At this year’s High Performance Rodeo—Calgary’s annual festival of avant-garde theatre—expect something a little different on the menu. Throughout the month-long event, presented by One Yellow Rabbit, five local chefs will summon their inner thespians and present High Performance Chefs: a celebration of Calgary’s culinary arts scene.
“This is a very experimental notion,” says Michael Green, who has been curator of the High Performance Rodeo since its inception in 1986. Each of the four participating restaurants—Parker House, Centini, Teatro and Catch—will take inspiration from a production to create an evening of food, atmosphere and entertainment in their own spaces. Beyond that, there is only one stipulation.
“There are no rules. No regulations to say what can or can’t happen,” Green says. “This is food as art. The dining experience as art. We’ve asked the chefs to bring their full imagination: if your art was a performance, what would it be?”
Tickets to each of the High Performance Chefs events are $150, for a full course meal, wine and gratuity. Call 403-264-3224 at least one week prior.
Day 1: Comedy 101 – Circus Food
Restaurant: Parker House
Date: January 5
Parker House is one of Calgary’s newest restaurants, and they’re hitting the ground running. This New England-style grill will take inspiration from Midway: Carnivale of the Macabre, a circus-like stage show. The show’s madcap chaos is a stark contrast to Parker House’s refined ambiance. But, executive chef Andrew Keen is excited about the transformation. “There’s gonna be a few surprises,” he says.
Keen is planning to present a menu that includes gourmet Cracker Jack, hot dogs, candy floss, candy apples and Pogo sticks. “Obviously, I’m doing them in a unique way,” he says, “but the idea of this is to do something different.”
Day 2: Berlin Begets Hollyweird
Date: January 12
The decadence of Hollywood and the libertine atmosphere of 1930s Berlin come together in Berlin Begets Hollyweird, held at one of downtown’s most polished restaurants: Centini. The event is tied to a cabaret put on by Land’s End Chamber Ensemble.
Though Scott Beaton and Liam MacQuarrie, Centini’s chefs du cuisine, are committing themselves to maintaining the spirit of a cabaret, the rest will be an artistic vision that showcases Centini’s upscale Italian cuisine. MacQuarrie is looking forward to colouring outside the lines when creating the menu. “Theatre and food are both artistic expressions,” he says. “People put their personality into food. I’m excited for the opportunity.”
Day 3: Frankenstein Food
Date: January 19
Teatro’s event is inspired by the ingenuity of Catalyst Theatre’s Frankenstein, a musical version of Mary Shelley’s classic tale.
“It’ll be 14th century Transylvania,” maitre d’ Mike Burns says. “There’ll be projections on the walls, film lighting, lots of candles, lots of creepy stuff.”
For the menu, he says chef John MacNeil will craft dishes that combine Teatro’s innovative Italian fare with the spirit of Shelley’s grim story. Burns can’t say how that mixture will take place, but doesn’t lack for enthusiasm. “This theme really spoke to me,” he says. “This is the first time we get to be the artist.”
Day 4: Erotic Babylon
Date: January 26
One of the world’s oldest pieces of fiction gets an overhaul at Catch’s event, held in tandem with play Gilgamesh La-Z-Boy.
General manager Patricia Insole says Catch will be transformed into a harem, evoking the tale’s erotic Mesopotamian undertones. Diners can expect silk, sexy lighting and gold costumes, as well as dishes such as oysters and maybe even a suckling pig.
Insole is keeping mum on how chef Hayato Okamitsu will fuse seafood, sex and Babylon, for very deliberate reasons. “We want to keep a little mystery too,” she says. “We’re the last night, so we have to be the most spectacular.”
Midway: Jan 8 to 10, Epcor Centre for the Performing Arts
From Berlin to Hollywood: Jan 13 to 18, Beat Niq Jazz & Social Club
Frankenstein: Jan 21 to 25, Epcor Centre for the Performing Arts
Gilgamesh La-Z-Boy: Jan 27 to 31, Epcor Centre for the Performing Arts
For tickets, call 403-264-3224.—Sally MacKinnon