Joyful Joey


TORONTO — Toronto media were treated to a special dress rehearsal of sorts on Wednesday, Nov. 3, when Chris Mills, executive chef of Joey Restaurants, and his team presented a multi-course meal with wine pairings to be served in two weeks at the renowned James Beard House in New York.

For Mills, this is his second trip to what’s affectionately referred to the Carnegie Hall of cooking. “My first visit to James Beard House was an amazing experience and being invited back is an incredible honour. But, it either means they really liked it, or we didn’t get it quite right the first time,” Mills joked at the event. “I wanted to create a menu that introduces the New York audience to the bounty of the Pacific Rim but also reflects my personal experience as a chef. The practice of gathering recipes, ingredients and people has been a constant in my career, so that became the basis for this menu.”

The PacRim theme can be attributed to time Mills spent time cooking in prestigious locales all across North America and Asia, even landing a stint on an episode of the original Iron Chef in Japan.

A brief glance at the menu illustrates the theme. Citrus-cured Haida Gwaii Salmon — caught by Mills on B.C.’s Queen Charlotte Islands — is paired with a spicy Asian salad with Artic char roe and a Dungeness crab flan; smoked Alaskan black cod is rested atop barbecue pork belly and a squash dumpling in a Matsutake mushroom broth; licorice lacquered duck is served with a cherry conserve and a hazelnut-crusted Korean duck roll and 45-day-aged beef rib eye is set against Yukon gold potatoes, braised oxtail and black trumpet lasagna and Bellman Farm carrots.

Uniquely, the meal was not served, and won’t be served in two weeks by Joey wait staff, as the company decided instead to have its regional managers and sommeliers get in on the act. And, after similar test-run dinners in Vancouver, Calgary and Seattle, the team is hitting its stride. “If we don’t have it set by now, it never will be,” quipped Mills prior to dinner, adding that the brief Canadian tour also allowed his team to practise the logistics of travelling with all of the tools, implements and ingredients they could transport, while figuring out how to source the rest on location.

Fans and regulars at one of 20 Joey locations across B.C., Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Washington won’t be left out of the fun either, as the Beard House dessert, a Vietnamese banana cake with tropical fruit salad and toasted coconut ice cream, will debut on the regular Joey menu next week.

Photo by Jason Johnson.


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