While I was in Vancouver, I had the chance to attend the culinary final practical exam at Northwest Culinary Academy of Vancouver, my sister Andrea’s alma mater. The school’s professional culinary program culminates in a 3-day practical exam, during which the students are responsible for designing and executing a fine dining six course meal. Although this meant a great deal of stress and pressure for the students, for the rest of us, it meant an amazing dinner (including wine!).
Most of the guests were friends and family of the students. As someone who had already gone through the culinary program, Andrea was able to sit in as a guest, and – fortunately for me – invited me along. Also present were chefs from Vancouver fine dining establishments such as Hawksworth, España, and West serving as judges.
We were all seated at long tables in an open kitchen, while the students laboured away on the other end. It was a wonderfully relaxed environment, and all throughout the evening we were able to chat with the other guests, as well as Chef Tony Minichiello, culinary instructor and co-owner of the school. Andrea and I were each served dishes from two different menus, but we managed to sneak a few bites from each other’s plates.
The food was superb. My dinner incorporated a lot of ingredients foraged from nature, thus giving it a seasonal and very west coast Canadian feel. While we dined, we were encouraged to jot down notes directly on the menus to serve as feedback for the students. My notes probably weren’t as useful as Andrea’s (I peeked at her sheet and she had all these comments on texture and flavour combinations and whatnot; among my comments were “holy shit!” and “yum!”). Overall, the meal was wonderful, full of unexpected flavours that really reflected the season and location. Really, a top fine dining experience.
Anyway, without further ado, here’s what I ate:
Bonus — here is a little of what Andrea ate:
Much kudos to the students of NCAV!