A hundred years ago, when I was working at The Old House under Chef Ferdinand Bogner, we were approached by some local fisherman to help them celebrate a rather great year in the fishing industry. The Old House Catering Company was a fledgling company in the valley here, so we tackled this task with gusto! The original “Shellfish Festival” as it was called brought in 400 guests at the Florence Filberg Centre and we supplied two 24ft. buffet tables with everything and anything that the fisherman threw our way. We had halibut, salmon, tuna, clams, scallops, red snapper, a industrial garbage bag ‘block’ of frozen octopus, prawns and on, and on… I have to mention that a lot of these products were after-thoughts. Things that ended up in someones freezer, bagged, glazed and beaten. Ferdinand and I had a ball. We had our moments of “what the… is this??”, and ” oh, for …. sake” But we did it and Ferdinand pulled it off. Ferdinand left that year (I’m thinking 1989) and left me, as the new Chef of the Old House (with shoes far too big..) dealing with the Shellfish Festival for the next 4 years. My favourite item on that buffet was two 3ft x4 ft oak trimmed mirrors (that we had made especially for this event) with two 6′ octopus and their tentacles poached, sliced and spread out with various shellfish intertwined like some sea monster god. Their heads were peeled, stuffed with a shrimp mousse, poached and sliced over top. There was something about those mirrors that got everyone’s attention.
The festival has grown and morphed into something a lot more contemporary and polished over the years. Now it involves Chef’s from all over the province and a full weekend of festivities, competitions and demonstrations. The Valley after all, is a mecca for seafood lovers. It has been turned into a huge attraction involving a ton of local shellfish, local wines, and the talents of local entrepeneurs and trades people. I can’t help but put my two cents in though (and I am writing it after all). I love the local tradition of celebrating harvest – of any kind. We are in a beautiful place with the bounty you don’t see a lot of elswhere. I love seeing festivals with community in mind. A celebration of our valley that we all can participate in and enjoy. A lot of people put time, effort and money into this festival, and yet it seems that a lot of it goes into attracting people from other areas to come and enjoy. A little protectionist? Probably, but I think we have a lot to protect. As I said, just my two cents…creative license. So enjoy and love living here, we have a lot to celebrate.