Christine Sandford is pretty hot right now

Chef Sandford

Chef Sandford

It’s a Monday afternoon and we are toiling away in the July heat, mortaring heavy rocks in our odd-looking cob oven creation. Christine zooms into the Vesta Gardens parking lot and comes up to the construction site in her city clothes and fancy shades, looking keen and raring to go. It’s her holiday and she chooses to spend it with us – John Schneider, Kathryn Joel, Debra Krause, and I – breaking backs, instead of popping cans of beer.

Perhaps the most remarkable quality of Christine is how unassuming she is. She carefully listens to John as he explains what we are doing here and before we know it she is deep in momentum. On her regular days, she works as a butcher with the team at ACME Meat. However, she is trained as a chef, and is a bit of a rockstar at it. She is returning from working at In de Wulf,

Potato: Stuffed new potatoes with pickled potato and wild mustard flowers garnish.

Potato: Stuffed new potatoes with pickled potato and wild mustard flowers garnish.

a one-star Michelin restaurant in Belgium. As we take a break and walk over to Deb’s tiny Cascade hops creeper plant at her farm, she is excitedly telling me about a Belgian recipe that uses fresh hops as a herb. How many people can say they have even had such a conversation! But, she quickly admits that she has a lot to learn about local prairie influences.

Pea: Cold pea soup, peas, creme fraiche, pea tendrils, piment d'Esplette

Pea: Cold pea soup, peas, creme fraiche, pea tendrils, piment d’Esplette

Less than a week before the cob oven construction, I was nervously bussing beautifully presented plates of Basque-influenced food to eager customers at a Staff Meals event. Christine is one of the five founding members of Staff Meals – a series of dinner popups that unites the creativities of some truly talented chefs. The food was delightful and the execution impeccable. However, what I took back home from it was the use of local ingredients. Christine’s dessert employed rhubarb and edible flowers (local prairie influences) in a masterful design that married textures and flavours remarkably. It’s the small things that make all this work well, I was thinking, as I destroyed one of her arrangements with my grubby face.

In the mean time, Christine has gone on to win the Edmonton Food Fight at Taste of Edmonton where she battled some big names in the #yegfood scene, gave her out-of-the-box feminine take on food, and executed perfect seasoning. Her achievements speak mighty of her skills, but her humbleness and desire to learn is something that is going to take her to great heights. She could easily be running a kitchen in Edmonton, given that she departed the city a few years ago as Chef de Cuisine at Culina Mill Creek, but chooses to instead master every small detail of butchery.

She’s pretty hot right now and you should be dining at her Dinner Club on August 11th. Get your tickets to her multi-course dinner here: Tickets

Rhubarb being barbecued for dessert

Rhubarb being barbecued for dessert