Week of Feb. 2, 2010

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Tim’s Introduces English-Muffin Sandwich
As the popularity of the hot breakfast sandwich continues to grow, Tim Hortons’ executives are further capitalizing on the trend, introducing an English muffin-based breakfast sandwich to its regular menu. The Oakville, Ont.-based chain already offers customers the chance to have a warm breakfast sandwich on a homestyle biscuit or a bagel. “We hope to make a lot of customers happy,” said Bill Moir, chief brand and marketing officer of the chain. “The English muffin breakfast sandwich is another choice for customers to pair with their favourite Tim Hortons coffee. It continues our commitment to provide customers with a wide variety of breakfast selections.” According to the NPD Group, Tim Hortons was already selling more hot breakfast sandwiches in the country than all other quick-service restaurants combined before today’s introduction of the English muffin to the menu. To mark the occasion, participating restaurants are selling all its hot breakfast sandwiches for a limited-time introductory price of $1.99.

Halifax Operators Brace for $31-Million Wage Increase
Halifax restaurant owners are preparing for a 12.2 per cent increase to minimum wage this year. The proposed hike — which is 10 times higher than the consumer price index — translates to a $31-million hit to foodservice operators, or $16,000 a year on average. “I have been overwhelmed by the response from our members on this issue,” says Luc Erjavec, the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association (CRFA) Atlantic Canada vice-president. “Many are asking me why government doesn’t seem to care about small business operators who are struggling with a very tough economy.” The CRFA is proposing that the government reduce the income tax burden on low-income earners, keep wage hikes in line with other economic indicators, give employees serving alcohol a separate minimum wage and leave the inexperience wage at the current rate. “A 12 per cent increase in minimum wage, when inflation is running at just 1.2 per cent, will ratchet up all wages in our industry. It’s counterproductive at a time when we are struggling to preserve jobs,” says Erjavec. “There are ways to protect small businesses and the jobs they provide while achieving the goal of reducing poverty.”  

The Westin Wall Centre, Vancouver Airport Opens
White Plains, N.Y.-based Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. has opened The Westin Wall Centre, Vancouver Airport, just in time for the 2010 Winter Olympics. Owned and managed by Wall Financial Corporation, the new-build hotel in Richmond, B.C. is situated less than four kilometres from Vancouver International Airport. “The Westin Wall Centre, Vancouver Airport promises to invigorate the area with its signature blend of sophistication and rejuvenation,” said Nancy London, vice-president, Westin Hotels & Resorts. The hotel’s 176 guest rooms and eight unique suites all feature Westin’s Heavenly Bed and bedding and 32-inch HD TVs. In-room, high-speed Internet access, dual-line cordless phones and an ergonomic workspace offer business travellers convenience and productivity. The hotel also features a “Living Wall” that incorporates 360 living panels consisting of more than 9,000 native plants, which assist in irrigation. Additionally, there is a green roof with a large landscaped area consisting of drought-tolerant sedum and ornamental grass with long curved arches to emulate the flight paths and movements of planes from the nearby airport. The property also has more than 9,900 square feet of functional meeting space, an indoor heated pool, 24-hour business centre, fully-equipped gym, valet parking and The Apron, offering guests contemporary Pacific Northwest cuisine.

ITHQ Student Wins San Pellegrino Competition
On Tuesday, Jan. 26, aspiring student chefs from culinary schools across Canada saw what cooking under fire is all about. The seven contenders vied for the top spot at the annual San Pellegrino Almost Famous Culinary Competition at the Calphalon Culinary Center in Toronto. After two hours of intense preparation in the kitchen and scrutiny from a panel of judges — comprised of working chefs and F&H’s own editor/publisher, Rosanna Caira — peppering them with questions, Justine de Valicourt of Montreal’s Institut de tourisme et d’hotellerie (ITHQ) emerged the winner. The victory earned her a gift of appreciation from participating sponsors, including chef-ware from Chef Revival. More importantly, de Valicourt will now represent Canada at the competition’s finals in Napa Valley, Calif., from March 5 to 8. “The actual competition was intense but it was an opportunity to meet some great chefs and other talented people. I can’t wait for Napa and the chance to improve my skills further,” said de Valicourt, speaking of her win. The Quebec native’s Venison in Wooden Flavours dish was inspired by ingredients from the forest and featured a venison fillet with short rib.

