Calgary’s best chefs strut their stuff

Macaroni and cheese has made its way from the kitchens of the world to the runway, thanks to the unusual approach to fashion presented by the one and only Dee Fontans.

Edible Art Fantasia played host to her antics Sat., Mar. 19 with an impressive collection of food-inspired fashion from Dee and her students The event ran alongside a competition between the city’s foremost chefs vying for the title of Edible Artist 2005 in a timed contest featuring the Iron Chef ingredient: pork.

Performance artist, fashion designer, jeweler and current instructor at Alberta College of Art and Design, Dee is a local celebrity and has the honour of being one of the city’s most influential artists in the past 20 years. She has presented shows of her artwear and jewelry across North America and globally from Jamaica to Germany.

Her students presented pieces fashioned with artichokes, milk, hot tamales and strawberries, among other edibles. Mai Ishii’s winning ensemble “Puff & Melt” consisted of a dinner gown constructed almost entirely from, you guessed it, marshmallows. Campfire jokes aside, Mai is a Japanese student currently studying jewelry, painting and sculpture at ACAD. Melissa Brugleman’s racy piece, “Hot Tamales,” spiced up the runway along with “Strawberries and Whipped Cream” by Jocelyn Henderson. Just as interesting on the other end of the spectrum were Trish Boyle’s “Milk Crate” and Louise Chong in her artichoke inspired “Arabella”, complete with wand.

Not far from the delectable eccentricity of Dee and her proteges, Nana Boateng of the traditional Italian Bonterra Trattori put the final touches on a dazzling tower of roasted pork tenderloin and caramelized apple slices draped in honey mustard jus.

“I love this,” he comments, adjusting a spire of herb topping the dish. “Right now, there’s nothing I’d rather be doing. Food, especially good food, should never be taken for granted.”

His competition is stiff. Peter Whatmough of Cannery Row, recent winner of the first prize in the Alberta Beef challenge for Alberta’s best beef appetizer, is A-Channel’s guest chef and boasts decades of experience in fine French and Italian dining. Shaun Greenwood of Ric’s Grill shot back with prawns and scallops with wasabi lime butter, a vibrant and unique combination far from uninteresting, yet not overdone. Also competing were the talented Heather Gould-Hawke of Avenue Diner and Wesley Holtz of The Siding Cafe.

A notable newcomer to the scene is The Siding Cafe, a traditional American cafe located within the walls of Art Central catering to a crowd with comfort food on their minds and stomachs. Their selection of meatloaf, simple soups and club sandwiches has garnered exceptional reviews from critics and customers alike. It’s rumoured renowned food critic John Gilchrist has taken to eating there on a somewhat regular basis.

Accompanying both fashion and food were Mohini Cox and the Groove, a mostly local ensemble who gave an excellent performance. While for the most part staying away from both traditional and original pieces in favour of more popular covers, their rich jazz and soul style serves as the perfect backdrop for an evening of fine chefs, impractical fashion and open bars.

Proceeds from the event went to the Canadian Cancer Society, including funds raised from a silent auction featuring impressive fine furs, local art and gift certificates from the competing restaurants.

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