Document 197478

The Globe and Mail, Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Chefs teaching themselves how to cure meat
Becoming federally licensed (so you can sell
products outside your
province) can be extremely difficult and cost-prohibitive for
most small producers.
Jérôme Dudicourt, manager
of Oyama Sausage Co. in British Columbia, says that when it
is difficult to cross provincial
borders with our own products, Canadians cannot properly support the national
terroir or maintain and encourage traditional skills. “The government needs to get more
flexible to ship within Canada,”
he says.”
Events such as the Aylmer
Meat Packers scandal and the
recent Maple Leaf Foods listeria outbreak put pressure on
the government to standardize
regulations across the board.
As Dave Meli of the Healthy
Butcher, a Toronto shop specializing in certified organic
meat, explains: “The minute
you’re curing, brining, smoking
or using salt you’re considered
a meat processor – no matter
what your size.”
Cowbell’s butcher, Ryan Donovan, says that “most large
companies have no problem
having a separate parking
space for an inspector, or separate change rooms or offices,
[which is] next to impossible
for the artisan.”
For the consumer, the restrictions make it harder to sample
salami from another province
than to buy sopprasetta from
No one is arguing that health
and safety standards should be
loosened for smaller operations; only that the way a safe
environment is evaluated
could be more sensitive to size.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency was unable to
comment on short notice
about the possibility of looking
at different regulations for
small and large producers. It
Classier cold cuts
It’s easier to stack a savoury platter with meats from Italy than from another province. KEVIN VAN PAASSEN/THE GLOBE AND MAIL
would say only that its first priority is the safety of food products, and ensuring that
regulatory requirements are
met to verify that safety.
Steve Alexander, owner of
Cumbrae Meats in Toronto,
agrees that safety is a delicate
area. “Anything air-cured,
dried from raw – you’re dealing
with something that could be
dangerous,” he says. “… The
health department and retail
food inspection agencies are
really trying to define what you
can and cannot do.”
As for safety regulations that
work for both large and small
producers, Mr. Alexander has
hope: “A lot of people think
we’re over-policed on that
stuff. You have to be pretty
tough, but I think you can do
Even if the government could
confidently loosen its grip on
smaller producers so that charcuterie could thrive in Canada,
a better system for proper
training would be required. In
Europe, becoming a good charcutier takes at least 10 years of
apprenticeship, learning not
only how to make fine products but also the science of curing raw meat. In Canada, you
may find only one butchery
course out of a whole curriculum in a cooking program.
For Mario Pingue, whose
name has become synonymous
in Ontario with prosciutto that
stacks up against Italian drycured ham, the issue is clearcut: “I have no pity for any one
who gets into a market and
isn’t properly trained.”
Mr. Pingue had to educate
himself. “I couldn’t find any information of anyone making
these products without nitrates or nitrites,” he says, “so I
had to go back to Italy to learn
how to do it.”
Mr. Cutrara at Cowbell also
had to teach himself to make
charcuterie. He says he has a
100-year-old Spanish charcuterie book from his grandfather
that he consults. He also men-
tions the food community:
“Talking to other chefs – what
to watch for, what to look for –
there’s no school for this,
which is the problem. Rather
than fearing this stuff I think
we need to embrace it.”
And what can we hope for by
keeping these Old World skills
alive for a new generation of
“In Toronto there are so
many cultures and so many
old-school guys around – we
can learn to make phenomenal
products,” Mr. Meli says. “It
would be cool if we could say,
‘My favourite salami comes
from here.’ ”
Enjoying charcuterie is not
limited to eating head cheese as
an appetizer. The quality of meat
in your cold cuts can elevate a
sandwich to a gourmet treat. And
our newly refined palates are
even dictating change on the grocery list. Artisanal salamis and
cured hams can provide healthier
ingredients (organic, nitrate- and
nitrite-free) and tastier alternatives for our lunchboxes. For only
a few cents difference per serving, why settle for generic flavours?