Ferran Adria to Temporarily Close El Bulli
World-renowned chef Ferran Adria, famous for his work with molecular gastronomy, has announced that his three-Michelin-star-rated restaurant, El Bulli, on the Costa Brava in Spain, will close to the public in 2012, serve as a research lab, and reopen in 2014. “With a format like the current one it is impossible to keep creating,” Adria told reporters. “In 2014, we will serve food, somehow. I don’st know if it will be for one guest or 1,000.” According to CBC News, the chef, who is known for bringing foams, atomized liquids and freeze-dried foods to the forefront, will take some time teaching cooking science courses at Harvard University, recharge and prepare to reinvent. “During this time, all the know-how about elaborations, techniques and styles acquired after 30 years of creative research will be analyzed, and the results of said work will be compiled in a comprehensive [and] thorough encyclopedia,” a restaurant statement read.

Holiday Inn Express to Open Quebec’s First LEED Hotel
The InterContinental Hotels Group’s first sustainable hotel in Canada, and the first of its type in Quebec, opened on Thursday, Jan. 28, in Saint-Hyacinthe, Que., near Montreal. The 94-room Holiday Inn Express and Suites Saint-Hyacinthe was built to meet the criteria of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System for its sustainable practices. It is a high-efficient, ultra-insulated building with LED and low-voltage fluorescent lighting. Also helping to reduce the carbon footprint is furniture made within 20 kilometres of the hotel; cement used from a demolished bridge as gravel under and around the new structure; a white roof, to reflect sun’s heat; special heat-capturing water coils and custom-made natural-fibre mattresses (from bamboo and soya bases). The new-build property is part of the brand’s multi-faceted, billion-dollar relaunch program. “We’re excited to be opening the first LEED hotel in Quebec and the first of its kind in Canada for Holiday Inn Express,” said Pierre Gilles Gauvin, general manager of hotel. “We have invested $10 million with the goal of providing a hotel that is sustainable and eco-friendly while maintaining a relaxed atmosphere with all the latest in comfort, and we are happy with the end result.”

New Jewel for Crowne Plaza in Hamilton, Ont.
IHG also recently opened the Crowne Plaza in Hamilton, Ont., after its conversion from a previously independent hotel. Located minutes from Copps Coliseum, the Crowne Plaza Hamilton is city central and minutes away from restaurants, parks, shopping and entertainment. “We’re pleased to bring our first Crowne Plaza to the Hamilton area, especially in such a convenient location for business travellers,” said Gina LaBarre, vice-president, Brand Delivery, the Americas, IHG. “There are several major employers in the area that will benefit from the meetings-savvy products and services that only a Crowne Plaza can provide.” The hotel is owned by Dantes Hospitality and managed by Raleigh, N.C.-based Concord Hospitality Enterprises Company.

Friends of We Care Welcome ORHMA to Family
The Friends of We Care Foundation Inc. has teamed up with the Ontario Restaurant Hotel & Motel Association (ORHMA) — Toronto Region to help children with physical disabilities. As a member, the ORHMA will join some 80 other foodservice- and hospitality-related companies and assist in sending close to 5,000 Canadian kids with physical disabilities to Easter Seals summer camps. “We are very proud to be the first industry Association to become Members of Friends of We Care, and I encourage other associations and operators to extend their support to the organization and the children and families that they help,” said Jason Cheskes, past-president of the ORHMA -Toronto Region. “The ORHMA will be working to consider the many potential opportunities and types of involvement that this partnership brings.” Since its inception, Friends of We Care has generated more than $13 millions, sending over 28,000 children with physical disabilities to special summer camps across Canada.

Fairmont Raising Funds for National Geographic
As part of a continuing initiative to support sustainable fishing practices, Toronto-based Fairmont Hotels & Resorts recently announced it will embark on a global program to raise awareness and funds to protect the world’s waters throughout the month of April. Under the program, chefs in Fairmont dining rooms will serve up their favourite sustainable seafood entrees, while dining-room guests will be invited to donate $1 (or local equivalent) to the National Geographic Society in support of ocean conservation and the restoration of living marine resources. “While Fairmont kitchens are already actively involved in choosing seafood wisely and taking a leadership role in their communities, participating in this program will give us the opportunity to cultivate our global positioning and substantially contribute to the protection of marine life,” said Mariano Stellner, corporate director of Food & Beverage at Fairmont Hotels & Resorts. In 2008, Fairmont’s hotels and resorts worldwide removed threatened fish species such as Chilean Sea Bass and Bluefin Tuna from its restaurant menus, aligning locally with reputable seafood-watch organizations, ensuring guests continue to be provided with a comprehensive selection of sustainable seafood choices.

