On a cold night next to the Sylvia Grinnell River near Iqaluit recently, Eric Pateman wasn’t sure if he was about to stage one of the best dinners of his career, or the worst.
With winds blowing and a temperature of minus eight degrees celsius, Pateman had his guests go back to their hotel rooms to layer up before getting on a bus and taking them to the riverbank. As throat singers performed, he and his team of chefs served a rich feast that included snow goose eggs roasted over a fire pit, seal meat, elk and caribou, a bread bowl stuffed with fois gras and turbot soup.
“It wasn’t fine dining, it wasn’t white table cloths, but people were saying it was the best meal of their lives,” he told Swagger. “Most people consume their meal in front of the TV set or a fast food restaurant, but a quality meal is not just the ingredients — it’s the setting, the people you’re surrounded with and the stories that surround the meal.”
Pateman’s mission might be described as stirring together those elements into experiences that combine exploratory travel with fine cuisine. As the force behind Edible Canada, he has turned two decades of working as a chef and hotel consultant into an enterprise that opens his guests’ eyes while introducing new flavours to their palettes.
Edible Canada’s culinary adventures include “Across the Top of Canada,” which whisked guests on a private chef with top chefs from across the country. Besides Iqaluit, the trip continued across Yellowknife, Whitehouse and stretched all the way to St. John’s Newfoundland, offering a unique way to celebrate the country’s recent 150th anniversary.
Beyond merely entertaining and satisfying guests, Pateman says Edible Canada’s goal is to also help develop a deeper appreciation for Canadian cuisine, which he defines as “local, seasonable and sustainable in the hands of many cultures.” While some of us might default to, say, poutine as a Canadian-specific culinary invention, Pateman points out that Canada is the largest grower of mustard seeds, and much of the world’s best pasta comes from Canadian wheat.
Canada’s other unique culinary quality is the innovation of its chef, who Pateman suggested have more latitude to experiment them their peers in other markets.
“We have no rules — you can combine Thai, Japanese and Italian and nobody bats an eye,” he says. “It just tastes really good, whereas there are things we do where you would be lynched in Italy or Japan.”
Like many stars of the culinary sector, Pateman’s interest began early. A fourth generation Vancouverite, He references a picture of himself as a white with a waiter towel over his arm as he serves his grandparents lunch. Though he’s gone to many other countries and climates since, he says a pride in his heritage — and a talent for business development — brought him back to his roots to launch what has become Edible Canada. The same pride works the other way, too, fuelling his wanderlust.
“To be able to translate that love, passion and sense of place through food, that’s what really drives me to travel around the world,” he says. “I love it when I can go to Japan or Italy and say ‘I don’t care what (the ingredient) is — if it’s Canadian, I’ll buy it.’”
Pateman isn’t restricting himself to Canada, however. Among his other plans is a trip through the Southern U.S. where he can take guests down the ‘Bourbon Route” from Louisville to New Orleans on a super-luxury bus with bucket seats, a full kitchen and an in-house mixologist. Stops could include everything from the Grand Ol’ Opry to one of the oldest juke joints left in the world.
And for those who can’t join him for the ride, Pateman says it’s still possible for the average guy to take his date on a culinary adventure without even leaving home.
“When you buy good quality ingredients don’t have to do a lot. I would rather go with a lobster tail or a steak from a butcher and pan sear it with some butter or fresh herbs — not a ton of sauces,” he suggested. “Cooking for dates is really about providing that great social experience, where you’re able to have the time to have the conversation.”