Website: http://pearldiver.to/pearldiver/ | http://www.nextfood.ca/
Address: 100 Adelaide St. East, Toronto, ON, M5C 1K6
When I attended: Wednesday, June 8 2016
It’s not often that one gets to answer the question “I wonder what would happen if restaurant X and restaurant Y had a baby??” Well, the inaugural Cooper Dinner at Pearl Diver recently gave us at Mary’s Happy Belly the opportunity to test this out…and, boy, was the baby delicious!
The Cooper Room featuring some of the late, Dean Brian Cooper’s culinary tools and books
As a current chef-student at George Brown College, I can safely say that the level of appreciation and homage for the institution that I have experienced first-hand from some of the school’s esteemed graduates has been humbling. The Cooper Dinner series, and the Spirit of Hospitality Scholarship it supports, are the products of the gratitude felt by GBC grads and renowned chefs and business partners, Rudy Guo and Tom Milosz Malycha – the masterminds behind Pearl Diver. Along with their third business partner, Martin Zechel, they set out to pay forward some of the invaluable lessons imparted to them by the late Dean of the GBC Centre for Hospitality & Culinary Arts, Brian Cooper, and his wife Midge, whose mentoring and kindness elevated the standard for what ‘hospitality’ could be.
“When I first came to George Brown College, Brian Cooper showed me the true meaning of being a great host. It’s informed everything I’ve done since I left school and I’d like to honour his memory,” Chef Rudy Guo on the Coopers’ influence on him.
The June 8 event was the first of a series of dinners meant to pair a young chef with a seasoned veteran for a one-night dinner where half the proceeds go towards funding the Spirit of Hospitality Scholarships for high school graduates entering one of GBC’s Culinary Arts or Hospitality programs.
Chefs Rudy Guo (left) and Michael Blackie (right) at the inauguration of the Cooper Room at Pearl Diver
The series certainly started out with a bang, pairing with Ottawa’s Chef Michael Blackie to execute an ambitious menu featuring favourites from his Bytown food and beverage concept, NeXT, combined with Pearl Diver’s own dinner menu. Assisting Chef Blackie in the kitchen were GBC Culinary School graduates employed by Pearl Diver with Chef Guo hosting the event in the new, permanent Cooper Room at the restaurant. For an event honouring a life of service and hospitality, Chefs Guo and Blackie were immaculate hosts who accomplished a truly exceptional culinary display on our dinner table. Sharing the long, harvest table in the Cooper Room were a selection of media and industry professionals covering the launch and listening raptly to our chef-hosts explain their motivations for honouring Dean Cooper, and how his teachings shaped their drive to travel the world and set up a culinary network which allowed them to give back to coming generations of chefs and cooks in the form of financial support and professional development. More information about the scholarships can be found at the GBC External Awards page.
Caesars, garnished with a freshly-shucked oyster
My guest and I started our evening with a pair of Pearl Diver Caesars sipped between nibbles of freshly-shucked oysters, calamari and fish & chips before we moved over to the Cooper Room. The night progressed with long platters arriving in succession featuring samplings of the star attractions from the special menu being served on the restaurant floor, outside the private walls of the Cooper Room: Duck Confit & Truffled-Brie Grilled Cheese, Rare Tuna Sashimi Pizza, Tempura Fried Cheese Curds & Sriracha Maple Lick, Roasted Mushrooms on Première Moisson Toast, Crisp Shallot & Cashew Crusted Pork Ribs & 36-hour Sous Vide Pork Belly. Needless to say, an explosion of flavor and textures took over and spoke to the level of gastronomy being celebrated here.
Tempura Cheese Curds
Duck Confit Grilled Cheese
Mushrooms on Toast
Seared Tuna Pizza
The evening was capped off with the arrival of a luxurious dessert platter that spanned the length of the entire long-table and immediately invoked a primordial response in everyone present. The crowning glory astutely displayed the craftsmanship of Pearl Diver’s Pastry Chef, Sooji Jang, who is herself a GBC grad. One look at the assembled platter of Hibiscus, Poached Peach and Hazelnut Cake, Dark Chocolate Delice and Sticky Toffee Pudding was enough to elicit a round of applause from everyone fortunate to be sitting at that table.
Sticky Toffee Pudding
Hibiscus, Poached Pear and Hazelnut Cake
The 1st Cooper Dinner has set the bar very high for the rest of the series! Watch this space for information on the next evening in the series to lend your support to the Spirit of Hospitality Scholarship and experience the next imaginative pairing by the team at Pearl Diver.