Food Matters – Island Chefs Food Fest – You Can Win Tickets Here!

Chef Bill JonesChef Bill Jones

With the growing emphasis being placed on where our food comes from, and how it is produced, restaurant chefs are also getting more involved in their own supply line. How chefs are helping farmers, and how you can help the chefs, were today’s topic on Food Matters.

It seems a given that chefs would care about the quality of ingredients and where they come from, but it’s not always that way. There is a huge range of involvement on the part of chefs and cooks and their ingredients. It goes all the way from chefs who have their own small farms or gardens to supply their kitchens, to chefs who have active relationships with local farmers and ranchers and fishes, to larger food service operations where all the ingredients come delivered by one truck and there isn’t as much care and attention paid to the source of the ingredients, which could be from down the road or could be from thousands of miles away. But take the case of American Chef Thomas Keller and Chef Andoni Luis Aduriz of Spain, who have created quite a case of indigestion for ‘farm to fork’ fans.  Keller is known for his famous French Laundry restaurant in California and Per Se in New York City. And here’s  how the New York Times recently described Aduriz: 

“He is a pioneer in culinary aesthetics, using taste and technology to create potatoes coated in edible clay that look like just-dug stones; salads like snowfalls; and desserts that evoke dustings of pollen or skeins of frogs’ eggs.” 

But what he and Keller said about the current trend of chefs knowing and supporting their farmers is making some people choke. In an interview with the Times, Aduriz said he likes to use local ingredients,

 “But to align yourself entirely with the idea of sustainability makes chefs complacent and limited.” Keller said, “With the relatively small number of people I feed, is it really my responsibility to worry about carbon footprint? The world’s governments should be worrying about carbon footprint.”

You should see some of the responses I’ve seen on Facebook from chefs I know. And there is also this response from from Twilight Greenaway on When I think of restaurants like Locals, in Courtenay, where Chef Ronald St. Pierre has portraits of his farmers and their ingredients on the walls and a rack full of business cards at the front door so you can enjoy the same quality of ingredients he does…well, there’s just no question about how important chefs are in the local food chain. Which brings me to the Island Chefs Food Fest coming up on June Tenth at Fort Rodd Hill, which is not that far away. 

Island FoodIsland Food

This is the fifth anniversary of the food fest, it’s a big fundraiser for the Island Chefs Collaborative, and in the past the money has been used to help farmers purchase things like deer fencing and irrigation systems, the kind of capital investments that farmers can’t always afford, but when they do get something like that it really helps them increase their production and in turn their bottom line. Now the ICC is doing something different. This year they have a new zero-interest micro loan fund for farmers and processors – with over $100,000 to give away. The aim of the fund is to provide a pool of funds for growers, harvesters and processors to invest in equipment and materials that allows them to increase the supply of food in the region. Some of the projects being considered for loans right now include: funds for an oil processing facility on Salt Spring, a delivery vehicle for an urban farmer, and for a dairy transitioning to cheese production in the Cowichan Valley. So, get your tickets for the Food Fest and while you’re there think about the contribution the chefs and YOU are making to a better food life here on Vancouver Island.

The theme this year? Expect lots of street-style food using ingredients that we tend to discard or disregard because we don’t know what they taste like or how to cook them. So, I kind of rummaged about in my repertoire of odd bits and came up with a few dishes to help host Jo-Ann Roberts get in the mood, like chicken liver pate, grilled chipotle-lime flank steak and bacon fat cookies!.

The Contest Part: Think about the most delicious street food you’ve ever had. Scroll down to the comments section and tell me about your favourite street food from anywhere in the world. We’ll pick a winner who will get two tickets to the Island Chefs Food Fest on June the tenth. Your deadline to enter is 11am, Wednesday, May 30th.

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34 Responses to Food Matters – Island Chefs Food Fest – You Can Win Tickets Here!

  1. Ruth Wall says:

    My favourite street food, even though I often go to the food carts in Portland when visiting my daughter, has to be skewers of curried roasted goat on streets in Nigeria. I lived there in the 70’s and we would eat those whenever possible. They beat the wurst and fries of Germany, the croque monsieurs of Paris. The memory of that taste lingers yet .

