Bearfoot Bistro brings a little West Coast flavour to Canada's Table 

Ottawa event showcases Canadian cuisine in a unique setting across from Parliament Hill

click to enlarge FILE PHOTO BY JOERN ROHDE / COURTESY OF BEARFOOT BISTRO - CANADA COOKS Bearfoot Bistro's Melissa Craig was one of two chefs selected to represent B.C. at the prestigious Canada's Table dinner in Ottawa.
  • File photo by Joern Rohde / Courtesy of Bearfoot Bistro
  • CANADA COOKS Bearfoot Bistro's Melissa Craig was one of two chefs selected to represent B.C. at the prestigious Canada's Table dinner in Ottawa.

There are longtable dinners, and then there's Canada's Table.

The Ottawa event will welcome 1,000 guests to a single, open-air, 305-metre-long table this weekend for "an unprecedented culinary experience" just a stone's throw away from Parliament Hill.

Scheduled for Aug. 27, the four-course dinner was organized as a celebration of Canada 150, and will see 10 Ottawa chefs teaming up with 10 chefs from across the country to showcase the regional flavours of Canadian cuisine. Representing B.C. is celebrity chef, restaurateur and TV personality Vikram Vij, along with Whistler's own Melissa Craig, executive chef at Bearfoot Bistro.

"I was very — what's the word I'm looking for? — I was humbled, definitely," said Craig on her reaction to being selected to take part.

"There's going to be so many great chefs together, and it'll be fun celebrating Canada." At Bearfoot, Craig has become known for melding exquisite B.C.-sourced seafood and wild game with the finest imported ingredients from around the globe. But she theorizes it was her time at the vaunted Sooke Harbour House that solidified her seat at Canada's Table.

"(The restaurant) only uses what can be grown in B.C.," she explained. "That's how I trained. Like, I didn't really know how to use lemon in my career until leaving there."

For her starter course, Craig will be preparing a duo of Albacore tuna and Dungeness crab — except with a twist that exemplifies B.C.'s diversity.

"I'm going Thai with it, just because we're very multicultural in B.C.," she said. "Vikram is following me, a white girl cooking Thai, and an actual Indian cooking Indian."

Along with rubbing shoulders with Canada's top chefs, Craig will also have the opportunity to give back to some of Ottawa's less fortunate on her trip.

The participating chefs will choose what form their philanthropy takes, with options, for instance, to cook a meal at a local food bank.

"It's about using what you have and showing people that (cooking's) not that crazy," said Craig. "You can use the ingredients that are there and make something cool."

Craig is no stranger to longtable dinners, and even cooked at another unique event this summer in honour of Canada's sesquicentennial: last month's Fathers of Confederation Tribute Dinner.

And although that multicourse feast, which recreated what was served to delegates at the historic 1864 Charlottetown Conference, (mostly) eschewed the modern cooking techniques Craig will put to good use on Aug. 27, she still sees some similarities between the two events. "They definitely are both an homage to what this year is, so I think it was cool that we did that," she said.

Craig will be joined in Ottawa by co-worker Dominic Fortin; the award-winning pastry chef has prepared 1,000 specially made Cacao Barry chocolate bars for each guest.

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