As the brown sleepy extensions of the grape vines wake up to the sounds of spring so too does The Wanderfull Traveler. Between the months of January to April I sometimes feel as though I am comatose and, like sunshine and warmth, creativity can be scarce. This spring, which has most definitely arrived with spots of warm weather growing in between the lengthy spurts of rain and wind, what, or rather who, woke me up was Executive Winery Chef Matthew Batey who kindly invited me to the final course of Cook like a Professional Series hosted at my favourite winery Mission Hill.
Albeit I was nervous. I don’t claim to be a chef nor have I ever worked within the culinary field (besides that brief stint at an ice cream shop) but I frequent restaurants often, I like to experiment within my own kitchen and I have a passion for eating and learning about food so nervously I said, “Yes! Oh and I’ll be bringing my sister” for someone to laugh with when I embarrass myself.
You may recognize Mission Hill Winery or even the name of Chef Matthew Batey from a previous post when my blog was only three months old. I am certainly a Mission Hill enthusiast because of the architecture that you can hardly believe exists within Canada, their love of art, quality of their wines and the spectacular food presented at the Terrace Restaurant from May 11th to Thanksgiving weekend in October. But when the restaurant closes for the winter the winery is hardly devoid of a pulse and the fragrances of sautéed shallots, bacon and baked cornbread create a bouquet sure to whet your appetite.
Saturday, April 13, 2013
A Day of Learning in the Kitchen of Mission Hill Family Estate
Cauliflower Tempura & Cornbread
Bacon, Poached Egg
2011 Reserve Chardonnay
Thyme Crêpes, Confit of Duck & Oculus Cherry
2011 Martin’s Lane Pinot Noir
Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée
2011 Reserve Riesling Icewine
Matthew Batey, CCC
Executive Winery Chef
Terrace Restaurant Chef
My instructions were to head towards the bell tower and on my left I entered the Chagall Room where a tapestry, celebrating Chagall’s most prominent works, hangs in an altar-like fashion with pews and a tall fireplace that beckons you to drink a glass of red before it. Below the tapestry is a piano signed by some of the biggest names in the music industry and is played only on very special occasions. Behind this room is the culinary theatre.
I was greeted with a folder presenting the menu for the evening and all the worries in my mind were forgotten. I was about to learn how to make duck confit and cornbread! Suddenly, exposing my weaknesses in the kitchen would be well worth it.
My sister and I immediately placed our provided aprons on after getting acquainted with our stations all readied for us with the ingredients to make the crêpes set in mis en place. We conveniently started off slow as Chef Batey, Chef Stewart and pastry Chef Leah got to know our backgrounds, experience levels and personalities. This made the class a friendly atmosphere where not only could I laugh when I accidentally put in an entire bowl of ice cubes rather than the required 3 ice cubes in the tempura batter, but I could laugh it off with the chefs. Although they did tell us a few stories that didn’t allow any room for day dreams of actually becoming a serious chef any time soon.
While blanching the cauliflower Chef Stewart warned, “While I was in Gordon Ramsay’s kitchen at his London restaurant, the head chef was about your size” he motioned to my sister who is about 5’3″, “who threw a chef across the kitchen up against the wall for tampering with her blanching water.”
Chef Batey, 34, also spoke about his roots as a chef being inspired by Marco Pierre White, who mentored Gordon Ramsay, and insists on using your hands for everything from flipping fish to grilling a steak and when one didn’t he/she would receive a swift smack on the back of the hands with a wooden spoon.
We got a bit of tough love having to use our fingers to flip the crêpes upon the French stove – although this is where my experience at an ice cream shop making waffle cones sans gloves came in handy.
“I don’t even use tongs on the barbecue” Chef Batey boasted – not something I will try any time soon.
5 O’clock rolled around almost too fast and by that time I was ready for some wine tasting. We met with our own invited guests which each class member prepared an extra serving for (you can invite more than just one guest), and ventured on a tour of the wine cellar with a glass of Riesling (more on this in part 2). When we returned to the Chagall Room each culinary student quickly placed our aprons back on and got to plating the first dish, then rushing into the dinning room where service brought our plates to our seats. Chef Batey would recede from the kitchen as we dinned on each dish and would explain what we were eating, the inspiration behind the dish, Chef Batey’s love of the terroir or a story about the proprietor of Mission Hill – Anthony von Mandl – a man with a fascinating history and great attention to detail.
Sad to have the evening end my sister and I parted ways with the chef’s knowing that we will certainly be seeing them again next winter if not this summer at the Terrace Restaurant or at one of the open air concert series they host on the terrace during hot summer nights.
Certainly a well rounded, one of kind kitchen experience with passionate chefs working at Canada’s best winery. Each dish being amazing and the chefs all being personable and knowledgeable, with some great stories to take home, I will be back next winter – one where I can avoid the dangers of chronic creative comatose. Thanks to Chef Matt Batey, Chef Stewart and Chef Leah at Mission Hill Estate Winery for inviting me for a delicious evening with some of the best wine the Okanagan and Canada have to offer with some fascinating narratives on what makes our home such a special terroir.
Professional Series Culinary Course Includes, for $169.00 + taxes:
Menu & recipe booklet
Take home Mission Hill Winery apron
One on one interactions with the chefs & ingredients
3 course dinner with wine pairing
Wine tour with wine hosted Chef Matthew Batey *Normally hosted by a tour guide but Chef Batey has unique stories and insight with the grapes used in both his cooking and the wines he works with*
Highly recommended for travellers & locals alike due to good company & a great way to interact with the culture of the region.
Extra Guest for $69.00 Includes:
Wine tour with Chef Matthew Batey
Seating in the Culinary Theatre
3 course dinner & paired wines
Follow Chef Batey on Instagram @ChefMattBatey