Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Cape Breton Island: Talk about Good Stuff!

Here's a brilliant idea: Ten well-known international chefs team up with ten local chefs to cook up a series of dinners, each one featuring the very best of the area's bounty. Not only that, but each dinner takes place at a spectacular local destination (Top photo: Dinner Under the Stars overlooking Bras d'Or Lake).

Outdoor dinner on the beach at Cabot Links, Inverness.

Get it? The visiting chefs experience ingredients right from the source and meet the people who grow it, fish it or produce it. In some instances they'll actually help with the harvest of a featured ingredient. Plus they get to collaborate in creating dishes with the men and women who work with these ingredients every day, not to mention the brewers, winemakers and distillers who turn grapes and grain into liquid magic.

Ocean perch ceviche at Bras d'Or Lake.

The local chefs get to express their passion for the region and its incredible producers, and work side by side with chefs from other places, sharing ideas and inspiration, creating dishes that meld the best of both worlds. And joining them are ten "aspiring" chefs who have been chosen from essays they wrote about why they wanted to participate in the event.

Well, if it sounds like it could only happen in a place as special as the Pacific Northwest, you'll have to think again. Because that's exactly what Pearleen Mofford did when she started the Right Some Good culinary festival in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

Chef Surjan Jolly of the Renaissance Marriott, Mumbai, with rock crab.

A relatively small island off the western coast of the peninsula that makes up the bulk of the province, it is home to just 100,000 resident. But the seafood that is fished off its coastline, including lobster, haddock, snow crab and ocean perch, is getting big notices across the world in no small part because of the festival, which just finished its second year.

Restaurant Take-Over at the Keltic Lodge, Ingonish.

With a booming fishing industry and a nascent artisan agricultural movement that's shaping up to be the next big thing for the island, this year's festival boasted that 80 percent of the ingredients used were from local sources (up from 65 percent its first year).

Candlelight dinner at the Louisbourg Fortress.

The festival draws not just international chefs, but travelers from around the globe who come for the event and stay to tour the island, then go home to share the amazing experiences they've had. There are also a host of media people who are brought in to taste and tour, and I was lucky enough to be one of those at this year's event, attending four dinners and meeting farmers, fishers and producers from around the area courtesy of Tourism Cape Breton.

And the name Right Some Good? Even it's a nod to local, being one of the superlatives islanders use to denote quality, starting with "good," "some good," "right some good," and "right some Jesus good." My opinion? I'd say that next year's festival deserves the latter descriptor.

Read the other posts in this series: Arriving in Nova Scotia, The View, Redux, Stirrings of an Artisan Economy and A Forager Finds Home.

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