Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Kitchenworks: Chef Kevin Dahlsjo, Prince Albert, SK

Chef Kevin Dahlsjo is cooking up a storm – in the community and in the kitchen

Will it be Physics or Home Economics?
Many chefs started cooking as children, so becoming a chef was a natural progression. That wasn’t the case with Chef Kevin Dahlsjo. He laughs and says, “In high school, Home Economics was backed with Physics, and I wasn’t that wild about Physics.”

It turned out to be a good choice, and Kevin went on to obtain his Red Seal from SIAST in Prince Albert. After graduating, he worked in Waskesiu, serving as Executive Chef at the Hawood Inn for five years. He now has his own catering business, Sublime Catering, and opened a restaurant, Two by Dahlsjo, in June 2010.

Kevin represented northern Saskatchewan in the 2010 Saskatchewan Gold Medal Plates and hopes to participate again in the future. “It was a blast,” says Kevin. “It was nice meeting all the other chefs.”

Two by Dahlsjo
Kevin’s restaurant, Two by Dahlsjo, is located south of the Courthouse at 1928 Central Avenue, Prince Albert. At the moment, the restaurant is open for lunch from Tuesday to Friday from 11 am to 2 pm and a roast dinner on Sundays from 12 to 3. Kevin hopes to expand the restaurant hours once he has obtained a liquor license.

Kevin sends out a weekly electronic newsletter (contact Kevin at sublime@sasktel.net to be added to the list) with the weekly menu and any upcoming events (e.g. a Valentine’s Day dinner). The restaurant also hosts a wide variety of private catering events.

Two by Dahlsjo offers a straightforward chalkboard menu with five options, including dessert. But they are always ready to provide a vegetarian or gluten-free option. The restaurant seats 26 people, and Kevin says he wants to keep it small. “I like being hands on. I’m always there to cook the food.”

Local Products
Nearly all the food that Kevin serves is sourced locally. And if you ask Kevin why he only uses local products, his answer is very simple – “I can taste the difference.”

Kevin tried to serve local food at the Hawood in Waskesiu but said it was difficult. He’s finding it easier to manage on a smaller scale in his own restaurant.

Kevin grew up on a farm near Kinistino, and his father is keeping the restaurant well stocked in potatoes. His brother and sister have their own greenhouses and provide fresh produce in the summer.

Feeding the Community
Kevin loves good food and cooking, and he looks for opportunities to share his enthusiasm with his community.

Last winter, Kevin and a group of students from the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies (SIIT) obtained a small grant and prepared a weekly breakfast at the Salvation Army for homeless people in downtown Prince Albert. “We made really good use of really small funds,” says one of the organizers. The program is now being continued by the Salvation Army.

The breakfast program provided SIIT students with work experience but no educational credit. A project officer for Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation and some community volunteers approached the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology - Woodland Campus (SIAST) and asked them to develop an accredited eight-week community-based cooking course. They agreed, setting a precedent in Saskatchewan.

The first course is being offered by Kevin to residents at Riverbend, the minimum security facility at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary. The students obtain day passes and attend the classes five days a week. “We show them some basic skills,” says Kevin, “like roasting a chicken or making a simple meal.”

There are seven students in the initial program, and they are already sharing what they have learned with other Riverbend residents. “They’re going to be coming back into the community,” explains one of the organizers. “Why not have them leave with skills and the beginning of a trade? They can continue studying at SIAST or go to work in a kitchen.”

Future Plans
Kevin has started offering cooking classes at his restaurant and is looking forward to setting up a more organized program. “The kitchen is super tiny,” says Kevin, “so we set up bleacher-style seating in the restaurant where people can watch and get involved in cooking dinner.”

Kevin and his staff prepared Christmas dinner for Westview School, and he is working with the Baptist church to set up a youth food program. He would very much like to organize school cooking programs or work with school cafeterias to promote good, healthy food.

Working Together
Kevin is quick to point out that he doesn’t work in isolation. His restaurant staff as well as a group of friends provide support whenever he undertakes a larger project.

SIAST, SIIT, Service Canada and Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation have all been generous with their help and support.

No comments: