PEI – Canada’s Food Island

Prince Edward Island - Canada's food islandEarlier this month I received an email from Mark DeWolf of The Chronicle Herald asking if I would be interested in attending a 3-day media tour on Prince Edward Island.  I said sure, send me the details.  PEI holds fond memories for me (lobster suppers/camping) and has a special place in my heart so when Mark proposed this opportunity, I had to say yes!  It’s the smallest province in Canada and most are familiar with its red soil, Anne of Green Gables, and the Birthplace of Confederation.  As of 2017 according to Statistics Canada, PEI population was estimated to be 152,021 (I wasn’t kidding when I said it was a tiny island!) and you can drive tip to tip in 3-hours.

The 3-day event was a collaboration with The Culinary Institute of Canada and Tourism Prince Edward Island.  It was a fun, educationally packed schedule of events; just look at the itinerary!  The agenda saw us (there were 10 of us) visiting aqua farms (oysters, mussels), cheese tasting (local Gouda), preserve company, craft breweries as well as culinary workshops back at The Culinary Institute of Canada.

I arrived in Charlottetown Wednesday afternoon eagerly waiting for what lied ahead.  The last time I was on the island was in 2010.  Mr S and I were showing his mom around PEI and as such only spent one night in Charlottetown.  Suffice it to say, I was basing my knowledge on that trip and little did I know how much I DID NOT know about Canada’s food island!  So much to talk about (3 postings to share with you) so let’s begin with The Culinary Institute of Canada (CIC).  We were warmly greeted by staff and chefs in their newly renovated waterfront campus.  Chef Austin Clement spoke to us about the much-needed renovation and the investment of $7.5 million allowed for expansion.  Roughly 15,000 square feet was renovated along with added kitchen space and an expanded dining area to accommodate up to 100 people (240,000 meals served last year).  A new butcher’s space came to fruition because of this reno; one of the in-house workshops included in the media tour (a memorable one for me) was a butchery demonstration led by Chef Bob Miller.  His passion for his craft was evident and spoke tenderly about the animal. Chef Miller teaches his students to use all parts of the animal and to educate others about meat waste when consumers only ask for certain cuts. The renovated space has given students an environment that replicates real-life scenarios and when the time comes to graduate from the institute, it’s this familiarity that allows less time getting up to speed in the workforce.  A win-win for the CIC and potential employers.

Canada’s Smartest Kitchen is another interesting division of CIC.  Opened in 2009, it’s a state-of-the-art facility that combines culinary arts with the science of food to create marketable food products.  Take your food product idea to CSK and turn it into reality by utilizing their expertise (define the product, examine market trends, research and development, conduct a sensory analysis of the product, market testing).  ‘Canada’s Smartest Kitchen can help turn your idea into a tasty reality’.  To date, they have evaluated 1440 products, created 308 recipes, influenced over 2000 food innovations, and is a globally recognized development centre.

One of the highlights of the media tour was the luncheon put on by Culinary Youth Team Canada.  In 2017, The Culinary Institute of Canada was chosen by the Canadian Culinary Federation to represent Canada.  CIC has been preparing this team of young culinary professionals to compete in a series of international competitions culminating in the 2020 IKA Culinary Olympics in Stuttgart, Germany.  The team is preparing for the 2018 Villeroy Boch Culinary World Cup in Luxembourg November 24 to 28, 2018.  As part of their training, they brought out a meal that ‘might’ be served; everything was hush-hush. It was a delicious lunch and artistically presented, however, we were under strict instructions not to take ANY photos of the food.  How cool is that to represent your country in a worldwide event! We wish them success at the upcoming European competition.Culinary Youth Team Canada

The Culinary Chase’s Note:  The CIC renovated dining space is open to the public (lunch and dinner throughout the school year and only dinner throughout the summer months) and is a perfect time to sample what these budding chefs are learning and churning out of the kitchen.  Both the upstairs dining room and The Marché downstairs have spectacular views of the water.  The Marché is a perfect venue for weddings, corporate functions, reunions etc.  For a sample menu from The Marché, click here.  Enjoy!