If you can’t stand the cold, get out of the kitchen

Pop-up river restaurant RAW:almond offers frozen feast for second straight year

After a successful first run in 2013, RAW:almond will be popping up again so diners can enjoy food from top chefs while eating on the ice where the Red and Assiniboine rivers meet. 

The concept was created by deer + almond chef Mandel Hitzer and RAW Gallery of Architecture and Design director Joe Kalturnyk. The two men started talking about in 2011.

Both organizers agree that RAW:almond will be returning bigger and better than ever in 2014.

“Everything is different this year,” Kalturnyk says. “It’s bigger. It’s got the lounge and the dining hall with heated tables plus the kitchen inside. Last year, the kitchen was just tacked onto the back. We’ve had the time to put more consideration into the whole thing for sure.”

“The big emphasis from my point of view is pushing the arts and design aspect. We’re going to have projections from local filmmakers – Guy Maddin, Rhayne Vermette and Aaron Zeghers – and some interesting lighting. We want the whole thing to be an experience where all of your senses are explored.”

On the food side of things, RAW:almond will be offering a five course meal for $100, serving up three dishes paired with spirits for $45 at its tapas bar and also cooking up brunch on the weekends.  

A few chefs are traveling to Winnipeg specifically for the occasion, such as Jason Barton-Browne from Teatro Ristorante in Calgary and Vancouver-based Food Network Canada personality Vikram Vij.

Still, most of the chefs will be coming from Winnipeg restaurants and while many are returning from last year, Jesse Friesen is one who will be making his first appearance on the ice.

Friesen works as the head chef at downtown Winnipeg steak and seafood restaurant Lobby on York and has been in the industry for 12 years, working his way up from the dish pit. 

“I don’t think it’s just about exposure, it’s mostly just a great opportunity to challenge yourself by cooking in -40 and really expressing yourself by doing whatever you want,” Friesen says. “Not necessarily just showcasing your restaurant, but showcasing your personal self as an individual and showing to your guests what your style is and what you like to cook.”

Published in Volume 68, Number 17 of The Uniter (January 22, 2014)

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