Friday, June 5, 2015

Food for Thought with Alex Bielak - Les Marmitons - Cooks Without Pants

Les Marmitons - Cooks Without Pants 

Made you look! More on pants, or lack there-of, below.

In my last column, while extolling the virtues of several chefs under whose direction I have had the pleasure and privilege of cooking, I mentioned a cooking group I’m a member of. Here’s some more information about it, and how to express interest in joining.

A “Marmiton” was traditionally a young kitchen helper or apprentice chef, and Les Marmitons is a men’s cooking organization with 17 chapters across Canada and the U.S. The Niagara and Toronto clubs are within a manageable drive of Hamilton/Burlington, depending where you live: I’m involved with both. Members at clubs benefit from cooking on pro equipment at culinary colleges, the Canadian Food and Wine Institute at Niagara College, and Liaison College West, in Etobicoke, respectively.

Chapters organize events more or less monthly between September and May, including special ones

that include wives/partners. A typical evening involves ~25 members and guests prepping and cooking under a guest Chef’s direction. The menu is usually 4-5 courses developed by Chef in consultation with the club. After every course each team lead talks about how things went in preparing the dish, the club’s sommelier speaks to the wine match, and then Chef critiques the team’s efforts.

Apart from a great meal and camaraderie, participants learn a great deal about food, cooking and wine pairing along the way. Les Marmitons has been in existence almost 40 years now: It has great history and traditions, and our motto is “From Friendship to Gastronomy.” We do indeed have a great deal of fun, and just after this piece is submitted, I’m departing for the 30th annual international gala weekend hosted by the Barrie Chapter in Collingwood. Our guest chefs have fun too judging by the number who come back and cook with us multiple times, and our spouses support our participation enthusiastically, as there are many related benefits (like the coming weekend event which includes them), not to mention leftovers!

Potential members should have some basic cooking and knife skills (a safety issue in a busy kitchen), but far more so, a passion for cooking, and good food and wine. A prospective member usually has to attend a couple of events before being considered for full membership. If readers are interested in joining they are encouraged to first contact the President of the club closest to them (details are available via the Chapters tab on the website).

Oh and that no pants thing? Marmitons don’t pretend to be chefs. While we wear chefs’ jackets and toques (for safety and sanitary reasons), only a real chef has the right to wear those chequered chefs’ pants!

To see all past columns please see (and “like”) the Food for Thought Archives

Alex (Alex can be reached at fft@thehamiltonian.info or on twitter @AlexBielak)


  1. AnonymousJune 05, 2015

    If you have room for seconds...

    “Now heading his own firm, Dr. Bielak held senior positions with the U.N., government departments, & NGOs working in natural resources and environment. He led the global K* initiative & served as Senior Advisor to the UN-Water Chair. He remains involved with the Canadian Water Network as a member of the Watershed Research Consortium Management Cttee, and as expert reviewer on Knowledge Application. Alex has also recently joined Water Witness as International Senior Advisor.

    As Science & Technology Liaison Director at Environment Canada, charged with linking science with policy development, his group pioneered award-winning knowledge translation/knowledge broker tools and approaches adopted across Canadian federal government departments as best practices. Prior to that Alex was A/Director General, in Environment Canada’s new Science & Technology Branch leading a new Directorate and a team developing Environment Canada's first-ever Science Plan.

    A dynamic and widely published speaker, NATO Scholar and alumnus of the Banff Centre’s inaugural Science Communications Residency, his expertise is sought worldwide as an authority on science communications, science-policy linkages, & knowledge translation and brokering.

    Specialties: science communication, knowledge translation, knowledge brokering, knowledge mobilization, public speaking, science-policy linkages, Water science.”



  2. Hi Anonymous:
    you appear to have found my Linked In profile, a matter of public record as anyone with Google can ascertain.

    That profile also lists my food and drink, and other writing activities.

    I think your point might be that I should be writing about environmental issues as well, particularly in Hamilton. If so, thanks for the suggestion. I've done my share of writing on envirnmenal issues, including locally.

    That is not the mandate of Food for Thought, which I hope you enjoy for its own merits.

  3. AnonymousJune 12, 2015

    Connecting with one's passion is totally valid and requires no apologies. As well, it is always fantastic to see The Hamiltonian shine a light on the city's unsung riches.

    At the same time, Hamilton's environmental challenges are legion, yet largely absent from the editorial content of this electronic publication. IMO, anyone who can bring those issues to life in a vivid and compelling way would be a huge credit to the City and The Hamiltonian. At the end of the day, it's an editorial decision, not an ethical obligation. Chacun à son goût.


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