A Fast, Furious, and Fun Food Frenzy
Alberta Theatre Project’s 26th Annual Celebrity Hors d’Oeuvres
What happens when performing arts, culinary arts, celebrities and society collide? Why, it can only be the vibrant Alberta Theatre Projects’ Annual Celebrity Hors d’oeuvres event! Celebrating its 26th year, the 2019 event held on April 27th rocked the fabulous Willow Park Wines and Spirits venue on Bonaventure Drive SE despite the onset of a spring blizzard.
A bit about Alberta Theatre Projects (ATP)
An excerpt from the Celebrity Hors d’oeuvre event captures ATP’s purpose as being “inventive contemporary storytellers reflecting our world through stirring theatrical experiences. Their mission is to CREATE live theatre by telling relevant stories that reflect their community; to DEVELOP the work of Canadian artists to invite a diverse audience; and to EXPLORE intimate and immersive experiences in their home, the Martha Cohen Theatre.”
Needing to fundraise in excess of $2.3 million from the local community and government, the celebrity hors d’oeuvres evening is touted as one of ATP’s key fundraising events. Funds are raised at this event through the purchase of VIP and guest admission tickets, through generous sponsorship of prizes for a live and on-line auction, and through $100 gift bags that guests can purchase. The gift bags, valued at a minimum of $170 each, include tickets to a selection of ATP’s 2019 fall season shows for two people, and discount vouchers to Willow Park Wines & Sprits, Spolumbo’s, and RnR Wellness Spa. Some lucky gift bag purchasers also receive complimentary bottles of premium select wines. And one lucky bag holder would be the winner of a 7-day stay-and-play vacation.
The 2019 gala celebrity hors d’oeuvres event pitched a lineup of familiar and emerging personalities on the Calgary scene to entertain the anticipated flood of eager ATP-supporting guests.
A flavour of the evening’s proceedings
Seven highly regarded Chefs, representing their Calgary-based restaurants, were given the mandate to create a signature hors d’oeuvre or an array of hors d’oeuvres of their choice.
A pair of celebrities would be allocated to each restaurant. By using their most creative – and sometimes less-than-subtle – powers of persuasion, celebrities entice guests to taste the culinary creations in exchange for poker tokens. The tokens would be counted up towards the end of the night to determine the “Standing Ovations” guests choice winner for the evening.
A panel of four judges would sample each restaurant’s offering in a blind test. Their deliberations and mutual consensus would determine which hors d’oeuvre and which restaurant would win awards in the three additional categories of “Beautiful Bite”, “Picture Perfect” and “Superior Spread”. The winners would be given bragging rights and an award to display at their restaurant.
Who’s who at the do
Here is a summary of the starting lineup of restaurants, Chefs, and their carefully crafted hors d’oeuvres created on the evening.
Añejo Mexican Restaurant Calgary
🍴 Chef Aaron Scherr
- Blanched citrus prawns in a spicy green sauce
- Blanched citrus prawns in a spicy pink sauce
- Chocolate Chile tart, candied serrano pepper, brandy snap cookie, mango coulee
🍴 Chef David Zimmerman
- Deviled eggs
- Beef short ribs
- Lemon tart
Buffo Rustic Italian Restaurant
🍴 Chef Michel Nop
- Snail cooked in butter and garlic, puffed seaweed cracker, smoked beef marrow, pickled birds eye chili, shimiji mushroom
🍴 Chef Ryan Blackwell
- Smoked trout lefses
- Cheesecake lollipops
Last Best Brewing and Distilling
🍴 Chef Alex Durant
- Korean fried chicken sliders
- Sweet and smoky pecans
- Porter beer floats with fiasco bourbon vanilla ice cream, maple whipped cream, wort caramel, candied nuts
Vintage Group of restaurants
🍴 Chef Brendan Bohan
- Beef tartare
🍴 Chef Mike Batke
- Alligator satay
- Chickpea cake with tomato and mint sauce
- Foie gras truffle in dark chocolate with hazlenut
Meet the coercive celebs
The evening’s glitz was enhanced by the participation of a diverse lineup of Calgary celebs, ranging from sports figures, radio and television newscasters and personalities, theatre performers, entertainers, the curator of the Calgary Zoo, an esteemed butler and even a Masterchef Canada finalist. Donning attire to suit the mood, these engaging public figures worked the crowd as they endeavoured to palm off as many of their Chef’s delicacies as they could in exchange for coveted tokens from guests. As the night wore on and competition began to draw to a close, the exchange of tokens for food began to reach fever pitch, with some celebs pulling out all the stops to extract those coveted tokens from unsuspecting patrons.