  2. Hilary Knight says:

    The absolute best street food I ever inhaled was lamb kebabs in some fragrant dusty village near Marrakesh in the seventies. A wonderfully toothless old geezer drew a skewer of grilled lamb and apricots through a warm speckled flatbread, dashed in some harissa-type sauce and minted yogurt, wrapped it in paper and presented it with a flourish. Then he fished a bottle of Casablanca beer from a bucket of ice in his little cart and sat on the ground grinning as I underwent the most profound sensory experience of my life.

    I’m sure he went to heaven.

  3. Sara Peeling says:

    When I visited Tijuanna a couple summers ago I had the good fortune to be visiting a friend who took me to some of the BEST food in the city. My favourite was a taco stand that had a couple of different vendors but we would always go to the first. He had all kinds of meat, served with freshly limed radishes and grilled green onions of which you could take as many as you pleased. I even tried the tripe, which was seasoned and grilled to perfection. Now, if only I could have had a fresh stoop waffle from the amsterdam street markets for dessert!

  4. Tia Casper says:

    My favorite street food would have to be the street meat wrapper logs in Ghana. They don’t look like much but pack quite the flavor punch. They are stewed meat with ginger, tomato and a menajerie of spices delicately wrapped in wax paper and placed over a grill on hot coals. They are not found everywhere but the mission to find them is part of the tasty meat reward, and you cannot eat just one!

  5. Karen Anderson says:

    My most memorable street food was found in the most unexpected location…at least I thought so at the time. On my first visit to the city of Malmo in southern Sweden, my cousin took me to a vendor who was selling falafal in various creations. The wraps were delicious….and we went back a second day for more! It now seems that ethnic foods are becoming more popular in Sweden (and other countries) than the local food. Quick, delicious, and inexpensive, leaving me craving for more!

  6. Jill Moran says:

    It’s not ‘culinarily’ exciting but Vienna, warm doughy pretzels with what seemed like homemade mustard. Street food has some many factors – it’s the time, and the place, the mood, and the food.

  7. I would call my favourite street food “wharf food”, but I think it still counts. I love eating at Red Fish Blue Fish on the wharf right here in downtown Victoria. I think it’s cool that the building is made from a cargo container and I love that all the seafood is local and sustainable. My boyfriend loves the Spicy Pacific Fish Tacones the most but my heart craves the BBQ Fanny Bay Oyster Sandwich. And who can beat Tempura Pickles? The best part is that Red Fish Blue Fish is right in my own backyard and I can go back for more anytime I want 🙂

  8. Arden Duncan Bonokoski says:

    Tacofino fish tacos at Philips Brewery during Rifflandia 3!

  9. Tara G says:

    The first that comes to mind was a stand in Istanbul by the water selling fish sandwiches… I don’t particularly like fish and I’m not usually impressed by sandwiches, but the fresh caught fish and still warm bread was really something else!

  10. Gwen Nowlan says:

    The best street food I had was in the 1970’s in Tokyo- we had this guy who haulded this cart behind his bike that had very hot stones on it he would dig through them for sweet potatoes – he would announce himself by singing out – Yakimo! They were wonderful! The other would yakitori – chicken on a stick done the old fashion way from his bbq cart.

  11. Hannah says:

    Working as a dive instructor in the Cayman Islands, I was surrounded by exquisite restaurants headed by top chefs – but I was fed by a teeny paycheck that could never buttress my culinary curiosity. Thank goodness for the Heritage Kitchen, a shack by the beach that served fresh-caught, tender grilled mahi-mahi topped with onions marinated in lime and scotch bonnet peppers, and a side of two “johnny cakes”, or deep fried dough balls. There was also delicious jerk chicken cooked on an old oil drum, perfectly spiced. And then you could wash it all down with Flor de Jamaica, or red hibiscus flower juice. Even with chickens strolling in and around the stall, scorpions breeding in the dry brush nearby, and the low cat-calls from the regulars, I could never say no – it was THAT good.

  12. I have so many favourite street foods from the tacos al flaco con salsa verde from Aviña Ascensio family’s Tacos al Flaco in Mexico, to the best tea ever from the Chai wallah that still uses terracotta cups on Royd St in Calcutta, India. But last year, during a work trip with Veterinarians without Borders, I got to visit Laos. After the work portion of the trip was over, I went south to Pakse, Champasak region and befriending some local people, was taken to a 24 hour Noodle Soup restaurant, which I dubbed “Noodles”. I could not believe my taste buds. The best homemade egg noodles, stock, porkballs and buffalo skin. I went back again and again. I tried the rice noodles, added more chili paste and decided that I didn’t care that everyone in town now thought I was dating Waiphot.

