Only the dishwasher is unhappy with the response to news of Mark Gray’s fundraising dinner.
Gray will represent Nova Scotia at the Canadian Culinary Championship in Kelowna, B.C., in February, an honour for sure, albeit an expensive one.
“I’ve heard it’s about $10,000 out of pocket. Hotels for four or five nights, flights for four people, all that kind of stuff factors into it,” said Gray, who cooks at Battery Park in Dartmouth and is the executive chef for the Brooklyn Warehouse family of restaurants.
To help defray the cost, Gray and friends are hosting The 12 Dishes of Christmas on Dec. 11 at Battery Park. Response to the 12-dish, six-chef, six craft beer meal at $120 per person was so enthusiastic a second seating has now been added.
A significant portion of the proceeds of the night will go to the Canadian Olympic Foundation, and with luck, Gray should be able to direct about $4,000 towards the Kelowna weekend.
“I’d like to do another dinner in January, if needed, and I’m going to be at Brooklyn Warehouse in January to do tasting menus on Tuesday nights and a portion of that will go towards the trip,” said Gray, who will be joined in Kelowna by Brooklyn Warehouse chef Stephanie Ogilvie and owners George and Leo Christakos.
Ogilvie will act as sous chef and George Christakos as sommelier, a key role considering one of the three competitions at the national championship is creating a meal to pair with an unidentified wine.
“He’s been practising, and will continue to, just to stay familiar with boundaries of wine,” Gray said. “I definitely wanted to bring Stephanie, she’s incredibly fast and efficient, that’s why she’s running Brooklyn.”
The 12 dishes dinner was inspired by a restaurant in Napa, California. Gray and guest chefs Sean Kettley, Jonathan Canning, Peter Dewar, Thomas Carey and Andrew Stevens will prepare two courses each. The guests are all instructor chefs at NSCC, where Gray did his training.
“They’re all very open to collaboration, open to sharing ideas, that’s what they do, and I kind of wanted to give back to them a little bit, do something fun,” he said, adding that Peter Burbidge of North Brewing will curate the craft beer pairings.
“Basically, every two courses will get a pairing. It actually works out very well because that same weekend is Battery Park’s first anniversary, so we will have on tap all the collaborations beers that we’ve done over that year, including the Benjamin Bridge saison pinot, which is being released that weekend as well.”
For the gala portion of the Canadian Culinary Championship, Gray will serve the dish that won him the Halifax qualifier, three classic French charcuterie preparations — pate, terrine and mousse — plus a pork cracklin’, paired with a fermented tea beverage.
“It’s awesome, because the dish I chose ages super well, so it’s made, it's vacuum sealed and it can handle a few days of being in transit,” he said. “Those things age well and the flavours blend together, so that I lucked out on that.”
To practise for the black box competition, Gray will appear at Brooklyn Warehouse on a series of Tuesday evenings, only learning what ingredients he will be cooking with each morning.
“And I will create a menu based on those ingredients,” he said. “That was Steph’s idea. I’ve been making lists of versatile sauces, versatile starches, so a romesco could go with a light meat or a fish, that type of thing.”