Hicks Weekly Dish: Cooking classes from top chefs BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED Edmonton Sun: TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 15, 2016
Besides their cooking, all the Christmas in November celebrity chefs at Jasper Park Lodge this past weekend shared one undeniable talent.
All were all expert communicators – using humour, home-spun stories, bantering with the guests to create the most entertaining of cooking demonstrations.
Up in Jasper, Christmas in November is an enormously successful Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge tradition.
The three-day program in North America’s most beautiful wilderness lodge includes all food and wine, gala dinners, accommodation, gifts and, at the heart of the matter, a choice of seven cooking classes with the 14 guest chefs.
After 28 years, Christmas in November’s popularity is such that it has grown into three packages of three days each – the opening weekend, mid-week and the closing weekend. Each session sees 400 to 500 registered participants filling Jasper Park Lodge and kicking off its Christmas festivities during a traditionally slow time of year in the mountains.
Thanks to specialty food channels, many of these chefs are now media celebrities. Vikram Vij is known through Top Chef, Food Network and now Dragons’ Den. Mark McEwan, Laura Calder, Anna Olson, Michael Olson, Mairlyn Smith, Elizabeth Blair and Emily Richards are chef personalities on Food Network Canada.
But it’s a pleasant, low-key celebrity hood. The TV chefs mingled with guests all weekend like friendly uncles and aunts at the family reunion.
Not on national TV (yet) but representing Edmonton was Edmonton Sun food columnist Paul Shufelt of the Workshop Eatery and Duchess Bakeshop owners Giselle Courteau and Jacob Pelletier.
Vikram Vij is a social lion. He missed not a single gathering over the nine-day three-party festival, and during meals never stopped moving from table to table to socialize.
Vij talked the talk, but he also walks the walk – his long-standing Vij’s Restaurant in Vancouver may be considered one of the finest Indian restaurants in the world but it is without pretense and has a no-reservations policy that has seen prime ministers wait in line for a table.
While Vij’s personality could be perceived as over-the-top, a few behind-the-scenes stories of his kindness and compassion suggest a man of full character.
It’s his humour, the gift of the gab, which makes Vikram so attractive as both a chef, an entertainer, and, in his own way, a philosopher.
· “I’ve been trying to lose 20 pounds for the last 20 years.
· “Indian food isn’t pretty like French food. It’s brown, browner and brownish.
· “Indian cooking has come a long way. If I held this class in 1994, we’d have five people. Four would be my family. One would have smelled the food from the hallway and heard it was free.
· “I’m actually not an Indian chef. My training was in Austria. But every time I cooked Indian, I got laid!
· “Drink a bottle of wine while you cook, then open another for dinner. You’ll be pretty hammered when you sit down, but what’s life about besides good food, good wine and good company?”
Mairlyn Smith is probably the only nutritionist/chef in Canada who’s also a professional comedian, having spent two years back in Mike Myers days, with the Second City Comedy Troupe.
Mairlyn’s nutritional plug to eat more beans and lentils moved along something like this … “They do make you fart. But, y’know, farting is the last bastion for feminism to conquer. When you need to, let it rip, ladies! Our husbands do it, our sons do it, it’s time we should too!”
After a Christmas in November session, guests head back to the city with a fistful of new recipes, a need to diet for at least two weeks, and a week-long mild aversion to alcohol. If effective communication is part of your career plan, studying these chefs alone is worth the hefty ticket price.
For stories on the new “Man Cabin” at Christmas in November program, and the quiet but extensive renovations to the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, visit www.hicksbiz.com.
Registrations for the 2017 Christmas in November are expected to commence in June, 2017. Depending on options, the price for the three-day getaway and program is on either side of $1,000 per person.