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2024 BC Seafood Festival Gala


This weekend we were at the BC Seafood Festival, where the best and brightest chefs gathered at Mount Washington for the second year in a row. Here in celebration of the seafood that is only available on our coasts. Encouraging consumers and industry officials to shop and support local through shellfish aquaculture.

The gala is the flagship event of this 16th year. A Saturday night long table dinner, where all the chefs participating in either competitions, seminars, or meals were gathered to man their own booths and represent their own restaurants with a single bite of two.

Guests dressed in their finery and were gathered under the largest outdoor text with annex, that I have ever seen. This year had the largest turn out the most ticket sold. Ten chef stations and 400 plus people to feed.

Although we were assigned seating, it was more as a place holder and starting position. After recognition and speeches were given, table by table we were invited to visit each station and pick up a bite in timed intervals. There were promises that there would be more than enough food for everyone, but some stalls sold out faster than others; and there was technically no chance to go back for more. Athough quantities taken and second rounds through the lines weren’t accounted for. Thankfully we moved fast as was able to try one of everything, especially as each Chef featured a different type of seafood in their dishes. Below is as we got to them, with our ranking from best to least liked at the very end.

Chef Aaron Rail of Nikkei Ramen-ya had a Maple smoked Sablefish with miso-mustard BBQ sauce, mizuna, and strawberry dashi. The colourful contrast of the plate was striking, although I wished for something more classic like a sablefish ramen, given the chef’s background. As is, the bite felt lean with all the flavour coming from the compounded saltiness of the sesame paste smear on the side. I was not a fan of the sweeter berry forward dashi, making the fish less serious.

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Coming out of his Scallop MasterClass I thought I knew what to expect from Chef Will Lew, representing Pacific Reach. However the familiar presentation still blew me away and the dishes were so much better than what I could have anticipated. He and his full team were offering two unique dishes featuring Wild Pink Scallops from West Coast Wild Scallops.

The Scallops and Guanciale was his play on a baked potato or “scalloped potato” with Smoked Potato Foam, Spiced Chicharon Crumb, and a Preserved Citrus Maple Glaze; all baked and served in a scallop shell. You collected your portion from off of an actual net that they catch scallops with, and opened both halves to reveal the treasure inside. How whimsical.

The potato whip was creamy yet starchy, a solid mouthful given a punch of flavour from the salty bacon and hearty crumble prepared with pork fat. I just wish I had a small bowl’s worth to really enjoy what I had. This small shell was a tease.

My favourite dish of the evening was the prettiest and bougiest udon I have ever seen and had. Pink Scallop and Uni Udon with Sake Kasu Cream, Morel Mushrooms, Yuzu Marinated Ikura, Wild Scallop and Kelp XO Chili Crunch, Scallions, and Spot Prawn Furikake. There were so many premium ingredients in this and it showed. Although I missed the uni completely. The broth was rich and savoury, coating the thick and chewy noodles for an easy slurp. I drank every last drop and writing this, am sad I will never get to have it again.

My second favourite dish of the Gala went to Chef Deseree Lo of Chef Dez Lo Catering, Master Chef Canada season 10 winner runner up. Like with Chef Will above, I enjoyed her geoduck Masterclass and was just impressed by her geoduck offering here. This is her Geoduck Mazeman noodle with Roasted Creamy Sesame Seed Dressing, Shirodashi, Green Chutney Mayo, and Pickled Mushrooms. Perfectly prepared geoduck and noodles each with their own unique chew, harmonious together and balanced by a slight herbaceous minty-ness and earthy umami mushrooms. This I would easily order off any restaurant menu.

The slap-stick duo of Chef Robert Clark + Chef Julian Bond (a twosome I met at a previous salmon event, that I will be report on soon) prepared salmon on behalf of Organic Ocean. Charcoal-Kissed Cured Pacific Salmon with a Smashed Potato, Tarragon Vinaigrette, and Bisque Foam. Sadly they were having technical difficulties with their aerosol foamer and had to spoon their bisque over top like a sauce. Trying from my partner’s plate, we found the pieces inconsistent. His was a lot less cooked, and mine dry, with not enough foam sauce to help add moisture to the generous piece. Not to mention it was served chill, which is to be expected of an outdoor event of this size. I just know this would have been much better fresh and made to order, like I have had it with them previously.

