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Featuring Top Canadian Chefs and Visiting Authors

Imagine an evening where up and coming student chefs whip up a 4 course gourmet meal at George Browns’ The Chef House!   Well I had the privilege to partake in a feast of Thai cuisine, where the guest of honour was non-other than Author Jeffrey Alford whose latest book “Chicken in the Mango Tree” inspired the menu.

Chicken in the Mango TreeAlford, an award winning author, has spent a over a decade living in the small village of Kravan in Northern Thailand with his partner Pea, and he has become completely immersed in Thai Culture. The book chronicles an agricultural year in the village, part recipes and part storytelling. Prior to his move to Thailand in 2009, Alford and his ex, Naomi Duguid, authored many award-winning cookbooks. A number were honoured with the prestigious James Beard Award.

The Chefs’ House

The Chefs’ House kitchen is headed by the well-respected Chef de Cuisine Oliver Li. The evening I attended the ‘Thai feast’ as I like to call it, he was off “examining” students for their school finals. Regardless, I could see the kitchen was running like a well oiled machine under his sous chef. The restaurant provides a great venue for the Chef school students to hone their skills in a real world environment.

I’m impressed by how the “Trending Now’ dinner series brings together culinary students with either a notable celebrity chef or a visiting author like Jeffrey Alford.  For $85 the guests are served a four course meal paired with two glasses of good wine. The menu this evening is featuring recipes from the Alford’s book.

George Brown Chef's House

Author Jeffrey Alford with Alison Fryer, George Brown Chef House

For starters, the staff serves appetizers of Nam Prik Gorp (frog’s leg, chili paste) and Goong Dten (shrimp dancing). The atmosphere in the restaurant is very convivial and conversation flows throughout the place.   Once everyone is seated the first course of Yam Hoi Kraeng (spicy salad) is served and then Tom Tam Het (soup with mushrooms) it’s simply delicious.

Chicken in the Mango Tree book dishes

The final course is Nam Prik Gai Sal Mamuang (Chicken, green curry, pork fried rice, mango salad).   I turn to Alford to see what his verdict is on the meal. He said “it was very well executed but some dishes were not exactly the same as they would be in Thailand” he explained “the base ingredients available in Thailand would be different than what the market would offer here”, which makes complete sense to me.

I asked him about his life in Thailand and he said it’s a very simple existence. Alford and Pea live on $1000 a month. It’s seems pretty humble; they work hard carving out a living in an area that’s economically challenged – and he can’t wait to go back.

Does Alford eat Thai food in Toronto? He says most definitely not! It just wouldn’t be the same. They definitely wouldn’t serve Pad Thai in his neck of the woods.

Jeffrey Alford with the Chef House student chefs

Jeffrey Alford with the Chef House student chefs

Three hours later the dinner is over and everyone is leaving, appetites well sated.

George Brown’s Hospitality and Culinary Arts  program has developed an international reputation for training and launching the careers of some of the finest chef’s in Canada from TV star Roger Mooking, Mark McEwan, Bonnie Stern, Jamie Kennedy and Rob Gentile to name a few.

For Information:
The Chefs’House
For reservations call 416-415-2260
Open Monday to Friday for lunch and dinner

Note: I was guest of The Chefs House but all opinions expressed in this article are my own.