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The King of Cod: One Fish, Five Extraordinary Dishes

Friday Night at Roots, Rants and Roars.

Over the past few years, a culinary revolution has swept over Newfoundland and Labrador and The Roots, Rants and Roars festival in Elliston is a perfect example. It’s a regional celebration of the natural gifts of the province: food, culture, land and sea. The Friday night event, “King of Cod”, kicked off the weekend of culinary delights, featuring cod as the hero, or as Todd Perrin – one of the chief organizers of the event – would say, Newfoundland’s “national dish”. Five local chefs took their own creative spin on the tasty fish by reinventing it in unique and refreshing ways.

With lively traditional Newfoundland music setting the tone for the start of my evening, I set forth to the first station, my stomach growling in anticipation. I arrived to meet Chris Chafe, Executive Chef at Magnum & Steins and the youngest chef at the event. He decided to take a Mexican spin on traditional food by creating a cod tostada with a pulled pork and black bean chili, guacamole, pickled red onion and tomato salsa, topped with handmade queso-fresco and edible flowers. It sounds like there’s a lot going on, but as I nibbled away I realized how integral each ingredient was to the delectable dish as a whole. I experienced a combination of flavours and textures that surprisingly enough complemented each other extremely well. It was utter perfection.

I continued to walk around the event grounds, which were lit up with delicate white lights, adding to the ambience of the outdoor fine dining experience. Next it was time for Jeremy Charles of Raymonds, who featured “Face and Chips”, a clever name for his dish of fried cod head, tongue and cheeks. Lucky for me, the line was right by Rasa – a folk-pop duo consisting of Sandy Morris and Erin Best, who played some soulful tunes, which made the wait go by much faster. It was my first time having cod head, and I loved it. Battered. Fried. Delicious.

'Chef Jeremy Charles preparing 'Face and Chips'

And the eating didn’t stop there. After I refreshed my wine glass, I was ready for more incredible food. This included tempura-battered deep fried cod in a miso curry dressing, chimchurri glazed cod with minted cous cous and pickled veg, and butter-braised salt cod with pork and screech sausage. Needless to say, I wished I’d worn stretchy pants.

Cod with pulled pork

After gorging on gourmet Newfoundland food with a twist, I walked around as people talked, laughed and danced. Everyone was in high spirits after eating more than enough scrumptious cod. And because this is Newfoundland, home of the friendliest people in the world, I easily made some new friends and continued my evening chatting with them while enjoying the musical headliner: Sean Panting. His lively tunes finished off an amazing evening filled with dancing, friends and food.

Glazed Cod

Tonight, I experienced very passionate Newfoundland chefs tackle traditional food in ways that have never been done before, while still remaining true to their roots. It was inspiring, fascinating and very, very delicious. Codfish, and the codfish industry have been a vital part of Newfoundland and Labrador heritage, culture and cuisine, and after tonight’s feast I now understand why cod is king around here.