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Posted by Chef John Berry of MenuMagic
March 2010 Edmontonians

Chefs Christophe Ithurritze and John Berry

The Edmonton culinary scene has added another star to its bevy of top chefs with the arrival of Christophe Ithurritze from Wolfgang Puck’s empire. He was in Edmonton, consulting at the River Cree Resort when the head chef at Sage, its fine dining restaurant quit. Talk about being at the right place at the right time!
Chef Ithurritze was born in the Basque region of France and learned how to bake from his mother. At the tender age of 17, he earned a culinary degree from the acclaimed L’Ecole les Rocailles in Bayonne. In 1989, he moved to the U.S. and began a long relationship with internationally renowned chef and restaurateur Wolfgang Puck. He rose to the position of corporate pastry chef for all five of Puck’s restaurants in Las Vegas, and was part of the team that helped launch five more of his restaurants in Hollywood, Vegas and Chicago.
But why Edmonton?
“I used to live in Chicago, so I wasn’t afraid of winter.” The challenge running a top drawer, first class restaurant appealed to him. “I want to bring the best possible product that’s available to the table. You’re going to pay for it, but it will be the best meal you can buy.”

Chef Christophe Ithurritze

For example, the chef has spent the past six months tracking down top notch John Dore (fish) from New Zealand. He’s made the contact, and it’s being imported for his patrons. He also incorporates the best local produce and meat, fish and poultry whenever possible. He’s currently serving up Spring Creek Beef, Cold Lake Pickerel, organic chicken and vegetables, and fresh baked breads. He’s a firm believer in buying local first. For us, that means quality and freshness unsurpassed.
Chef Ithurritze wants to make Sage a fantastic dining experience… a first class experience for everyone. “Sometimes people will look at a menu and not understand what an item is, or there are words or terminology that they’re not familiar with, so they walk away. I don’t want that to happen. I don’t want people to be afraid to come here.”
Consistency in both service and quality of food is his goal. And, to that end, he is also part educator, using his kitchen as a training ground.
“My staff have to buy into what I’m selling. If not, it doesn’t work. I’m passing on as much as I can from my past chefs like Wolfgang Puck.”
Oh, what a wonderful resource to tap into. If I was a young chef under Ithurritze’s guidance, I’d be a sponge soaking up all I could. Chef whipped up some pan seared scallops and served them on a bed of risotto with a delightful tomato salad. Incredible.
Sage is definitely a spot to head to if you are in the mood for a most excellent meal.

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