La Chaîne is an organization involved in food and wine – the unique interfacing of professionals and amateurs versed in "l'art de la cuisine et la culture de la table".
Welcome from Bill Pechtel, Bailli Regional, Edmonton
This year marked by 4th year as Bailli of Alberta Nord. As each year has passed I have become much more comfortable with the role of Bailli and the responsibilities that come with the position. Over the years I have developed my own style as does every Bailli. Most importantly I have tried to maintain the integrity and goals of the Chaine while at the same time realizing that the times are changing and if the Chaine is to continue and thrive, we too must adapt. As we continue to attract new members who like us value fine cuisine and wines and the effort required to prepare our dinners, we must also see that the expectations are changing. The types of meals and restaurants that are now most popular are not what proved successful even 10 years ago. It will be important for the Chaine as an organization to adapt to new trends while not straying from its core values.
Over the past 4 years, in spite of the inevitable loss of a few members each year, we have grown our Bailliage to roughly 80 members which represents almost 150 people. This has really helped us in attaining very good turnouts at all our events which is a testament to our Professional members and the quality of the dinners that they prepare for us. One of the challenges however that I do see is that given the state of our Alberta economy we will have to work closely with our current Professionals as well as to attract new venues to join the Chaine. Across Canada we are seeing the trend to having a black tie event of 6 courses as opposed to 7, and Amicale events of 5 courses instead of 6. Basically in many cases people are eating less and in the other case the venues are not always able to provide the types of dinners with as many courses as we have done in the past given the budgets we provide them with. One only has to look at the daily paper or listen to the news and food costs as well as labour costs are consistently going up. We will have no choice going forward but to adjust.
High School Culinary Challenge
One of the major objectives of the Chaine is to nurture young culinary talent. For many years we have supported the High School Challenge which is spearheaded by our own Simon Smotkowicz. It is here that young men and women start to decide if a career in the culinary arts is of real interest for them. Nearly 30 Edmonton and area schools participate and the winners are acknowledged at a gala dinner at the Shaw Convention Centre Hall D every year. This year over 400 people were in attendance to support and acknowledge all the 2015 competitors. The top 3 schools were Jasper Place Composite High School with the Gold, M. E. Lazerte Composite High School with the Silver and Archbishop Jordan High School from Sherwood Park won the Bronze.
We have made the decision in 2014 to host a mountain event and to do it every 2 years. Given the great success of the 2014 event held at the Post Hotel we have already arranged to return to the Post in the fall of 2016. The dates will be September 30 to October 1st which is a Friday/Saturday event. This very special event will first be limited to members only after which depending on RSVPs will then be made available to guests. In looking over our 2015 events we had an excellent balance between black tie and Amicale events. I personally felt that this past year may have been one of the best overall years for dinners as we were treated to some wonderful creations by some of Edmonton's most talented chefs.
My hard working executive is as follows:
As most of you know 2015 also marks my last year as Bailli as Ron Ryland (past President of the Edmonton Petroleum Club) will be taking over from me. I will however be working closely with Ron throughout 2016 to ease the transition. My wife Sue and I sold our business in late 2014 after 40 years and will be spending a bit more time traveling and as well 2016 will bring us our first grandchild. I have sincerely enjoyed my time as your Bailli. During the past 4 years I have really come to know the membership well. I very much look forward to many more years of enjoying your company at future Chaine events.