Official Liaison College Blog

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Michael Smith Gets Help from Liaison College Barrie Students

Liaison College helps make evening with Chef Michael Smith a success!
When it comes to shucking and eating oysters, more than knowing what to season them with or how to slurp them back, the most important thing to remember is this: do not stab your hands with the blunt, oyster shucking knife.

Actually -- Chef Michael Smith told the culinary students assisting him recently with the Marché-style dinner that kicked off his “Muskoka Weekend with Chef Michael Smith” at Deerhurst Resort -- do not let the weekend’s guests stab themselves while shucking their own Prince Edward Island Malpeques.

“Let’s all be careful tonight and protect our guests,” Smith, Canada’s best-known chef and host of Chef Michael’s Kitchen on the Food Network, cautioned the Liaison College-Barrie Campus students, about an hour before the approximately 320 people who registered for his second annual epicurean getaway came in through the ballroom’s doors.

“Other than that, we’ll just wing it, because we really can’t mess this up,” he joked before giving the students a shucking demonstration and a primer on the oysters’ main condiment for the evening: a Bloody Mary granita.

It turned out that the PEI Oyster Station, with its cheeky, chalk-on-blackboard signs reading Go shuck yourself and Shuck, suck, slurp, swallow, was the star of the night. The other nine stations, serving gourmet poutine made with fingerling potatoes and Northern Ontario “Thornloe” cheese curds, handing out thick parsnip-and-pear soup “shooters”, and offering two-bite beef, lamb and turkey burgers, certainly had their traffic.

But the biggest draw was Smith who, decked in jeans and a casual dress shirt, greeted everyone who lined up to shuck their own oysters and posed and smiled for dozens of pictures, his 6’7’’ frame towering above the heads surrounding him. Over a three-hour period, he also helped a never-ending line of guests shuck what appeared to be hundreds of oysters.

“He is very real,” said Linda Duval, who along with her husband Gene, had travelled to Muskoka from the Caledon area. “I’ve always loved watching him on television and it’s great to see he’s just as personable when the cameras aren’t on.”

Peter and Lisa Thomson of the Niagara Region, taking in the weekend for a second year, were equally impressed. “We are having a great time!” Lisa enthused. “Everything is running very smoothly this year. The line-ups aren’t as long and the food is absolutely outstanding.”

The Thomsons, veterans of “culinary tourism” – which the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance says is one of the fastest trends growing in Ontario – were also delighted to have received earlier in the day a complimentary, and already signed, copy of Smith’s latest book, “Fast Flavours – 110 Simple Speedy Recipes.”

In addition to the guests, Smith also managed to charm his student assistants, who like him, worked hard all night to ensure no one lacked for anything.

“Earlier, he sat down with us to answer our questions and tell us what to expect in our careers,” said Nikke Jeffries, an Advanced Level culinary student with Liaison College. “It was very inspirational.”

Maureen Hanley, who manages operations for Smith, said he never misses an opportunity to mentor the next generation of chefs. “He’s very passionate about food education and food literacy. These things are very important to him.”

At one point during the night, Smith climbed on stage to declare everyone who had shucked and eaten an oyster, without shedding any blood, an “honourary Prince Edward Islander,” and warned that the evening was just a warm up.

“This weekend is anything but just about putting food on the plate,” he told his rapt audience. “Tomorrow, in our morning session, I’ll tell you all about my food philosophy and share some crazy stories. At night, we’ll get behind the scenes, as we prepare our ‘Cook-the-Book’ dinner. I am thrilled to be here at Deerhurst, which is one of the top kitchens in the country, and I look forward to cooking with you!”

The “Muskoka Weekend with Chef Michael Smith” took place Oct. 26-28, 2012 at Deerhurst Resort. For more information visit

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