No face masks were needed to attend this class — the only personal protective equipment required were oven mitts when Daniella Germond, chef professor at the Canadian Food and Wine Institute at Niagara College, invited 12 participants into her home for a virtual learning experience.
This was the first in a series called CFWI @ Home. The four sessions are in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the suspension of in-person classes on the Niagara-on-the-Lake campus.
“Due to these uncertain times, these interactive learning experiences are our response to keeping our community connected to learning, all while bringing people together virtually,” says Jeffrey Steen, CFWI’s manager of part-time studies and corporate training,
For $25, participants receive a full ingredient shopping list. The recipes for the meal include preparation instructions and a list of equipment required. The forum was a live interactive video using the Microsoft Teams platform. Participants are invited to cook along with the chef, or simply enjoy watching her prepare the meal.
Germond introduced herself at the beginning of the session and outlined her substantial credentials. To start with, she is a graduate of the culinary management program at Niagara College. Her bio on the CFWI webpage outlines her accomplishments after graduation by explaining, “she went on to compete in culinary competitions around the world, where she received Gold at the Young Chef Olympiad in India in 2016, and a gold and silver medal at the 2016 IKA Culinary World Cup in Germany, with Junior Culinary Team Canada.”
She has started her own catering company, called Willow Branch, in NOTL and also works as a sous-chef at Lookout Point Golf and Country Club in Fonthill.
Joining Germond, remotely was Brianne Hawley, wine program student liaison and social media coordinator for the Institute, who administrated the event, supported the MS Teams platform and fielded questions and comments for Germond.
For Sunday’s session, Germond brought us into her kitchen to demonstrate some examples of South American cuisine. On the menu was a spice-rubbed barbecued chicken with chimichurri, grilled corn and asparagus summer salad, and barbecued roasted mini potatoes paired with a refreshing clerico, a cocktail made with a local pinot grigio, white rum and fruit.
Watching Germond was a delight. Her good-natured personality translates through the media. She has a calm and accepting demeanour that makes you feel welcome. The interactive nature of the session has the participants feeling they’ve been invited into her kitchen to watch her prepare a meal for them. She casually made a comment about letting the chicken rest, by instructing the students to just, “let it kinda hang out” for a while.
As for her culinary skills, it was a treat to watch her in motion. She taught her virtual students how to spatchcock a chicken swiftly and easily. Just watching her mince shallots was worth the entertainment value. She also provided valuable tips and tricks on how to improve cooking skills, from how to get all the juice out of a lime to correctly chopping basil. She also added little anecdotes about the recipes, and how they connect to her childhood.
As mentioned by a couple of participants, the experience could only be improved upon by the invention of ‘smell-o-vision.’ To overcome this drawback, Germond’s virtual students are encouraged to try out the recipes for themselves. This reporter already has done the shopping. The corn and local asparagus are ready for the salad. The fresh herbs are waiting to be picked from the garden for the chimichurri. The Niagara wine, rum and berries are ready to go for the clerico. Only thing left is to remember how to spatchcock that chicken . . .
The next session is scheduled for July 19 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and features Chef Nathan Libertini demonstrating how to make a sourdough pizza. Libertini is also a graduate of the culinary management program as well as a graduate from the baker apprenticeship program. According to his bio on the CFWI’s website, after his graduation from these programs he travelled to Italy, where he worked in a two-star Michelin restaurant. When he returned to Niagara, he became the head baker at Commisso’s and the chef at Napoli Ristorante in Niagara Falls. Libertini returned to Niagara College and has been inspiring students in baking and culinary courses since 2015. He is also Red Seal certified in the cook and baker patissier fields.
Session 3 will be held Sunday, July 26, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and will see the return of Germond sharing her recipe and techniques for making fish tacos.
The final session of this series will be Sunday, Aug. 9 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., when Libertini will demonstrate how to make pretzels and braided bread.
Further information and registration can be found on the Niagara College website under the Canadian Food and Wine Institute webpage, and under NEWS section posted June 18, 2020, at https://www.niagaracollege.ca/insidenc/2020/06/18/