If you love beer and food, you’ll love this spin on the traditional Winemaker’s Dinner: Hops ‘n’ Grub.
Seated at a long table with a hundred of your Whitehorse neighbours, you will dive taste buds-first into dishes created to pair with select brews.
Four chefs are working together to create the meal: Troy King and Carson Schiffkorn from Inn on the Lake, and Trevor Bird and Brian Smith.
I spoke with Bird and Smith to discover their culinary inspirations.
Bird is co-owner of Fable Restaurant, which is a farm-to-table concept restaurant in Vancouver, and co-founder of MeatMe.com, an online marketplace that connects ethically raised, pastured meat with consumers.
Smith is head chef at the Gold Rush Inn and High Country Inn.
How long have you been a chef?
Trevor Bird: I have been cooking for 17 years now, It’s the only job I have ever had.
Brian Smith: I have been cooking since – let’s see… at least 10 to 12 years now.
How do you approach your cooking?
Trevor Bird: Let the seasons and farmers be your inspiration and guide to a menu. Simple food cooked well.
Brian Smith: Just having fun, really. It is more of a release for me. I am passionate about cooking — I show up and have fun. I try and be as creative as possible. And that creativity I like to let it flow through the plates and throughout the team as well. Because a lot of times you can be mundane and stagnant and everybody gets bored, so, if you can come to the table with fresh ideas, it excites everyone around you.
Where do you find the inspiration for your dishes?
Trevor Bird: Just handling nice ingredients and cooking with passionate people. I feed heavily off other people, my cooks will come up with ingredients they want to cook with – that is where the basics begin.
Brian Smith: It’s just that having fun mentality. If I can have that presence on the floor in the kitchen, it just resonates through the rest of the staff. A lot of the staff have great ideas and one idea leads to another, and before you know it, it’s something exciting.
What is your approach to using local ingredients in your cuisine?
Trevor Bird: I am very passionate about local food, economy and community.
Brian Smith: We’ve been trying (to use local ingredients) and that was a challenge – this event coming up was a real eye opener for me. I love supporting local and going as local as I possibly can, but to do something to that volume or the pace that we run at the High Country… It’s the sustainability – to find local farms to keep up with the demand. But, in general, if I can go local, I will.
What is your favourite dish to make?
Trevor Bird: I really enjoy cooking fish, which I will be cooking at the Hops ‘n’ Grub dinner. It’s so delicate and people don’t realize how low of a temperature you should cook fish. It’s very exciting cooking it in a busy environment.
Brian Smith: I’ll just get hung up on something and stay with it for months or a year at a time and then it changes. Lately it’s been smoking and grilling and barbeque-ing food. If I were going to pick any one specific item, I would have to say cold meat – like loin cuts and stuff like that. I have yet to find something I can’t (smoke). We have smoked everything – veg, proteins, cheeses… it’s almost endless.
What will you be preparing for the Hops ‘n’ Grub event?
Trevor Bird: I will be cooking Alaskan salmon with beets, fennel, orange and horseradish. In whole sides and lining the dining table with the whole sides of salmon. I am still undetermined on the appetizer – (it will be) something that Fable does really well as I would love to bring a Fable experience to (the Yukon).
Brian Smith: It’s kind of collaborative so I’ll be doing a canapé, an appetizer and part of the main course. We will be doing smoking.
When it comes to partnering beer with food, is there a favourite beer you like to use?
Trevor Bird: I always like lagers because I can drink 10 in a sitting and not be savagely hung over. It’s nice to have craft brew with food. IPA (Indian Pale Ale) and spicy Thai is probably my favourite combo, but I generally don’t enjoy IPAs. When cooking myself and making a beer pairing, I taste the beer first and work flavours with it.
Brian Smith: Lately it’s been the Midnight Sun Stout. It’s paired really well with what we’ve done in our kitchen – we are using a lot of coffees in rubs and it pairs well with the beer.
What about this event excites you most?
Trevor Bird: I have never been to the Yukon, and I am stoked to see what it has to offer. I really hope there are some northern lights! If not, I love seeing new places and always like new experiences.
Brian Smith: Another chance to step outside the box and do something different. To work with some other chefs. Working with guys that love the industry and love cooking.
Hops ‘n’ Grub takes place Saturday, Sept. 24 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. at the Yukon Convention Centre. Each ticket includes pre-dinner canapés and a four-course dinner served family style. All courses will be served with a paired cocktail or limited edition Yukon Brewing beer.
A portion of each ticket sale will be donated to the Whitehorse Food Bank.