Gala des Grands Chefs raises record amount for cancer
By Neale McDevitt
Are you hosting a potluck dinner over the holidays? Invite Oliver de Volpi.
On Nov. 22, de Volpi, McGill’s Executive Chef, was one of 11 McGillians participating in the annual Gala des Grands Chefs, a fundraising fixture for the Canadian Cancer Society. The event, held at the Marché Bonsecours in Old Montreal, delighted more than 500 guests with a seven-course meal prepared by a staff of seven top Chefs from the region. Each Chef prepared a different course marked by his personal touch that was complimented by a wine selected by a sommelier.
De Volpi, who served as the Gala’s head chef in 2009, was given the challenge of preparing the cheese for the evening’s fare.
For most of us that would mean running down to the supermarket to buy a box of Triscuits and some Cracker Barrel old cheddar – you know, the good stuff because it is a special occasion, after all.
Luckily for Gala diners that night, de Volpi sets his culinary sights a little higher than the rest of us.
“We did three variations on Alexis de Portneuf cheese,” said de Volpi. “We served a hot macaroni and Chevre Des Neiges Triple Cream Brie, a room-temperature cheese terrine and a goat cheese popsicle.” That’s right, a goat cheese popsicle.
McGill employees pitch in
The McGill team also prepared the vegetarian dish, one of the canapés served at the reception and three types of fresh bread baked by Paul Deresendes.
Even more than the food, de Volpi is proud of the contribution made by the McGill team. The 11 employees volunteered their time to the Gala, doing everything from working in the kitchen to helping as drivers to deliver people and produce on time.
“McGill was definitely the biggest contributor to the success of the event – about half the people working there were University employees,” said de Volpi of the team which had some people volunteer from 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. on the day of the Gala. “Kudos to them for such a great effort.”
At $375 a plate (“Parking not included,” said de Volpi), the Montreal Gala raised a record $203,250. To keep costs down, most of the food was donated by suppliers. The cheese for de Volpi’s masterpiece, for example, came courtesy of Saputo.
Competitive juices flow
Whereas some chefs only participate in one Gala, de Volpi has volunteered for the last four straight – three wearing McGill colours. On top of supporting a great cause, he notes that it is always a learning experience to work side-by-side with his colleagues from other establishments “just to see what new things are out there.”
But he maintains that the most fun is found in the friendly competition between chefs.
“The camaraderie in the kitchen is great – until the dishes start going out,” he said with a laugh. “Then everyone wants to show up the other chefs. As a group we’re very vain, very egotistical.”
When pressed to say which culinary creation was the tastiest from a menu that included Salmon gravlax with pastrami spices, Pork confit flan and Princess scallops
in vinaigrette of tarragon, marinated mustard seeds and grapefruit pulp, de Volpi didn’t flinch. “At the end of the day, everyone knew we had the best dish,” he chuckled.