Iron Chef Atlantica

On Tuesday, March 12—that’s this Tuesday!—Taste of Nova Scotia is presenting an event called Iron Chef Atlantica at Seasons by Atlantica in Halifax. Wordily subtited ‘Two Chefs, Two Takes on Nova Scotia,’ the dinner is a bit of a collaboration and a bit of a showdown between Halifax’s Chef Luis Clavel (Seasons) and Chef Frank Widmer, the Executive Chef at the Park Hyatt, in Zurich, Switzerland.

The menu is Swiss-inspired, using local ingredients. The berner platte, a Swiss—emphasis on Bern!—a dish that falls somewhere between a meat plate and a boiled dinner. It can feature pork or beef, sausage, bacon or ribs, along with side dishes like boiled potatoes, sauerkraut, or beans. It’s a dish that seems like an Alpine breeze to re-imagine with Nova Scotia flavours.

Christine White, Taste of Nova Scotia’s Director of Communications & Events is as much a fan of Widmer’s as he seems to be of Halifax.

“He’s a huge ambassador for Nova Scotia and Taste of Nova Scotia,” she says. “Since his first visit to Halifax for 2010’s Culinary Tourism Summit, Widmer seems taken with Nova Scotia cuisine. “He’s been using lobster, blueberry juice and maple syrup in his restaurant.”

Widmer returned to Nova Scotia for the Right Some Good food event last year in Cape Breton, and is back again for this culinary duel of sorts with Clavel. Participating in this event was not a hard decision for Widmer. “That was a very quick and easy thing: Would you like to? ‘Yes!’ So let’s go.”

A few things that helped encourage his decision: “I have always had a warm welcome from everybody when I was in Nova Scotia,” says Widmer. Also: “since in Switzerland we do not have direct access to the sea; we did not really grow up on seafood. So that [also] makes it very interesting”

“I only have favorite things I explored so far in Nova Scotia,” he continues. “As a Chef, my approach is always to go somewhere and enjoy! I am not going to a restaurant or somebody’s home or wherever to sit and criticize in my head, thinking of what could have been done different, I enjoy to see and taste how are people are interpreting food.”

Near or far, Widmer finds a commonality between how people approach food these days.

“The food culture, to me, is  respect for the produce, no matter where you are. In Europe we had a big food culture, but we lost a lot of it because everything had to be quick and cheap. Now since already a couple of years it turns back, people want to know where their food is coming from, how it has been produced and they understand that sustainable produce costs a bit more.”

At the Iron Chef event, he will take that local approach—using Nova Scotia products—and put his own spin on it. “I will cook traditional Swiss cuisine but instead of bringing all the traditional meat along with me, I use what is available and traditional to Nova Scotia.”

“Again when we grew up [we] knew little about maple syrup, blueberry juice and lobster. As long as those products are produced in a sustainable matter, [and] left with their natural tastes they can be complementing Swiss cuisine in many ways.” This, he says, is what he plans to showcase at the Iron Chef Atlantica event on Tuesday. “I will cook up a real Swiss traditional menu substituting the meat with all kind of Nova Scotia seafood! It is also my first time working with Chef Luis, I am look very much forward to meeting him.”

Clavel & Widmer. Image source: TasteofNovaScotia.com

Christine White is also looking forward to their meeting. The collaboration between chefs from around the world is a huge part of why Taste of Nova Scotia wanted to do this event, and why they’d like to continue explore these types of events in the future.

“I really like that the chefs get to know each other—it’s an exchange of knowledge and experience,” she says. “Luis and Frank are amazing chefs with worldly experience,” Christine says. “This is an opportunity for them to foster creativity and share ideas and learn from each other.”

And a chance for food lovers to eat what should be a heck of a meal on Tuesday.

Find out a bit more about the menu and how to buy tickets at TasteofNovaScotia.com.

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