My friend and colleague John Gilchrist just wrote a bang-on backgrounder piece on SAIT Polytechnic’s School of Hospitality and Tourism’s Dean Tom Bornhorst last week in Swerve Magazine. The article was called
and I include it because if you want to understand how – like a great soufflé – Calgary’s culinary scene has risen so well and so high in the last few years – than all this background information is very helpful.
We do have an excellent culinary school in Calgary. The video below shows off the facility, the program and the instructors.
When you watch a promo video like that and a student says our instructors are soft; they want to help us; they want to find us jobs and they use their connections for us – you might be tempted to think that the comments were scripted. I know for a fact these things really are true. I have had the good fortune to witness many of the instructors interacting with and acting on behalf of their students. The instructors I know are kind, fun and passionate about what they do.
This blog is not a glitzy video or flashy newspaper article. It’s more of an overdue thank you note to a few friends of mine – Andrew Hewson, Simon Dunn and Kat Mori – for the day last spring when I popped by with 25 people for a tour of SAIT’s culinary garden. Even though school was done for the year and they had started their summer holidays, they not only agreed to help me spread the word about Calgary’s thriving Urban Agriculture scene but they also treated our tour group to an al forno pizza making class and a tour of the pristine clean and seriously scrubbed post semester kitchen.
I call this blog post “a study in stainless” because beyond the colourful garden shots and short video of Dunn stretching pizza dough, what you’ll see is the massive amount of stainless steel it takes to outfit a professional kitchen. I had never realized it before that eerily quiet – where are all the students – day in this kitchen.
My husband makes more than a little fun of me because I have “a place for everything and everything in its place” in my home kitchen. I felt quite vindicated when my camera captured that adage in the truly silver lining of this kitchen.
For the pros, working as a team with everything in place – mise en place – is an axiom true for ingredients but also for their equipment. It’s one of the keys to running a successfully organized and smoothly operating facility.
I hope you’ll enjoy this behind the scenes visit to SAIT’s culinary school via these photos as much as I enjoyed being there in person with my culinary heroes – my amazing culinary instructor/chef friends. I don’t watch TV so these guys are my cooking rock stars. I doubt there could be any finer.
Andrew Hewson had been teaching at SAIT a few years when he noted a disconnect between the culinary program students and their knowledge of how food is grown. He made a case to the Dean, Tom Bornhorst, that in order to make SAIT’s culinary school world-class, the students would benefit from understanding how to grow food and how it tastes freshly harvested. The Dean agreed and the project was on. Hewson was instrumental in the overseeing the design and construction and now the garden has become a centre for integrated learning with plumbing, electrical and carpentry trades all pitching in to build a green house this past year.
Before the greenhouse came the huge al forno oven and stainless steel table cum outdoor classroom. Our group got to belly up and make individual pizzas with the pros. Here’s a brief video of chef Dunn stretching some dough.
Here’s the recipe for the dough as follows:
SAIT chef’s pizza dough
Yield: 16 – 30 portions
1.25 l warm water (32C)
15 g dry instant yeast
40 g sugar
2 kg bread flour
50 g salt
5 ml olive oil
Use a stand mixer and add warm water to the bowl.
Sprinkle in the yeast and sugar and cover with a towel and let sit for 10 minutes during which time it should start to bubble.
Mix the salt and flour together in a separate bowl.
Add it to water/yeast and mix until the dough starts to come together with a dough hook.
Mix the dough six to seven minutes on medium speed, add flour as needed to keep from sticking.
Place dough in a large bowl lightly rubbed with olive oil, roll dough around to coat, cover with a damp towel and proof in a warm place until doubled in size (or put in a fridge overnight to proof).
Punch down and let double again (if taken from the fridge allow to warm and rise slightly)
Scale to desired size (100 – 200g), form into balls and place in a floured four-inch hotel pan
Wrap with plastic film and place in a warm area to double in size
For service – Roll out dough to desired thickness, add sauce, toppings and cheese and bake in hot oven.
That was the pizza party portion on the menu of our visit, now let’s look at some photos of the quiet kitchen and a glimpse at a professional chefs relationship with stainless steel. I know I never fully understood it until this day.
I’m trying to imagine how hot and bustling that massive kitchen at SAIT gets. It’s only one of the kitchens. They have several more including one exclusively for use at The Highwood Dining Room – their live restaurant/classroom.
I think this last picture speaks to why the SAIT chefs love their outdoor facility and culinary garden so much. After all that monochromatic but very necessary stainless steel, the garden becomes a places where they experience the full colour of life, the pure joy of food at its source and they can have fun and let off a little steam too if they need to.
Thanks to chefs Andrew Hewson, Simon Dunn and Kat Mori for your dedication and friendship. It’s always fun to spend time with you and I can’t wait to see what you cook up next. Cheers, K.