Monday, July 19, 2010

Cooking at la Cuisine

Bison Short Ribs with Maple and Chipotle

700kg bison short ribs (6000 pieces)
24 cans chipotle in adobo
2 x 4L jugs maple syrup
12 x 4L jugs pancake syrup
6 x 4L jugs soy sauce
4 x 50lbs yellow onions
500 ml salt
500 ml chili powder
500 ml pepper
12 x 100oz cans ketchup
60L water
1. Dice onions. Puree chipotle in adobo.
2. place shortribs in 18"x24" tinfoil pans. You will need about 80 pans.
3. combine onions, chipotle, syrups, soy sauce ketchup and spices.
4. pour syrup mixture into pans on top of short ribs. Cover pans with tin foil.
5. Put pans in Hot Hot Hots set at 275F overnight. Roast until falling off the bone tender.

This is a typical recipe of La Cuisine. We are the people who feed all the performers, volunteers staff and special guests of the Winnipeg Folk Festival. This amounts to about 4000 meals, three times a day for five days. In between meals and late at night we offer a continuous stream of snacks. We run the kitchen with a crew of about 250 volunteers. Some of these people are chefs, but most of them are teachers, social workers, mechanics and any thing but a cook.

folk fest size normal person batch
48 100 oz cans chickpeas 1 28oz can chickpeas
12 Litres tahini 1/4 cup tahini
6 L olive oil 1/2 cup olive oil
5 L lemon juice 1/3 cup lemon juice
2 kg garlic, minced 1 clove garlic, minced (or more)
750 ml cumin 1 tsp cumin
250 ml paprika 1/3 tsp paprika
125 ml cayenne pinch cayenne
500 ml salt 2/3 tsp salt (to taste)

1. puree chickpeas with tahini.
2. add lemon juice, garlic and spices. puree.
3. with food processor going, drizzle in olive oil to emulsify.
4. serve with grilled pita and olives

One week before the folk festival begins, we have no kitchen. A crew comes in to set us up with 16 bbq's, 8 rented flat top grills, 5 coke coolers, 50 or so folding banquet tables, and 6 hot hots. The hot hots are ovens (of my invention) that were built by the hutterites for us. They are 6 feet tall, 5 feet wide and three feet deep. They are made of heavy industrial strength steel. The racks inside are made out of rebar. These ovens are heated with tiger torches that we stick in the bottom. The first three I had built used one torch per oven. Fully cranked, these would heat to about 325F. We call these the hot hot hots. The second set of three, I had set up to use 2 tiger torches per oven. These heat up to about 500F. We call these the ├╝ber-hots. Our refrigeration comes in the way of 2 53' reefer trailers and one 30' freezer trailer.

Three Bean Salad
normal person batch

1 can kidney beans
1 can chick peas
1 bag frozen green beans (or 1 lb fresh green beans trimmed, blanched and cooled)
1 stalk celery
2 green onions
few sprigs of parsley

1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
pinch dried chilies
1/4 tsp fennel seed

1. chop celery, onion and parsley. drain and rinse beans
2, combine dressing ingredients.
3. toss beans and veggies with dressing. This is best if you make it a day before you need to serve it.

Our kitchen was started 36 or so years ago by a man named Harry Paine. He established a tradition of serving a very high calibre of cuisine. He and folk fest founder Mitch Podolak felt that if you fed performers and volunteers well, they would be happier, they would work harder, they would come back the next year and and they might even work for less money. So, carrying on the tradition, we can't get away with serving chili and hot dogs for 5 days in a row. We put together a menu that includes things like bbq leg of lamb, lentil mousskka, jerk chicken, pulled pork with biscuits and gravy, wild rice casserole, and meatloaf (both a meat version and a veggie version with mushroom "un-gravy"). We need to make sure we have food for meat lovers, vegetarians, vegans, people with gluten or lactose intolerance and a wide range of allergies and religious restrictions. Each meal is centered around a theme or a culinary style. Friday lunch we had perogies and farmer sausage. Saturday lunch with set up a taco bar with black beans, chicken in salsa verde or slow roasted pork "carnitas". Our desserts include maple blueberry creme brulee (done with a tiger torch), upside down chocolate pudding cake, and something I called "fake baklava". On sunday we did a brunch with bacon, sausage, hash browns, cheesy scrambled eggs, fruit salad and a baked apple pancake.

Baked Apple Pancake

1 cup apple pie filling (store bought, or if you are feeling fancy, sautee apples with brown sugar, butter and a pinch of cinnamon)
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon

1. in a greased 9 x 13" pan spread apple pie filling.
2. combine eggs, milk, flour and baking powder. DO NO OVERMIX.
3. spread pancake batter over apple pie filling
4. bake in a 400F oven for 15 minutes until puffy, firm and golden brown.
5. combine cinnamon and sugar and sprinkle over pancake.

Cinnamon Cider Syrup

1 cup apple juice or cider
2 cups brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick

1. combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil and simmer until "syrupy".
2. serve warm with baked aple pancake.

So this, my friends, is how I spent my summer holidays. In order to feed all these people, I build a recipe book (actually a data base) of 103 recipes. I have included just a small sampling. If you want specific recipes, or menus, just leave a comment on this blog and I will add your requested recipe to this page. Thanks, see you all at the festival next year!!!

I would like to thank all of our volunteers for their hard work. I would like to thank the folk festival staff for their support. I would like to thank our suppliers for their products and donations. And I would like to thank all of you volunteers and performers for enjoying our food and for making us feel so good about it. Thank You, happy Folk Fest!


  1. Alex, do you really use canned chick peas? Why not dry, soaked and pressure cooked? All that metal. The mining industry must be thrilled!

  2. ps. still loved the hummous and most of the food, though sadly missed the moussaka and ended up with oily, roasted eggplants by themselves on what i dubbed nightshade night

  3. Alon,
    You've seen my kitchen out there. Do you really think using dry chick peas and pressure cooking them is realistic? How many pressure cookers would I need? Or are you proposing the folk fest puts in big industrial steam pressure cookers? Please remember we are cooking for 4000 people. Also, keep in
    mind that the hummus is just one of 103 recipes our volunteers have to prepare over the weekend.

    When you prepare this recipe for yourself at home, please feel free to adapt it to use dry chick peas.


  4. Glad to see your still rocking the Folk Fest kitchen! Hope all is well!

  5. Feeding 1,300 volunteers isn't an easy task but the food was awesome.Great variety and spicy ! Thanks to all kitchen volunteers for the amazing effort and taste.Look forward to next yr.. lol, Kevin

  6. kevin,
    we passed the 1300 mark back in the 90's. We are up to 2600 volunteers, plus performers and their entourages, staff and special guests. We feed 600 for the guest for a day program as well as cater a VIP dinner. It's crazy! Thank you for your kind words and support.

  7. Alon,
    maybe we should use fresh chickpeas and then my volunteers can spend their time shelling them.

  8. I cannot thank you guys enough for the wonderful food and service.

  9. Can we get the recipie for the wonderful sweet potato hash and onions please?