Update: Chef Bell is now the executive chef of Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver.
Mr. and I received an invitation to attend one of the Arts Club Theatre’s Celebrity Chef Cooking Classes, and it turned out to be one featuring Chef Ned Bell. What a privilege it was! Chef Bell is the Head Chef of the new Rosewood Hotel Georgia, which is due to open in June. It was amazing that he took the time to cook for us at this event. I’m sure he’s quite busy preparing for the opening of the hotel.
When I first learned of this event, I thought it would be similar to the Edible BC event on Granville Island. I was wrong. The event actually took place at a “secret location”, as we weren’t told the exact location until a few days prior to the event date. On the event day, we arrived at the beautiful home of one of the Arts Club Theatre’s director in West Vancouver. You just know there would be some really delicious food to go with the fabulous view from atop West Van.
Another component that’s out of the norm is that the dinner was not your regular sit-down dinner around a long dining table. The 30 of us were free to roam around over the course of dinner and we could sit anywhere from dining room to living room to kitchen. Patio would’ve been another option, but it was raining outside so we couldn’t take advantage of it.
Before we go into talking about the dinner, I must tell you that Chef Bell cooks with the motto “Globally inspired, locally sourced”, and we witnessed it throughout the dinner. And now, here’s Mr.‘s take on our dinner (along with extra commentary by me):
Ned is a fun character: easy to talk to, no I’m-better-than-you attitude, a great guy all around. I think it’s pretty cool how he can so casually explain everything he’s doing while preparing a new recipe for 30 people. Sounds like a guy crush? No, not with JT still kicking around.
Now onto the food; that’s what you all came to read about and then salivate over anyways. The canapés were on the refreshing side, which made sense seeing how Chef Bell is the corporate chef of Windset Farms. (Joyce: I used to work in the greenhouse vegetable industry, so I was very happy to see that greenhouse vegetables were highlighted and prepared in different ways including pureed, roasted, as a sauce and just straight-up fresh.) I was glad to see a healthier, non-traditional start. Too often the canapés are too rich and filling that by the time you get to the entrées, you are too full to really enjoy them. The tomatoes in the tomato and cheese mini-wraps were way too overpowering, otherwise these little bits of freshness really helped to open up my appetite for what’s coming up next.
Does salad as a first course sound a little boring? Yes. But this one has a bit of a flare to it. Remember that religious chick you dated back in school? The girl that was presentable on the surface, respectable enough for you to bring home to meet your parents, but turns out to be bat-s*** crazy…there’s no crazy like real repressed crazy. Anyways, that’s what this salad was like, to a lesser extreme. The sweet, sweeeeeet roasted peppers brought the whole plate together, making what’s usually a boring dish that boosts your appetite into something that can stand on its own. (Joyce: This salad has a Spanish influence, as Chef Bell used manchego cheese and marcona almonds to dress up the plate. Remember the “globally inspired” motto? Here is a good example. By the way, I’m not a huge almond fan, but I loved the marcona almonds!)
Until this day, the only way I have enjoyed my halibut has been battered and deep fried. But this pan-seared and then grilled piece of halibut was tender, juicy, and flavourful. The searing carried the taste of the Japanese spice into the meat, and coconut drizzle and spicy mango jam give it a Thai curry feel. Though I liked the shaved fennel, I thought the lime made it too tangy. That was the second course. (Joyce: The halibut was moist and flaky, and the light coconut sauce combined with mango jam was just excellent match for the fish. I do wish the coconut sauce could be slightly thicker.)
Next up was the Angus Beef Strip Loin. The whole piece was rubbed down with Ned’s Sweet Heat Pepper Rub, and then thrown on the BBQ. And trust me, it tastes as sexy as it sounds. The beef is good, but you can get a good steak at lots of places. What stood out the most for me was the marinated raw mushrooms—soaked in vinegar and olive oil. They gained the texture and the feel of cooked mushrooms, and lost the earthy taste of raw mushrooms. It combined the best of both worlds. (Joyce: I agree, that preparation impressed me.) The cauliflower puree is worth a mention as well; it was rich tasting, with many similar properties as a potato mesh. I didn’t mind how thin (almost soup like) it was, but it was a bit difficult to get it all in my mouth.
After all that food, it was hard to think about dessert…for the regular folks. I on the other hand was ready to tackle more food.
A couple dark chocolate tarts with raspberries and caramel sauce were served, with a little performance from Chef Bell. Instead of me trying to explain it, have a look at the photos in the gallery and see what he did with the caramelized sugar.
Because this is a fundraising event, the beverage was also sponsored, in addition to some of the ingredients. Our meal was paired with wine from Prospect Winery in the Okanagan and finished with coffee from Nespresso. I quite enjoyed the wine, especially the Riseling with canapes and Chardonnay with the halibut. The Shiraz was not bad, but it was too spicy that it was overshadowing the fresh beef striploin.
Overall, I think this is a great event. We had a wonderful meal specially prepared by one of the celebrity chefs in town, enjoyed the interaction with Chef Bell and watching him demonstrate throughout the evening. It’s impressive to utilize just a home kitchen to prepare a meal for 30 people (hint: BBQ grill as oven!), let alone a fine-dining quality meal. Thank you to the Arts Club Theatre Company for the invitation to this event, and thanks to host Leah Costello for providing such a lovely space for the event.
For those who attend this event, not only you are in for a treat, you’re also contributing to a good cause and supporting the local arts community. Pictures are worth a thousand words, so check out other photos to see how much fun it was!