Northern Alliance Dinners: Chefs without borders

Matt Jennings is a new school kind of chef.
Matt Jennings is a new school kind of chef.

If this isn’t the culinary equivalent of the Avengers assembling, we don’t know what is.

Matt Jennings of Farmstead, Inc. in Providence has united 10 American and Canadian chefs (five of each) to put on two epic feasts — one here in Boston and one in Montreal at the end of the summer — fittingly dubbed the Northern Alliance Dinners. The dinners are an excuse to show off culinary chops north and south of the border, yes, but they’ll also generate a little cash for good people doing good things.

On the U.S. side, Jennings is joined by April Bloomfield (of NYC’s The Spotted Pig, Salvation Taco, The John Dory Oyster Bar, and The Breslin); Zak Pelaccio (NYC’s Fish & Game); and our very own Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette (Toro and Coppa). Their Canadian counterparts include Matty Matheson (of Parts and Labor); Derek Dammann (Maison Publique); Lee Cooper (L’Abbatoir); Rob Gentile (Buca); and Jeremy Charles (Raymonds). In the spirit of collaboration, each chef has been paired with a counterpart from across the border, joining forces to create an appetizer and a main course.

“It’s a crazy awesome spread,” Jennings says. “For anyone who knows anything about these Canadian guys, this is the crème de la crème of the Canadian talent, and it spans from coast to coast, which I think is so cool.”

The proceeds from the night will benefit the American Farmland Trust, an organization that helps aspiring farmers find reasonably priced land, negotiates terms and creates new opportunities for land to be set aside for farming. Consider them the S.H.I.E.L.D of the farm world, if you will.

“For us, it was a no-brainer. Giving back to farmers is something that we as chefs do by default, in a way,” Jennings says. “Most of what we do here at Farmstead is rooted in supporting the local community and putting the money back in the hands of the people who work so hard to get food on our customer’s tables.”

The idea behind the dinners manifested during Jennings’ multiple trips to visit our northern brethren over the last few years. A smattering of stops throughout Canada’s culinary map, mostly arranged through social media, left the Rhode Island chef floored by the quiet passion and lack of pretension he observed in the kitchens.

“They want to provide this amazing experience for the guests, but they’re not hung up on the finest points of table service, or exquisite wine pairings or a well-designed menu. It’s about having a good time,” he explains. “There’s something very guttural about it. I feel like we’re usually trying so hard in America — we’re always pushing for that next review, or that next James Beard award — and we forget that it’s about making people happy.”

And making people happy is what these dinners are all about. Not only is the ticket price a crazy steal, when you consider you won’t have to crisscross all over North America to score a table at each participating chef’s restaurant, but you’ll enjoy the benefit of a front row seat to the prevailing trend in the food world: the ensemble.

“I came up in kitchens where there were a lot of secrets. That’s not the way it is now,” Jennings says, recalling working for a chef who enforced the burn-the-recipe-when-you’re-done rule. “Getting together and sharing ideas, that’s what the new generation thrives on and loves. We get together and geek out about ingredients for hours at a time.”

“The days of collaboration are here. This is the new movement,” he adds emphatically. “This is what food is about right now.”

NorthernAlliance.jpeg

Appetizers

Grilled cornbread, chicken liver, strawberry mostarda
-Matt Jennings & Matty Matheson

Pickled then fried Island Creek oyster with black bean sauce
-Jamie Bissonnette & Derek Damann

Lightly smoked pigeon
-April Bloomfield & Lee Cooper

Fermented lamb sausage, wrapped in sweet dough, Lady Jayne’s sweet & spicy mustard
-Zak Pellacio & Rob Gentile

Uni spoon with caviar, raw Qquail egg yolk, Jamon Iberico, chive flowers and Meyer lemon
-Jeremy Charles & Ken Oringer

Dinner

Summer fruits & vegetables prepared simply, buttermilk panna cotta, johnnycake crumb, maple brique
-Matt Jennings & Matty Matheson

Uni campanelle, whelks, black truffle, uni bottarga
-Jamie Bissonnette & Derek Damann

Pork torchon, roasted stone fruit, pistachio, brioche
-April Bloomfield & Lee Cooper

A Duck Tale of Two Countries: Ontario duck leg & New York duck breast, spit roasted over oak and cherry, maple and rhubarb
-Zak Pellacio & Rob Gentile

Newfoundland Bake: apple pudding, goat yogurt, Labrador Tea ice cream, hazelnut crunch, Tonka Bean marshmallow
-Jeremy Charles & Ken Oringer

If you go

Northern Alliance Dinners
Sunday, 6 p.m.
jm Curley’s
21 Temple Place, Boston
$250
farmsteadinc.com/shop/things-we-love/northern-alliance-dinner-0


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