Chefs Choice: Empty Bowls 

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - Soup, Nancy Whistler mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden serving soup at Empty Bowls at the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre on Friday, Feb. 13.
  • Photo submitted
  • Soup, Nancy Whistler mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden serving soup at Empty Bowls at the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre on Friday, Feb. 13.

The annual fundraising event put on by the Whistler Pottery Club to raise funds for the region's food banks saw Whistlers top chefs create and prepare soups.

These offerings were then sold at a luncheon and served in handcrafted pottery bowls made by the club to ticket-wielding patrons.

Mary Ann Collishaw, a member of the pottery club, said they sold 130 tickets (and bowls), raising $4,352 at the Feb. 13 event held at the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre (SLCC).

The money was split between the three food banks in Whistler, Squamish and Pemberton.

By the time the event was over, everyone had a chance to try as much of the offerings as they had room for, said Collishaw.

"I talked to some people at the end and they were so full on soup," she laughed.

"People were really keen to try more than one bowl, they tried different flavours. The chefs were super generous and made extra. People had a good chance to try everything.

"It's a quick event but it's a special time. People come together and share their ideas about the bowls, they pick their bowls and then fill them up with soup.

"The chefs are pleased because people are tasting their different flavours, the guests are pleased because they are going home with a bowl and a good feeling and a full belly," Collishaw laughed.

She added that the event would return next year, as it continues to gain in popularity.

Participating chefs this year (and their soups) included Tory Martindale from the Four Seasons Resort, Nick Cassettari from Alta Bistro (Indian Root Vegetable), Rick Johnson from the Whistler Golf Course (Mulligatawny), Dave Li of the SLCC (Cream of Asparagus, Roasted Garlic Cream Bisque) and Brad Cumming (Sweet White Onion, Carrot, Lemongrass, Ginger).

Cumming, executive chef for the Westin Resort and Spa, said he put out the call to his team and a recipe created by sous chef Michael Stavely of the Grill and Vine using carrots, lemongrass and ginger was one of two selected.

Getting involved in community events is part of what Cumming's team tries to do, especially when food is involved.

"It's good for the community and us. I know that from my culinary team, it adds a little creativity, a little fun, something different," he said.

"Anytime my team gets an opportunity to get in there and do things and challenge themselves, cooking wise, it is very much embraced."

The carrot, lemongrass and ginger soup, the recipe shared here, got the team thinking about super foods, he said.

"It's part of the Westin pillars of Eat Well, Play Well, Work Well," Cumming said.

"I always like changes in balance in a soup. Things like a carrot being sweet, then it's balanced off with a bit of acidity in there, which is where the orange juice comes in. The ginger, the lemongrass gives that yin-and-yang feel to it."

The soup was created especially for Empty Bowls and is the second year the Westin has taken part.

"I put the challenge out to my Grill and Vine nightline and they worked on it and that's what they came up with and it was very well received," Cumming said.

So much so that the Grill and Vine has now added it to their special menu at the restaurant.

"We're currently doing a three-course prix fixe menu in the restaurant every night and it switches. It was a really nice product so we added it. It was very well received in the restaurant; they just did a great job."

When it comes to developing new recipes, Cumming said they tried to take the opportunity to be creative.

"It's one of the reasons we have a prix fixe menu in the restaurant, so we can get away from the standard menu," he said.

"Then the team can be creative, the guests get to see new features daily because a lot of our guests will be in the hotel for a long stay, sometimes up to a month. This time of year, there are long-stay guests and we want to have freshness and variety in the menu to help guests enjoy their dining experience.

"We want the culinary team to be engaged and passionate."

Carrot and Ginger soup

Ingredients

2 medium onions, diced

8 large carrots, diced

­1 inch knuckle of ginger, finely chopped

­2 garlic cloves, chopped

­Juice of an orange

­bay leaf and bouquet garni

­salt and pepper to taste

­¼ cup coconut milk (optional)

­chicken stock or vegetable stock to cover

­1 piece of lemon grass

Method

Sweat your onions, garlic, ginger and lemongrass until translucent, add in carrot and sweat for another five to ten minutes. Add stock to just cover the carrots, the juice of an orange and the coconut milk and cook for 20 minutes with the bouquet garni and bay leaf. Remove the garni and bay leaf and blend.

Check seasonings and enjoy.

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