Mangia with Massimo – NAIT Hokanson Chef in Residence

In 2009, after a generous donation, NAIT launched the Hokanson Chef in Residence program. With an exciting plan to bring epicurean experts to the school, the celebrity-guest side of the program kicked off with Rob Feenie in February 2009, David Adjey in March 2010 and Susur Lee in March 2011. If you have been lucky enough to eat with any of these chefs, you know the level of skill that not only the celebrity chef brings, but that of the students. Just ask the group of local foodies who were able to spending a night with rock-star David Adjey. This year, NAIT and it’s culinary students had the joy of seeing Mr. City Line himself, Massimo Capra.

The meal, served in the always classy Ernests’ dinning room, started after a brief introduction from the Culinary Arts Program Chair. Each hungry table was delivered a basket of freshly baked breads, which included everything from bread sticks to biscuits to crackers. I’m sure you can imagine the joy a basket of fresh bread brings to any table. The appetizer – Burrata with Arugula, Eggplant, and Oven Roasted Tomatoes – provided a great visual display. The fresh Italian cheese (Massimo influence?) was perfect, with a thicker exterior and curd-like cream center. Combining the cheese with the peppery arugula and salty eggplant made for a really damn good first course.

When the main arrived – Roasted Mediterranean Sea Bass on a Seafood and Green Pea Ragout – I was even more stoked by the bread basket that made a home at our table. If you’re going to have a rich broth, you might as well bring along your ol’ friend bread to help you clean up every drop. The stunning piece of fish would have been enough on its own. Yet topped with tender squid, clams, and beautifully poached shrimp, it was heavenly. I’m really excited for the students who are already hitting the seafood mark so well.

Dessert – Chestnut and Chocolate Panna Cotta – was the equivalent of a pillow for your stomach. The airy, smooth, and perfectly sweet cloud allowed everyone to finish the meal without feeling the need to unbutton their pants. As my table companions enjoyed their last bites of dessert, there was a resounding sound of happiness. Not only do these meals speak to the memories we are left with, but to the program at NAIT itself; its students and their influences, our city and the food we are able to eat. I look forward to next year. Ho l’acquolina in bocca.