Steve Alexander, owner of
Cumbrae Farms, says, “If you do
a blind tasting of commodity
pork and heritage-breed stuff
you will see a huge flavour difference.” He cites Mario Pingue’s
products as an example. Mr. Pingue says that with good husbandry, naturally raised pork can
have many flavour nuances. An
older pig will have more flavour
in its higher-fat content, more
meat intensity, darker colour and
longer finish. It will also have
more punch up front.
He suggests a test: “If you go
to any Loblaws, pick five salamis
and in a blind tasting try and tell
them apart, I don’t think you can
discern them – unless on the basis of more or less spicy. You can
taste the pigginess – but can you
taste the pork?”
66 Sue Riedl
66 Special to The Globe and Mail
The Naked Chef’s G20 challenge: No pork, no foie gras, no ‘fantasy dessert’
amie Oliver has assumed
many incarnations: laddish
cook, local-food champion,
pig-farm investigator, nutrition
crusader and bestselling author. In his latest role, the chef
will play the part of political
darling, hand-picked by British
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
to cook for G20 leaders in London today at 10 Downing St.
The choice of the budgetconscious Mr. Oliver in the current economic climate – London police expected violent
protests today, dubbed “Financial Fools’ Day” by anti-capitalist groups – is “a PR
masterstroke on the part of the
government,” says Rodney
Barker, a political scientist and
commentator at the London
School of Economics and Political Science.
“When the powerful of the
world meet together,” he says,
“they normally treat themselves with unimaginative luxury: plenty of staff, cars,
expenditure, and very expensive food.” Indeed, at last year’s
G8 meeting in Japan, world
leaders including Mr. Brown indulged in a lavish eight-course
dinner before discussing the
growing global food crisis. The
meal, which featured 18 dishes
including caviar, champagne
and a “fantasy dessert” was
widely criticized in the press.
Mr. Oliver’s G20 menu is ex-
pected to be much more downto-earth, showcasing British ingredients. And the 33-year-old
chef seems aware of the optics
he must navigate. Mr. Oliver
told The Observer that when
Ed Balls, Secretary of State for
Children, Schools and Family
phoned him with the offer, he
replied by saying, “It’ll be my
honour. … But I know me; you
know the British press … a
cook’s really political.” So the
dinner, he said, would be,
“What I choose. How I cook it.
I’ve got to be clever. I’m not going to rattle out a foie gras and
noisettes of whatever. Actually,
I like the idea of stew and dumplings.”
Assisting Mr. Oliver prepare
the dishes will be graduates
and apprentice chefs from Fifteen in London, the restaurant
he created in 2002 to give disadvantaged young people a
chance at a fresh start in the
kitchen. “I’m hoping that the
menu … will show that British
food and produce is some of
the best of the world but also
show that we have pioneered a
high quality apprentice
scheme at Fifteen,” he told the
British press.
The official menu will only be
released later today, giving critics no time to find fault with
the dishes before leaders such
as Barack Obama taste a forkful. But The Telegraph is reporting that Mr. Oliver will
serve a suitably simple meal:
Chef Jamie Oliver hopes that his G20 menu will showcase both British food and the apprenticeship
scheme at his London-based restaurant, Fifteen. NEVILLE ELDER FOR THE GLOBE AND MAIL
Welsh lamb, English asparagus
and flat bread seasoned with
wild garlic. By several accounts
he has spent the last week
sourcing ingredients from his
suppliers all over Britain. The
only thing that a spokesperson
has confirmed is that pork will
not be featured so as not to offend Muslim diners.
Taking such dietary requirements into consideration is
crucial when planning such a
dinner, says Chris Barber, who
cooked hundreds of meals for
numerous dignitaries during
his time as chef to the Queen
and personal chef to Prince
Charles at St. James’s Palace.
“If you were cooking for a
world leader or a group of
world leaders, you would look
at who is coming and try to
make a menu that wouldn’t of-
fend anyone,” he says.
The other secret to a successful state dinner is “manpower,”
says Yann Barraud, head chef
at Le Cordon Bleu London. Mr.