Chef Welbert Choi was representing Fresh Ideas Start Here (F.I.S.H.) with his Indian butter halibut cheek and paneer curry. I like a good Indian curry, but found the tenderness of the halibut cheek and its texture and flavour were wasted here. The fish was shredded and blended into this for a dense and chunky mix. As is it felt lean like it was missing something, naan would have been the perfect base.

Chef Tommy Shorthouse was still cooking oysters on the grill, coming out of this Oyster Rockerfeller MasterClasss. Representing Fanny Bay Oyster Bar & Shellfish Market he was preparing barbecue oysters on the grill. Grilled oyster, umami sauce, kelp flakes, yuzu aioli, and smoked sea salt. Cooked on the grill and given a coat of sauce that was furthered torched for a caramelized meets smokey appeal. Presented on a food pick, this was a lot more appetizing and approachable after a bountiful afternoon of raw oysters, with its sweet glaze.

Chef Tushar Tondvalkarn of The Indian Pantry prepared an Albacore tuna crudo
with Solkadhi (kokum and coconut milk), herbs, and a cucumber apple relish. Another colourful eye catching dish, that didn’t necessary add anything to the plate and. It was an interesting flavour I just couldn’t wrap my head around, but maybe to rich for such a gentle fish. It tasted like dessert thanks to the coconut cream sauce that read more like the star of the dish. Maybe more suitable with a chewier vessel like scallop or squid, in keeping with the seafood theme.

Chef Stephanie Martinolich from Berwick by the Sea gave me my first taste of spot prawns for the season. Butter poached Spot prawns over summer corn puree with chive blossom vinegar and Jalapeño oil. With spot prawn there can be no wrong. Its sweetness paralleled the corn and cherry tomato. This was also one of the only dishes with vegetables.

And as the day grew dark and cold we were able to warm up with a cup of mussels and clams with crème fraiche, Dijon, white wine, shallots, thyme, and bay leaf. This was courtesy of Chef Garret Kemp from The Vermillion Room of Fairmont Banff Springs. This was rich and cozy with plenty of butter broth to soak our crusty bread into.

And for dessert Chef Dominic Fortin was putting on a show with his Bearfoot Bistro and Cacao-Barry Chocolate ice cream sundae station. A creamy vanilla milk frozen and stirred to order with the aid of fast freezing liquid nitrogen. And for those who are dairy intolerant they had a chocolate cocoa version as well.

The crowd felt for the two chefs and their non-stop churning arms. The ice cream was lovely, but quick to melt. The self serve collection of fruit, chocolate, and nuts furthered the experience and gave us plenty to munch on. They also had a bowl of takeaway chocolate truffles up for grabs.

And as promised, the following is a list of our favourite dishes starting with what we enjoyed the most to the least, by seafood type.

1. Scallops
2. Geoduck
3. Mussels
4. Spot prawn
5. Oyster
6. Salmon
7. Halibut
8. Tuna
9. Halibut cheeks

In conclusion this was a great way to end our time at the BC Seafood Festival. There was actually another day of festivities on Sunday, however without ferry reservations we didn’t want to leave things to chance, so and left first thing in the morning to be able to catch our ride home.

For more on this year’s BC Seafood Festival and how to attend next year’s celebration, visit the link below.


2 thoughts on “2024 BC Seafood Festival Gala”

  1. Sounds like an amazing experience at the BC Seafood Festival! It’s fantastic to see chefs showcasing local seafood in such creative and delicious ways. From scallops to geoduck and more, each dish sounds like a culinary adventure. Definitely a must-visit event for seafood lovers!

  2. ChatGPT
    It sounds like you had an incredible experience at the BC Seafood Festival! The description of the gala, with its stunning outdoor setting and array of chef stations, paints a vibrant picture of a lively culinary event. Each chef’s unique creation featuring local seafood must have been a treat for the senses, from Chef Aaron Rail’s Maple Smoked Sablefish to the whimsical presentation of Chef Will Lew’s Scallops and Guanciale. Your enthusiasm for the Pink Scallop and Uni Udon is palpable, highlighting the richness and complexity of flavors in each bite. It’s clear that this festival celebrates not only seafood but also the creativity and passion of the chefs involved. Thanks for sharing your gastronomic adventure!

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