Did you know that Canada has an Olympic level cooking team? And that they have a Junior division, for up and coming talent under the age of 24? Well today we would learn more about this band of chefs at the launch of their new fundraising campaign, in conjunction with the Old Spaghetti Factory, Canada.
We assembled at the Old Spaghetti Factory‘s Gastown location, best known for their antique electric tram that centres the dining area, and the mysterious poltergeist sightings late at night. Stories of angry souls and sobbing children were served along side the food.
We would actually get a behind the scenes look at their kitchen, followed by their back room office that showcased a mysterious photo of one of the spirits, when he was still alive and well as a conductor.
But back to the task at hand: we were here to support young chefs in the making. The next generation dedicating themselves to 4 years of training, in order to compete in the 2024 Culinary Olympics. From what I understand, each team competes knowing what dish they are to prepare, but will be judged by how they go about it, and the end result of it. We would get a taste of one of their previously judged competition dishes, as well as a gander at the level at which the team cooks and competes.
As guests trickled in and sat down, we were kept loose with glasses of either red or white wine. Followed up two bite canapés. The artichoke heart crostini was a tangy bright start, that got the appetite going. A pairing of tender hearts over a crispy base.
In contrast the venison and foie gras terrine on a rice paper chip had a creamy richness that surrounded the walls of your mouth. Both were teasers we wanted more of, but it was already time for our first course, assembled before our very eyes.
So instead, we munched on their warm, miniature loaves of bread served with plenty of delicious garlic butter, so you need not ration your serving.
The competition level sous vide lobster and salmon roulade in a lobster consommé with shemji mushrooms, fennel, and parsley was picturesque. Our Junior culinary team got to work, plating in procession, then presenting their combined work to each guest.
This was a great appetizer and light start that highlighted each element harmoniously beside the next. The salmon didn’t over power the lobster, and both were accentuated by the lovely clear and clean broth that drank rich and airy. This was pretty on the eyes and in the mouth.
Before we moved to our entree course, we were given an audience with the CEO of Old Spaghetti Factory. He spoke to the chain’s 50th anniversary, as one of the first casual chains, and the ones to lead the trend. Followed by their brand’s goal of bringing their customers an all inclusive menu that always features their fresh sauces. They are committed to following dietary trends and continuing to evolve as their customer’s grow.
So here today, they are proud to partner and support the Junior culinary team Canada, by helping them to fundraise through a featured dish. Each Junior culinary team member was tasked to create a dish that would align with the Old Spaghettini Factory’s current menu. They took the time to understand the capabilities of the kitchen, what works for the space, and the restaurant’s customers. The result was a winning dish that would be featured at 18 Old Spaghetti locations across Canada. This was a Penne with Italian sausage ragú and whipped ricotta. For every dish sold at $18.95, $1 would go towards supporting the team’s quest for a gold metal win at the 2024 Culinary Olympics.
As for how the Penne with Italian sausage ragú and whipped ricotta tasted. It was so incredibly light and refreshing for a pasta dish. You could taste the quality in the ingredient artistry. And I shouldn’t be so surprised by how amazing this was, considering our band of chefs preparing it are Olympic level talent. The pasta was fragrant with the fresh herb, it ate clean with just the penne and tomato based sauce; but mix in the ricotta cream that binds, and it adds density for a heavier mouth-feel. Not to mention what we had before us, looked exactly like their promotional photo on the menu. This is definitely worth trying, you won’t regret having it and supporting the Junior Culinary Team Canada as a result.
Our last course was also assembled before us. An original dessert featuring The Old Spaghetti Factory’s signature white, brown, and green spumone ice cream. “Spumoni”, is a molded gelato made with candied fruits and nuts. It was the perfect accompaniment to this chocolate mousse bar made from Veliche. “Veliche” is gourmet Belgium chocolate that is currently only available locally at BakeMart. You could tell that the chocolate was something special. Not your regular over the counter find, it added depth naturally, as well as changing when it pinged against a different element, like the sweet ice cream and/or the crispy bar crust.
In conclusion it was an absolute delight to learn that Canada had a Junior culinary team that competes. And not only learn of them, but to be able to watch them perform, and inevitably want to support them through their fundraising efforts. So head down to The Old Spaghetti Factory to try their penne and donate a $1 by proxy, that goes towards their future success.
The Old Spaghetti Factory Gastown
53 Water St, Vancouver, BC V6B 1A1