Oliver’s team from Fifteen will
be busy. “You have to be able to
deliver the freshest of ingredients, cooked on the spot. For
that, a chef will need a team big
enough – and perfectly trained
– to be able to prepare every-
thing at the last minute, for all
the ingredients to be as fresh as
Cooking for world leaders
gives Mr. Oliver “an opportunity to sell Britain, to come
across as professional, inventive, creative, and to market
British food to them,” Mr. Barber says. “My view is that when
G20 leaders leave the U.K., you
want them to say ‘That was
quite good.’ ” He adds, “You
want to make sure what you’ve
got on the plate would be a
true reflection of modern Britain.”
Spring lamb would be a good
choice, Mr. Barber says. However, he warns that Mr. Oliver
faces a challenge if he chooses
to cook mainly with regional
foods. “It’s the worst possible
season to have anything local
because we’re just coming out
of winter. Things aren’t growing at the moment – only cabbage and rhubarb.”
But Jamie Oliver’s greatest
challenge tonight might have
nothing to do with ingredients
or picky politicians. His wife,
Jools, is due to give birth to
the couple’s third child on
Friday – and security rules require Mr. Oliver to hand over
his cellphone when he enters
the residence of the Prime Minister. If she goes into labour a
day early, Mr. Oliver will have
to be alerted by Downing Street
66 Special to The Globe and Mail
Students argue it’s their right to use a cellphone
After doing some online
research, the students
discovered the device is
outlawed under Sections 4 and
9 of Canada’s Radiocommunication Act. The school had
banned electronic devices from
its classrooms since September, 2007, but iPods and cellphones kept streaming in, the
principal told The Globe and
The students’ defence? It’s
their right to use a cellphone at
school. “I just think it’s our
right to be able to have [our]
own personal stuff,” says boycott organizer Destiny Herman,
a Grade 12 student. She says
that if teachers are allowed to
have cellphones with them,
students should too.
The rights issue was first
raised during a controversial
effort in 2007 to ban cellphone
use in Toronto high schools.
Even parents were outraged
that the school board would
“take away their right” to
phone their kids at school.
“The bottom line is being
able to use your cellphone in
class is not in the Canadian
Charter of Rights and Free-
doms,” says Josh Matlow, the
Toronto District School Board
trustee who successfully saw
through the ban in April, 2007.
While he admits there are
challenges to enforcing the
ban, he doesn’t think teachers
should try to up the ante on
students who defy it.
In Toronto classrooms, students can bring a cellphone but
it must be turned off. Other
schools and boards across the
country have also forbidden
cellphones, including the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District
School Board in Southern Ontario, the Halifax Regional
School Board and Northern
Ontario’s Algoma District
School Board as well as individual schools in Ottawa, Gatineau, Montreal and the
Niagara region. The rules can
vary from school to school, and
enforcement also varies from
teacher to teacher, students
say. Some only have a problem
if it’s distracting others.
Hanna Blakeley, a Grade 9
student at Toronto’s Jarvis Collegiate, says her English teacher completely ignores one
female classmate who chats
Cellphone jammer
A Cellphone communicates with
its service network via a cell tower.
Cell towers divide the landscape
into small areas, or cells.
A phone jammer simply transmits
on the same radio frequency as
the cellphone, disrupting the
communication between it and
the cell tower.
away during class on her Bluetooth headset.
It’s rare for a teacher to do
anything more than reprimand
a student for using a cellphone
in class, or confiscate it, both
educators and students say.
A clear and proper procedure, such as the one written
out on a poster and tacked on
classroom walls in North Toronto Collegiate Institute, lessens the chance of a teacher
upping the ante, says principal
Joel Gorenkoff.
Teachers are required to first
give a warning to the student,
then confiscate the phone. It’s
taken to the principal’s office,
where parents must pick it up.
“I’ve asked teachers not to get
into arguing with the student
in the hall or taking the phone
themselves,” Mr. Gorenkoff
says. So far, the system is a
pretty good deterrent.
And what does he think of
his students using adult-resistant ring tones? “Well, it makes
me feel bad to be older.” he
says. “But it’s a visibility thing.
Even if it goes off, if it becomes
visible then the teachers are
dealing with it.”
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