  13. Sarah Thornton says:

    Almost street food: In Gare du Nord (train station) in Paris, the quick food option, which here would be a Tim Horton’s, was a stand with amazing, fresh, chewy, simple baguette sandwiches. Yum. Pre-made, wrapped in a simple paper wrapper, inexpensive. Just what I wanted.

  14. Jane Patterson says:

    I haven’t tried a great deal of street food other than the regular smokie carts but my favourite so far is the pulled pork of PIG in Colwood.

  15. Heather Nelson says:

    I spent a year in Thailand on a scholarship after graduating from high school in the early 1990s. Street food was abundant and delish. Fried bananas, steaming in the paper bag, several chunks of juicy fresh-cut pineapple for 5 baht (the equivalent of 25 cents), sticky coconut rice and mango, and of course, authentic Pad Thai, straight from the wok. It was a great place to eat!

  16. Nathan Fisk says:

    Prawns so fresh they still smelled like the sea. Cooked, wrapped in newspaper with a few lemon wedges and eaten on a pier in New Zealand. Simply Delicious.

  17. Katie Chan says:

    My favorite street food is the grilled, buttered, salted corn-on-the-cobs they used to serve at the Vancouver Dragon Boat Festival. Nothing rivals that sweet, buttery taste mixed with smoky char flavour of fresh-off-the-BBQ corn.

  18. Rhianna Begley says:

    I think my most favorite street food experience was when my husband and I were trying to find our hotel late one night in Naples. As we wandered lost, along the road (which was a pretty big, busy road) we noticed a vendor smushed up against the shoulder of the road with a bbq. My husband got pretty excited for some kind of street food, but for once in my vegetarian life I won the street food war! It was a corn on the cob vendor who had a huge pot boiling on the side of the road, prepping the corn and then finishing off the corn on the bbq – plus there was a whole table of condiments (including some odd options like nutella). It was the best little surprise!

  19. Jen S says:

    I am not a world traveller by any means, but my favourite street food I’ve experienced thus far was bacon wrapped asparagus grilled on a skewer form the Santa Monica pier in Cali. Cooked to perfection and so incredibly tasty…and \good for you\ right?

  20. The best street food I ever had was in Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso.

    In early 1986 I hitch hiked from Europe to West Africa. I ended up in the capital of Burkina Faso for longer than I planned because I had had all my money and passport stolen. I found a place to stay with a crazy ex-pat Frenchman and did not have to pay for accommodations and I could have breakfast there – Nescafe and baguette with condensed milk spread on it like honey.

    I managed to borrow a CFA franc from other travellers which meant I could afford to buy some food but the only food I could afford was from one of the women that had street edge stalls. Stall is the wrong word, they set up at the edge of the street with a small fire to cook the food one and some board benches for people to sit on while eating the food.

    The street food was all bowls of rice with a spicy meat stew on top of it called tô . You could not leave with your food unless you brought your own bowl. You also ate the food with your fingers. I was warned that it was not safe to eat the food because the food was not clean enough and i would get sick. I figured that if the locals ate and a stall had a lot of people at it, I could risk it.

    The street food was decent enough but nothing to rave about until I found the queen of Burkinabe street food – Mariam.

    Mariam had a spot just to the south of the main cemetery and she managed to cook the most amazing food. She did not do a single stew, she did close to ten different ones and a grilled chicken dish. Over four days with little or no money I had a chance to try almost all of the different stews she had on offer. Each one was stellar.

    There are two that still stick with me 26 years later.

    The first was a lamb and ground nut stew with some spice that I have no idea what it was. A simple dish of rice covered in this stew defined the word unctous.

    The second was poulet bicyclette which is a type of semi wild west African chicken that is normally severed grilled. I have never tasted chicken as good as the chicken in west Africa and the grilled half a chicken that Mariam made is still the best chicken I have ever had in my life, better than the fanciest fine dining restaurant I ever been to.

