This week I had the amazing opportunity to go behind-the-scenes at The Fairmont Hotel MacDonald kitchens with a few fellow foodies! We were invited to come cook a three-course dinner (for ourselves) under the great guidance of Executive Chef Serge Jost and Executive Sous Chef Jiju Paul.
Six of us (Phil, Sharon, Karlynn, Gail and Rebecca) were broken into three teams and worked on appetizers, entrees, and desserts. It was a fantastic experience! Though we were not heavily cooking (ingredients were all set out and mostly prepared for us and we had a lot of help from Chefs Jost & Paul), it was still so neat to get to work right where these professional chefs work each and every day. We really got a chance to “shine” during plating of the dishes (I even used a cloth to wipe stray sauce on the plates, lol). We became #newfriends (inside joke) with Chef Jost, and learned more about his vision for the hotel’s food services.
Chef Jost says many people are under the impression that the hotel’s restaurant The Harvest Room is fine dining – too fine for your typical night out. That’s not the case. Jost and the rest of the Fairmont team want that perception to change. He wants Edmontonians to come eat at The Harvest Room all the time and think of it as an Edmonton restaurant – not an overly fancy or stuffy restaurant hidden inside a pricy, “untouchable” hotel.
He talked about how the Fairmont has always put a focus on local, fresh fare. He talked about the growing number of people with food allergies, and how the hotel always tries to think of a Plan A, B, and C, with the dishes it offers – so they are easily adaptable for those with special food requirements. He talked about the Fairmont’s terrific brunch and their fantastic patio overlooking the river valley.
The patio opens in May and that’s what I’m really excited about it. You can order off the regular Harvest Room menu but there will also be specific patio tapas items and grilling right outside. New this year as well is that The Harvest Room will actually open out into the patio whereas last year only their Confederation Lounge opened into it.
Our meal that night was fantastic! So many flavourful bites from the foie gras to Gouda mousse tarts, sous vide duck-stuffed chicken & pea puree to the refreshing strawberry sorbet. The fact that we all played a hand in the tasty end product made the experience even better. It was interesting to see how many different components go into each dish. Chef Jost had really wanted to let us experience the Fairmont behind-the-scenes, as opposed to just inviting us to come eat. It was a great opportunity and I am excited I got the chance to learn more about the hotel and meet the talent behind the food. It speaks volumes when a kitchen welcomes – even invites – people in and the chefs are eager to answer questions.
I’ve been impressed with how active the Fairmont has been on social media too – from its Twitter to Facebook to even hotel ambassador Smudge’s Facebook. They’re truly one of the most active local hotel Twitter accounts and I think that’s going to go a long way in helping them shed that perception that the hotel and its dining is too fancy or expensive for the average Edmontonian. I’m already planning my next visit for when the patio opens!
And of course no visit to the Fairmont is complete without a cuddle and photo op with hotel ambassador (and all around cutie) Smudge!
Check out the Fairmont’s photo album of the experience here!
Thanks to the Fairmont’s Katie for inviting me and Nicole, Chef Jost & Paul, and our table side servers for being gracious hosts! We were also warmly welcomed by the hotel’s management and marketing team – thank you! We all went away with full tummies, great memories and awesome custom chef jackets! :)