Developing the story behind a dish, creating flavour profiles and textures, and conceptualizing food presentation is much more than just cooking.
Having had the opportunity to meet Chef Rich Francis last year and develop a great friendship, I was delighted to hear that he was invited to be the first Resident Chef at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.
The NAC’s mandate has always been to nurture and support a diverse assemblage of performing artists from across Canada.
In celebration of the NAC’s 50-year commitment to emerging and established artists, the Food & Beverage Department proudly announced the Resident Chef program, with the intention of creating a “stage” for Canada’s most promising culinary artists.
Widely recognized as one of the finalists on Canada’s Top Chef (season 4), Chef Rich Francis is redirecting the spotlight to issues of importance to him, namely the rights of Indigenous people to continue creating and serving food in a culturally authentic way.
Formally trained at Stratford Chef’s School, he also learned much of the techniques he uses now in Moose Factory on James Bay Coast and in Iqaluit, Nunavut, from people who still live off the land.
As chef-owner of Seventh Fire Hospitality Group, he creates authentic indigenous food and presents it, often as a private event out of necessity, to diners around the country. The hope is that, through sharing and enlightenment, people will see the importance of preserving the rights of Indigenous Chefs to hunt, prepare and serve food the way their ancestors did.
His experience and passion for what he believes in truly make Chef Rich Francis a Culinary Artist.
Together with the NAC’s Executive Chef, Kenton Leier, Executive Sous-Chef Connor McQuay, Chef Rich Francis hosted a guided tasting of Indigenous cuisine paired with wines from Mk’mip Cellars.
Students from the Algonquin College Indigenous Cook Pre-Apprenticeship program and culinary programs were invited to help on the day of the event with their program coordinator/instructor Chef Chris Commandant, giving them the opportunity to cook and learn alongside Chef Rich Francis.
The beautiful sold-out event was rich in food, wine, and culture.
Recognizing that a great evening out often begins with a wonderful meal, the National Arts Centre ensured that a restaurant was part of the big picture when the NAC opened its doors in 1969. Known originally as L’Opéra, and then later as Le restaurant, located in the Panorama Room, the restaurant was briefly replaced by a café and moved to its current location next to the canal, which later transformed into the fine dining experience Le Café under the guidance of Kurt Waldele in the late 70s.
On August 14th, the newly renovated and rebranded restaurant, 1 Elgin opened its doors.
The concept and “raison d’être” took shape and is supported by the Resident Chef Program with its first collaborative menu by Chef Rich Francis that is available now until November 24, 2019.
I recently visited the beautiful canal-side restaurant to experience the new menu and enjoy a dining experience at the hands of the NAC’s Executive Sous-Chef, Connor McQuay.
My experience played out like so:
Foie gras terrine, pickled mushrooms, cloudberry.
P.E.I beef tartare, cured egg yolk, smoked oyster aioli, pickled mustard seeds, roasted concord grapes, toasted brioche.
Local wild rice and steel cut oat risotto, wildflower honey, roasted roots, sage blueberry juice.
Pan-seared locally sourced duck breast, birch syrup glaze, smoked kabocha squash purée, Juniper Farms baby beets and pearl onions, wilted beet greens, blackberry & juniper demi-glace.
Spiced cake base, espresso anglaise, apple gel.
All I can say is WOW!
Every single dish was seasoned to perfection, flavours and texture contrasts were on point and the preparations and donenesses were perfectly executed.
1 Elgin is also open for lunch and with the beautiful views of the canal, this venue is great for lunch meetings or grabbing some amazing food during your busy workday.
The Resident Chef Program continues in 2020 with Chefs Ryan Hotchkiss, Helena Loureiro & Jonathan Gushue.