me. He was animated when talking about his escapades as a Chef and the power that his position has brought to him. He was animated talking about money and shopping and spending and women. He was animated when talking about his new projects that you can learn more about here as well as on his Facebook page.
To say Chef Adjey was responsive would be an understatement. He clearly relishes his position at the front of the room, the head of the table, and the top of the heap. His graphic representations and colourful anecdotes can be seen here as the entire event on video is available for viewing. Chef Adjey is, well, animated. And to coin a new phrase (or possibly one that has been used before as it wasn’t hard to think of) heÂ is not soÂ simply “Adjeytating“.
He works at stirring things up, mixing things up, throwing a wrench in the mix. And,Â hisÂ indulgent approachÂ has bode well for him and his career. People love to watch him on Restaurant Makeover. People love his tough around the edges and tell-it-like-he-sees-it manner.
When asked how he gives back, he named two specific Toronto based AIDS focused charities that are dear to his heart. When asked what cause he will use his position and power to promote, he had to stop and think.
He said he would probably advocate for higher wages for young chefs. Certainly, it was a spur of the moment response to a very serious question. David Adjey needs to think about the answer to that question. He is in the position to make a very big difference in whatever cause he should choose to promote. HisÂ wild tales and purposefully chosen “Adjeytating” manner of speaking do command attention.
My favourite sharing was the one he told of his children having to bake their own chocolate chip cookies if they want them. There’s no going to the store at his house if you want a cookie. After they make up the batter, six cookie dough balls go into each little bag and into the freezer. Whenever they want a cookie, they have to take it out of the freezer, thaw it, and then bake it for 8-10 minutes, each getting two cookies. Two “regular sized” cookies.I love this as I work at it every day in my classroom.
Portion size is out of control according to Adjey. Especially in the West. He said that he still can’t get used to the massive amount of food he gets served on a plate out here in the West. “Four ounces of meat is what should be served. No one serves that amount. You get 8 or 10 or 12 ounces of meat. We need to get back to controlling portion size.” Standing ovation from me, Chef Adjey.
Drum roll please: Presenting the beautifully plated, stellar undertaking by NAIT Culinary students to present Chef Adjey’s food. These portion sizes were exceedingly ample and each would be a very satisfying lunch. Together, they were a feast.
I loved the “kickass tartar sauce” in the shrimp dish. The Kumquat Garlic relish in the pork dish won my heart. I am making it, immediately. Watch for that. Perfect, and so unexpected with the pork.
Arctic Char is so Canadian. I was pleased to see it on the menu. The potatoes were tasty and the braised fennel was delectable.
I am an aioli fan and the saffron aioli punctuated the natural sweetness of the halibut. Spectacular! It was a night of great sauces, as I could have licked my plate as the red wine jus in concert with the tenderloin was scrumptious. Was some of Chef Adjey’s favourite veal jus in there? Lobster butter? Buttermilk onion rings?Â No need to ask me twice. Yes, please! This dish was the perfect high note to conclude the procession of delights. Standing ovation, NAIT students! Thank you so much. I truly appreciate the heart you put into your food.
The people around our table this evening were:
Sharon: Only Here for the Food; Mack, the quintessential Edmontonian, and her counterpart; Twyla: It’s a Weird Wild and Wonderful Life; Isabelle: The Little Red Kitchen; Brooke: Take it and Like it; Bruce: Moments in Digital, (definitely check out the video and his photographs of the evening on his site); his wife, Sarah: Cakes Sarah Sera; Marianne: Loosen Your Belt;Â Maki: In My Element; Cathy: Walsh Cooks; Nikki: The Read Onion; and Chris: Eating is the Hard Part.
With a bottle of Pernod and a black licorice, the evening could have gone into the wee hours. But, our hour was long over. The champagne bottle was empty and it was time to wrap up and go home.
I was really sad to leave as questions consistently elicited the unexpected. When asked about his favourite Canadian food, he answered, “Cattail Reed hearts.” None of us had ever heard of them. He said he would have to charge at minimum $100 to serve three small pieces to someone in his restaurant because they are so labour intensive to harvest. My question: What do they taste like? His answer: Like ass.
And what did Chef Adjey thin of our evening together?
Here is the edited video of the evening:
And last, but certainly not least, Diane Begin’s final reflections on the entire event.