    I was on Ouagadougou for three more days after I got some money and an new passport, even though I could afford it, I remained loyal to Mariam and ate there for lunch and dinner for the rest of mine time in the city.

  21. Kerry says:

    Tacos de tizon. Tehuacan, Mexico. As an exchange student I would beg my Mexican host dad to take me for these tacos every week. It was a hole in the wall place, grilled skewered meat with piña and fresh poco de gallo. My dad there passed away last year and it is my favorite memory of him sharing that time together over great food.

  22. Doug Grant says:

    The best street food I’ve ever had are the roast chicken sandwiches from La Brasserie’s food cart in Vancouver at Granville and George. Lovely roast chicken with gravy and crispy onions served on a nice cibatta bun. And that’s all they have. There’s no other items on the menu (except for a tasty looking butter tart for dessert).

  23. Taylore D says:

    Last month, while waiting impatiently outside Yankee Stadium, an amazing scent drifted from across the street, from the … MacDonalds? Once we crossed the street we found the source…a food cart mere feet from the edge of the MacDonalds property that had a lineup clearly longer than anything seen indoors. The food was Lebanese and Greek, the star item was the Lamb Gyro.

    Stripped in slices from the rotisserie then sauteed on the flat top until meltingly crusty around the edges, the ground lamb was perfectly spiced and garlicky, a fist-sized portion wrapped in a butter and tumeric-brushed pita, snuggled in with crisp lettuce and dressed with a creamy tzaziki and their homemade hot sauce – a cross between harissa and jerk sauces that packed an incredible kick, even the next day 🙂

    The result was a $7.00 handful of heaven, every mouthful a spicy, creamy, chewy, lamb-rich experience with a heat that lingered and makes my mouth water even now.

    We had flown all the way from Salt Spring Island, in large part to see the Yankees and the new stadium. The game had to wait – this Gyro was the hero of our visit, and we wanted another one.

  24. Susan Holm says:

    I have to admit, after 8 months of living in Thailand, the street food had me hooked. Watching the market vendors whip up an amazingly flavorful pad Thai, or fried rice in a matter of minutes was a motivation to eat. My absolute favourite was a crispy banana pancake – light, fried dough, wrapped over thin slices of banana, and topped with sweetened condensed milk. The cook would slice it, and give you a wooden toothpick with which to spear those flaky morsels of yumminess! Add to that a side of coconut water in a bag pierced with a straw, and you have the perfect late night snack to accompany a walk around the busy streets of Chiang Mai.

  25. Pia Pedersen says:

    My favourite street food is also a favourite childhood memory. I grew up in Norway where there are little kiosks in neighbourhoods selling “lompe & pølse”, which is a European wiener wrapped in a potato pancake. The only day that my parents bought this ‘junk food’ was on the 17th of May, national independence. We would dress in our finest clothes and march in the childrens’ parade, waving our flags and singing patriotic songs. Afterwards, there were festivities, the atmosphere was exciting with flags flying everywhere and everyone in good spirits. My dad would go to the kiosk and buy each of us a ‘hot dog’ and an orange Fanta. Bliss!

  26. Nicole says:

    My favourite street food was mango sticky rice in Thailand. My sister and I were staying on Koh Tao, where we saw this dish being sold from a cart near the beach. Having never eaten mango with rice before, we were curious to try it. Well, it was simply delicious. We enjoyed it many more times that week and always licked the bowl clean!

  27. Heather says:

    The best street food I had was when my brother and I visited my Dad in Saudi – flatbread rubbed with za’atar. the vendor would roll it up, and there would be silence until we had finished eating them. We had never tasted anything like it. Ah – my mouth is watering!

  28. Sarah Pollard says:

    Just beyond the dense wall of petrol, the soft, fragrant scent of basil and mint fuelled by a roadside camp stove. Two women shelter under a threadbare tent that blunts the force of noonday sun. They perch quietly on children’s stools, rust-stained feet extended, heads bent to task. With delicate fingers, they tamp the ruffled corners of tender, blonde dumplings.

    Because language is a barrier, the contents folded into each wrapper remain a mystery; because food such as this is about something more than taste, the offering is accepted without question. For ten cents–no more– dumplings are stacked like Jenga pieces towering on a banana leaf. When the moment comes, delicate casing opens to a burst of flavour: fine shreds of perfume, the fluffy sweetness of yam–vanilla on the tongue.