SilverBirch Raises Nearly $100k for Charity
Vancouver-based SilverBirch Hotels & Resorts has donated more than $93,000 to local charities across the country as a part of their Friends in Need program. Running during the recent holiday period, the annual Friends in Need promotion offers travellers discounted room rates at 24 hotels across Canada managed by SilverBirch Hotels & Resorts. From every room booked, a $10 donation went to charity. The program was launched nationally in 2000 by SilverBirch Hotels & Resorts. Since the program launch, dozens of charitable and community organizations such as The Red Cross, The Calgary Women’s Shelter and Ottawa’s Crime Stoppers have benefited from over $913,000 raised during the past 10 years. “Our company is enjoying its success in no small part due to the support of the communities where we own and manage hotels, and this is one way that we can give back to those communities,” says Steve Giblin, SilverBirch Hotels & Resorts president and CEO. “Since the program’s launch, SilverBirch associates have embraced Friends in Need with enthusiasm, and have committed themselves to making it a success. The program provides good value for our guests while raising money for local charities.”

Construction Starts on New Marché in Toronto
Marché International is returning to Toronto and bringing back its famous Swiss hospitality and innovative market-fresh cuisine. Renovations have begun on a flagship 560-seat Marche Restaurant in Brookfield Place, located in the heart of the city’s financial district. Construction is expected to take approximately five months. Later this month Marché will offer quality fresh food to-go from a temporary venue in Sam Pollock Square at Brookfield Place. Work will also start on two new Marché Natural Bakeries, one on the concourse level of Brookfield Place across from the Hockey Hall of Fame and the second in the Bay Adelaide Centre. “We are very excited to be returning to Toronto and look forward to welcoming our many friends and loyal supporters to our new restaurant and natural bakeries,” said Oliver Altherr, CEO of Marché International.

Canadians Walk Tall at WACS 2010
More than 600 delegates from 52 countries participated in WACS 2010, the biannual 34th Congress of the World Association of Chefs Societies (WACS) held in Santiago, Chile, Jan. 24 to 28. (For parts 1, 2 and 3 of the WACS 2010 report, click here.
A major accomplishment for Canadians at WACS was the victory by Trevor Ritchie in the Hans Bueschkens Junior Culinary Challenge, which is named in honour of eight-year WACS President Hans Bueschkens of Windsor, Ont., now deceased. Ritchie, a student at the Niagara Culinary Institute in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., was mentored by Niagara College chef James Olberg and competed against 14 other junior chefs selected through grueling competitions on a local and regional level over the past two years. The competition was described by junior chefs’ forum chairman, Dr. Bill Gallagher, former WACS president from the South Africa Chefs Association, as the best he had ever seen.
At the closing Gala Dinner, WACS president, Gissur Gudmundsson added to the glory for young Canadian chefs by announcing a Canadian junior chef team would be competing in South Africa in 2011 against a team representing the Africa members of WACS. This WACS-endorsed event will be based on the highly successful, first-ever, Canada-Nordic Junior Chefs Challenge held in Stavanger, Norway in 2008.
The Canadian participation at WACS 2010 was led by Simon Smotkowicz, executive chef, Shaw Conference Centre in Edmonton, who was the official voting delegate for the Canadian Culinary Federation (CCFCC). Canadians suffered two disappointments at WACS 2010: the Canadian candidate for WACS continental director – Americas, Claude Buzon, president of Chef’s Hat Inc. in Edmonton, was defeated in the first round of voting for the America’s seat in a field of three candidates. In the subsequent vote of nine countries, U.S. candidate Louis Parrotte, founder of Le Coq Au Vin Restaurant in Orlando, Fla., defeated Mexican candidate Margarita Vin. The America’s was the only contested continental director position — the other six positions having been claimed by the countries in their regions. Chris Thomson, executive sous-chef of The Banff Centre, was also unsuccessful in winning top honours in the WACS Global Chefs Challenge against a field of seven regional champions from Africa/Middle East, Asia, Europe Central, Europe North, Europe South and the Pacific Region.
A highlight of the five-day Congress was the participation of the Chilean President Michelle Bachelet at an all-delegates dinner held at the historic (1816) Castillo Hidalgo, Cerro Santa Lucia. The charismatic Cachelet charmed the delegates with warm greetings and her willingness to pose for dozens of pictures with individuals and groups. She also explained that building food production, and the culture of food, has been a dominant goal of the Chilean government for more than 30 years, and it is now paying off as her country has become a leading exporter of food products around the world.
Nine new countries were inducted into WACS at this year’s conference, along with one new affiliated member, bringing the international membership to 80 countries. The new member countries are: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Guam, Ghana, Namibia, Macedonia, Pakistan, Peru, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan. The new affiliate member is Honduras.
The WACS 2014 conference has been awarded to Stavanger, Norway, after a spirited campaign against Turkey. WACS 2012 will be held in May in Daejeon, Korea, hosted by the Korea Cooks Association. Daejeon is a major metropolitan centre located some 50 minutes south of Seoul by high-speed train and is the leading advanced sciences and technology centre of Korea.

 

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