A line up for food at the Yukon Culinary Festival in 2015. (Michelle Doucette Photograph)

Yukon Culinary Festival plays with fire

‘You get mesmerized by the fire’

Yukon’s annual culinary festival is embracing open flames this year.

One of the flagship events at the 2018 festival, which runs from Aug. 23 to 26, will involve using open-pit fire cooking methods at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre to prepare locally-sourced fish and game.

Cooking of local surf and turf on Aug. 24 is being managed by guest chef Jason Pleym of Two Rivers Meats in Vancouver.

“Just to be cooking with fire and using that element as opposed to something that’s gas or electric, it just gives an overall experience and you get mesmerized by the fire,” Pleym said.

He would know. Along with being the proud owner of a 57-inch wood-fire grill in his own shop, Pleym is involved with the Brewery and the Beast, an annual food festival in Vancouver, Victoria and Calgary highlighting local chefs and meat.

The final menu for the Yukon open-fire event hasn’t been settled on just yet. The plan is to use “any game meat we can get our hands on,” said Eric Pateman, the organizer of this year’s event. “We’ll be definitely using local game meats as well as farm-raised meats from the Yukon and Alaskan seafood from Haines Packing as well as Icy Waters Arctic char.”

Both say cooking with fire can be more than putting the flesh on top of flames. Pateman says guests can expect a hardwood charcoal pit which allows for meat to be hung at different heights and slow-cooked.

Meat and fish are also likely to surround the flames allowing them to be cooked indirectly using the heat “which really allows the slow-cooking process as well as the smokiness of the fire to really accentuate the flavours,” Pateman said.

Pleym said slow-cooking meat around the outside of a fire can take as many as five hours depending on the size of the cut of meat.

Aside from Pleym and Pateman, the remaining chefs participating in the festival are all Yukon locals, said Pateman.

“At the end of the day it’s about continuing to build that local engagement with restaurants, chefs, community members,” he said.

The Claim’s Glenys Baltimore will be using her chocolate skills alongside Yukon Brewing’s Heather Gillespie to pair up beers, spirits and wines with chocolate desserts and savoury dishes featuring chocolate.

The duo are promising local elk brochettes with a Mexican chocolate sauce, Yukon micro greens in a cocoa nib vinaigrette, cake, truffles and chocolate martinis.

The event at The Claim is happening Aug. 22, prior to the festival’s official kickoff on Aug. 23 at Woodcutters’ Blanket.

“One of our goals with the festival has always been to involve more of the community, to get more satellite or spin off events as part of the festival,” Pateman said.

On Aug. 25 the SS Klondike will be the site of cocktails and canapes curated by local chefs Carson Schiffkorn and Troy King from Inn on the Lake.

The event is a chance for guests to dress up in period costume and enjoy food inspired by what might have been served on the sternwheeler in its heyday.

“One of the things that always strikes me about the Yukon is everyone’s absolute desire and ability to dress up. Any excuse to put on a costume and Yukoners are there,” Pateman said.

Elks were slaughtered earlier this week to be be served alongside Two Rivers’ beef as part of the final event of the festival at Circle D Ranch on Aug. 26.

Along with a meal cooked over more open flames, guests will have a chance to shop at a local pop-up market made of local producers.

Pateman said the festival wants to keep Yukon-produced food at the forefront.

“It’s really (about) making that connection between community, the community chefs and producers.”

More information about this year’s events and how to buy tickets can be found at www.yukonculinary.ca.

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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