    Here, there is no separation of preparation from service, no curtain distinguishing willing audience from sublime creators. Instead, there is implicit trust, a shared moment that transcends words and yet engages the heart, the palette.

  29. My most memorable street food was bought on a beach in Mexico: jicama sticks served in a cup of lime juice. Simple. Local. It was the most refreshing snack I could wish for on a hot day.

  30. Joanne says:

    While walking through the hot and humid streets of Singapore, I came across a vendor selling coconut water to parched passers-by. The coconuts were stored in wooden crates that were filled with palm leaves and blocks of ice. The vendor took a chilled coconut from a crate, fiercely lopped off the top with a machete, popped in a straw, and presented me with the most refreshing beverage, courtesy of Mother Nature. Since the coconut was still covered in a thick husk, the coconut water within remained chilled for some time. I occasionally find myself longing for a simple chilled coconut, an experience that cannot be replicated by the plethora of canned coconut waters that have recently appeared on the shelves of our local supermarkets.

  31. Jude says:

    Oh food!

    A snappy knackwurst in a fresh roll with mustard and butter, at a sausage stand in Berlin (recently ‘de-walled’!) in the early 90s.

    A fabulous ‘pepito’, delicious pork and fixings in an mouth-watering fresh ‘portugese’ roll, walking barefoot down a street in Caracas in the late 70s; a ‘foodie’ formative experience that makes me smile to this day. Same trip, different experience; two softboiled four minute eggs in a coffee cup with a side of fresh crusty bread and a wedge of lime, every breakfast in Merida, Yucatan, in a streetside cantina – to this day I puzzle over how the eggs were magically slipped unbroken into the cup.

    Thanks for the question!

  32. Does trail food count?

    It should.

    The name: Chez Monique’s (Digs less French then they sound. Not French at all, actually.)

    The place: Edge of a beach on the West Coast trail. Which beach? I hardly remember. Too busy launching over a stream, backpack swinging dangerously right, left, and oh, nearly…caught it; charging past my fellow hikers, with whom I’d previously been singing Coombyya; and stampeding toward Chez Moniques at a faster pace than my crew had seen me move all trail. There’s only one word to describe my desperate state: ravenous.

    The goods: Burgers. Giant burgers. (Buns floppy and white, beef a little chewy, some tomatoes big, mine tiny. Who cares? Not I. I was way too busy stuffing face to notice.)
    And if the chef — Shay, as we took to calling her — beckoned you to the back of the makeshift shelter and into the greenhouse to view her garden, you might be able to do some further purchasing. I guess that was farm to table, so to speak.

    The rating: five out of five for location (edge of wave battered beach?!? hello!), five out of five for service (Shay was very welcoming and didn’t mind being called Shay — fine, she might not have noticed. I think she thought I was weird. I’m not sure why. Maybe it was the way in which I let loose a blood-curdling cry and beat my chest upon arriving at her burger shack. Four days on the trail changes you. No really. I taped into something.) And five out of five for flavour (Too cheap to buy the fancy vacuumed-packed meals, I’d been living on Liptons noodles. Cheese and chives ‘flavour’ was pretty good but other than than it wasn’t exactly gourmet.)

    Overall, I’d say that Chez Monique has a great thing going. Next time I have five days to spare I just might strap on a pack and head down for a burger.

  33. Conch fritters in Belize. Delicious, tender morsels of fresh conch meat deep fried in a light batter served with a light aoli dipping sauce. We devoured a tower of the crispy fritters and then indulged in the most spectacular, sweet and tart, mouth watering, mile high flaky key lime pie for dessert. It was the most divinely satisfying pairing of rich, succulent seafood and refreshing dessert ever!

  34. Sharon Bristow says:

    One of the best street foods I ever ate was actually served to me on the beach. I was lounging on the beach near Puerto Vallarta, some fifteen years ago, sipping on a daiquiri from Daiquiri Dick’s. A young man sold me a skewer of marlin he had just caught and barbecued on the beach. Nothing fancy. I’m not even sure it was seasoned with anything other than salt and pepper. But the marlin, daiquiri, sun, and sand: perfection. The whole experience is burned into my memory.

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