What can I say about going on a date with David Adjey; not exactly a typical Tuesday night in my books. I was, strangely enough, left speechless when I became aware of the opportunity to sit down with the man himself. That’s right, I happened to be lucky enough to be invited along to spend an evening with David Adjey; the man they call the Canadian Gordon Ramsey, the man selling you tortilla chips, the man who will destroy your ‘pre-fab’ dishes on Restaurant Makeover (along with a little self-confidence I imagine). Should I be nervous or scared…maybe a bit of both.
You might wonder why Chef Adjey is in our unseasonably warm city right now. Is he filming an upcoming episode? No, but he does have a new show about to start on Food Network. Signing cookbooks at the local library? Again no, but he does have a new cookbook out. Why then? Well, Chef Adjey is in Edmonton working with the culinary students at NAIT, a post secondary institution in town that has taken the bull by the horns and promoted its epicurean program wonderfully. Last year, for example, saw the Chef Rob Feenie come to town for NAIT’s inaugural Chef in Residence program, so it’s great to see the program continuing this year with Chef Adjey.
Not entirely sure what to expect from the evening, I spent less time wondering about who was going to be there and more about what was going to be served. I mean..this ‘date’ was going to be my first ever celebrity chef encounter, and it was going to be over the supper hour no less. Would NAIT’s amazing culinary students put down their finest work? Or would we be catered cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off? So many silly questions run through my head.
Arriving 45 minutes early, I was happy to quickly run into Marianne from Loosen Your Belt, and minutes later, our lovely organizer for the night, Diane Begin. With plenty of time before dinner, we were escorted into NAIT’s culinary arena, Ernests. Always a delightful experience here, past memories came flooding back and reminded me how often we forget about this Edmonton gem. Sure students are making your food, and the hours are limited, but you really should make your way down one day and eat. You never know where these students will be in the years to come. But I digress, we didn’t stop in the main room, no, we were directed back through the kitchen and into a side room. Soon enough more familiar faces started to roll in; Sharon from Only Here for the Food, Mack from MasterMaq, Brooke from Take It and Like It, Isabelle from The Little Red Kitchen, Maki from In My Element, and finally Valarie from A Canadian Foodie. There were also a few new faces; Cathy from Walshcooks, Bruce (and his lovely wife Sarah) from Moments In Digital, Nikki from The Read Onion, and Twyla from It’s a Weird, Wild and Wonderful Life. All in all, a dozen guests to dine along side Chef Adjey.
Being such a fantastic opportunity, it was no surprise that NAIT took the chance to put the evening onto various forms of social media. From the live tweets to video footage for YouTube, this wasn’t a meal to become a wallflower. Enough you say though; what about the food!
The food was well prepared for the most part, but there were some distinct impressions. The Shrimp dish for example, offered two perfectly cooked shrimp, but the dry bread crumb top almost turned my mouth into an arid waste land. The Artic Char was prepared nicely but oddly, the fennel was bland and the potato dumpling quite oily (it tasted more like butter than potato). The Halibut dish was amazing, perfectly cooked and sitting on a delicious crab hash; the spice crust was cooled by the kernels of sweet corn. Brilliant. The Pork Chop was easily the worst dish of the evening; overcooked and tough, it brought back memories of eating tough pork chops as a child. The side of bok choy was cooked to mush on my plate, but the accompanying sauce was quite tasty so there is definitely potential with this one. The Tenderloin dish brought our food to a close, and ended on another positive. Cooked perfectly, the flavourful cut of beef was accompanied by the tastiest jus (veal maybe?) and was topped with a massive daub of lobster butter (which wasn’t need). The infamous buttermilk onion ring (a favourite of Dan Akroyd’s) arrived cold, and while it was good, didn’t do much in terms of the much anticipated mouth orgasm.
With the questions from the table and twitter, we discovered more than our fair share about the Chef Adjey. His life seems to follow a theme of money (gold coins are his friend), women (ex-wives and girlfriends run rampant), clothes (self-described professional shopper), and booze (never get drunk on Pernod at work). He did chat passionately about his children, with a notable mention of his son who loves the sound created when cutting apart animals, and included plenty of stories which featured the likes of Bobby Flay and Iron Chef Michal Symon. Quite the character, I found myself warming to Chef Adjey as the night went on. Not because of his polite worldly mannerisms, but because he sticks to his guns (think Tom Cruise in Magnolia). The man is definitely not going to please the masses, and has apparently, on many occasions, been scolded by lawyers and TV producers. He is who he is, that it is for sure and it made for a fantastic evening.
As I made my exit back through Ernest’s, my pants just a little tighter than when I walked in, I felt like I didn’t thank the fine crew at NAIT enough for this amazing opportunity. From Diane Begin (communications guru) who organized the night to the students who prepared and served a fantastic meal. Well done I say. I hope Chef Adjey is able to leave with you as many tips and insights as possible.