A dozen graduates from College of the North Atlantic (CNA) volunteered at the annual Eat the Hill event in Clarenville, working side-by-side with professional chefs to serve hundreds of people at the two-day food festival.
Eat the Hill, which is organized by CNA culinary arts instructor Chris Sheppard and former instructor Roger Dewling, incorporates winter activities, entertainment and food from some of the top chefs in the province. All proceeds from the event go to White Hills Resort in Clarenville for facility upkeep and improvements.
Those attending the fifth annual Eat the Hill in Clarenville witnessed the committee hitting their stride, preparing food for some 340 people in the sold-out event, which in turn has a great economic impact on the region.
“Our market for Eat the Hill is getting bigger,” Sheppard said. “Of the 130 tickets Friday night only 50 were sold to people from Clarenville. Of Saturday’s 190 tickets, 90 were from Clarenville. From a tourism perspective, the research shows that people who come for food events overnight spend about $120 per person, per day in town. So that’s about a $27,000 economic impact for the region from this two-day festival. That is not including the cost of tickets to Eat the Hill.”
Peter Burt of Raymonds Restaurant has attended for the past two years. He prepared Da-Woods Pie which consisted of a rabbit, moose, beef and beaver stew covered in puff pastry and brushed with bee pollen. He says he wanted a dish that focused on ingredients from some of the game available here in Newfoundland.
“I was just trying to think whatever Newfoundland I could do,” Burt said. “I kept everything local so I did local beef, rabbit, moose and beaver because that’s kind of what we have and because we are here at a ski hill, I wanted to make sure it was hot so I went with a pie. It’s very indicative to what we do at Raymonds, but in a more casual setting.”
While this was the second time Burt attended Eat the Hill, his family is from Clarenville.
“My mom lives out here. Last year was the first time I actually skied the hill because I didn’t grow up here. I was looking forward to it and I contacted Roger a while ago to say, ‘If you’re doing it, I’m in.’ It’s a great event and a lot of fun and I’ll come back again.”
Someone else who would be keen to return is Kaitlyn Oldford of Bonavista. Kaitlyn is a two-time graduate of CNA. The 21-year-old graduated from the Cook program in 2014 and is seasonally employed at Bonavista Social Club. Oldford has been participating in Eat the Hill
since it started five years ago, even relocating to St. John’s couldn’t keep her away from volunteering this year.
“The atmosphere keeps me coming back each year,” Oldford said. “I enjoy being around everyone because it doesn’t happen very often. It’s nice to be here to see what everyone is making, see what’s new, and catch up with everyone. Every year people do new things and you get to watch everyone prepare their food. It’s great when everyone gets together to help each other plate up, and everyone pushes to get the food out. I hope I get asked back every time.”
While the Chef’s Dinner on the event’s Saturday has sold out each year, Sheppard says they seem to have finally found the right Friday event to partner with it.
“We started off trying a Sunday afternoon thing to try to incorporate more people who were skiing and coming in, then we converted to Friday night and did a dessert night so it was all pastry chefs, and that worked well but again, it didn’t really get the people out,” Sheppard said. “Last year we decided to do the Gastro Pub theme, and while our numbers were good, the people who attended last year were super excited to attend again. We had a lot of return people from last year and I think we got a lot of new people based on the enthusiasm from the people who attended last year.”
He says working with some of the best chefs in the business also makes his job that much easier.
“This was probably the smoothest one we’ve had. When it comes to the chefs, they take care of themselves, besides the logistics of getting them here and the accommodations. We work with chefs who we can depend on and trust, and they will do what said they would do; they will show up and have their work done and prepare their food. That part of it is easy,” Sheppard said, noting it comes down to finding a pattern of how to move people through the kitchen facilities.
Sheppard says Eat the Hill is finally becoming what they originally envisioned five years ago – a family event.
“A lot of these chefs are asking to take part from one event to the next. So many want to be invited and are asking to come to these events because they have a good time, it is good promotion for their business and it’s a weekend away. This year a lot of the chefs brought their families, more than we ever had before. They skied or snowboarded on the weekend and we put them in a hotel with a pool so the kids can swim,” Sheppard said.
“In fact, we had so many kids this year that next year we’re going to hire babysitters to take the kids swimming and do activities while their parents are at Eat the Hill. It’s become a family event, which when we started this, really was what we wanted. I’m glad to see this year that is finally happening.”
For more information about Eat the Hill, visit www.eatthehill.com
Public Relations Specialist
College of the North Atlantic