Here’s a list of those entrepreneurial and creative celebrities that kept the crowd engaged with the evening’s core focus area: the food!
Not forgetting the celebrity judges
Representing I AM CALGARY, I was privileged to be invited to be a participant on the panel of judges for the evening. I was honoured to be holed up in a room alongside three noteworthy Calgary Influencers:
There we blindly tasted, dissected, deliberated and discussed the cuisine art that had been created by the competing Chefs, ultimately nominating winners for three of the four categories.
And the winners are …
🍾 “Beautiful Bite” – awarded for the finest individual Hors d’Ouevre: The Elbow Room for their gorgeous looking and delicious tasting smoked trout lefses
🍾 “Picture Perfect” – awarded for the best looking Hors d’Ouevre: Buffo for their intricate snail creation
🍾 “Superior Spread” – awarded for the best array of Hors d’Ouevres: Last Best for their trio selection and for doing what they clearly do best
🍾 “Standing Ovations” – popular guest vote for the evening: Briggs Kitchen and Bar
Wrapping up the party
Once my judging commitments were discharged I, too, got to enjoy the atmosphere and engage with the celebrities as a guest, together with my wife, Christa. As novice attendees we felt that the event ran like clockwork. We had so much fun! The venue lent itself well to the large crowd and facilitated easy movement between the restaurant booths. Engaging interactions with the Chefs and assistants at each booth was encouraged and informal. The celebrity servers mingled with the crowd, making light conversation as they charmingly tried to palm off their food and drive a hard token deal. Ongoing food sampling and sipping of recommended paired beverages helped fuel the cacophony of laughter and chatter. The varied dress code – from smart-casual to formal – enabled everyone feel completely relaxed and at ease.
As a relative new-comer to Calgary, much of what I see and experience for the first time is still enjoyed through the filtered lenses of those proverbial “rose-coloured glasses”. Whether I had these filters on during this event or not, what I really appreciated about this evening was that, to the regular patron like me, there seemed to be a genuine underlying culture of honour, appreciation of and respect for each of the arts’ skills and expertise. I was so impressed by the seven restaurants, chefs and celebrities in how passionate they were about what and how they served their hearts on a plate. Despite the frenzy of the evenings proceedings, I appreciated how they complimented, respected and applauded one another’s culinary art and abilities, skills, and strengths. And all of this in recognition and support of seeing the value of the performing arts in Calgary recognized and promoted through Alberta Theatre Projects’ mission: CREATE, DEVELOP and EXPLORE. The evening was, indeed, an expression of, a tribute to, and an appreciation of diverse yet complimenting art in our city.
Coming away from this, our first such ATP fundraising event, we can hardly wait to attend some of the performances that ATP will be kicking off in the fall of 2019. We are also already planning a food frenzy “tour” of our own as we aim to eat our way to each of the exceptional restaurants that participated in this event. As for the 2020 ATP celebrity hors d’oeuvre evening, we’ve already earmarked the family and friends that we plan to entice into joining us at this fun-filled, action-packed night of culinary entertainment for a very worthy cause. We look forward to seeing you there, too.
See you in 2020?
For a more detailed overview of the evening’s proceedings – so you can diarize and be prepared not to miss the 2020 event – download and check out the 2019 program below. We hope to see you at next years’ event in support of the great performance, development work and influence that Alberta Theatre Projects has on the performing arts in Calgary and beyond!
I AM CALGARY extends it compliments and congratulations to ATP, the hosts, organizers, participating restaurants and chefs, the celebrities, judges, volunteers and sponsors on a great evening, despite almost being snowed out!