Oct/Nov 2015 Feb/Mar 2015 - Page 18

The self-taught chef began working at the age of fourteen at Bridgeport at The Forks , where everything in the kitchen was produced from scratch . Further career moves led him to the kitchens at Step ’ n Out and Gluttons , where he honed his craft and galvanized his food philosophy : fusion food with clean , distinct flavours , created with love . This credo can be spied in Hitzer ’ s dishes , like fettuccine infused with fresh tarragon and topped with puttanesca sauce and Manchego cheese . “ It ’ s salty , briny , garlicky and spicy all at once ,” he says .
After a stint at Fresh Café on Corydon , Hitzer hit a roadblock , unsure if he wanted to continue in the industry . Indecision led him to San Francisco , where he wandered into the Mission Chinese Food restaurant . Here , food was not just being produced for
Montreal , who is noted for Italian fare that showcases local , seasonal ingredients . Also on hand this year : Mandel ’ s former mentor from Gluttons , Mokoto Ono , who took gold at the first Canadian Culinary Championships in 2006 , and has since gone on from Winnipeg to open restaurants in Beijing and Vancouver .
RAW : almond , which is expected to serve more than a thousand dinner guests , is erected at the frozen mouth of the Assiniboine and Red River . Tarp and scaffolding shelter a 30-seat communal table and tasting bar , designed by UK architects OS31 , who won a juried contest to create the 2015 designer digs .
For the last two years , Hitzer has also participated in a massive catering gig at the Rainbow Trout Music Festival near St Malo , where his kiosk served vegetarian
“ I want to unite people and build a culinary community in this city .”
the masses ; it was a religious experience , prepared lovingly , adored and adorned . His fire was rekindled and he returned to Winnipeg to open deer + almond .
In the last two and a half years , Hitzer has played the role of culinary anchor and renegade , a driving force in the city to use food as common ground and a diving board into the unknown . Part savvy businessman and part visionary , Hitzer was one of the first to introduce pop-ups to the city : spontaneous , experimental eating adventures marketed through crowd sourcing and social media .
Winnipeg ’ s appetite for pop-ups spawned RAW : almond , a short-term dining experience conceived in 2013 by Hitzer and his friend Joe Kalturnyk , director of RAW : Gallery in the Exchange . The three week annual event features North American guest chefs who execute a five course tasting menu with wine and spirit pairings . This year , Hitzer will cook with a dozen colleagues like Dale MacKay , winner of Top Chef Canada ’ s first season , and Emma Cardarelli of Nora Gray in fare , barbequed chicken skewers , and smoked trout salad . “ We closed deer + almond and the whole staff worked there ,” he says .
Last May , he was part of the creative genius behind Table for 1200 , one continuous 1200 foot long dining table on the Esplanade Riel pedestrian bridge . Tickets were purchased in advance , but eager diners — who were asked to bring their own chair — were given only a few hours notice about the location prior to dinner .
This nomadic , spur of the moment energy is evident in everything he does . There is vibrancy in his food and his life ’ s mission . “ I want to unite people and build a culinary community in this city ,” he says .
At 31 , this culinary adventure junkie seems more old soul than whiz kid , bringing customers a satisfying plate of food that goes beyond pleasing the palate . It would seem Mandel Hitzer has learned at a young age that following your passion can create joy ( and a whole lot of fun !) for an entire city .
16 ciao ! / feb / mar / two thousand fifteen