For the last four months or so, Bob Blumer has been working on his latest cookbook. He'll be working on it in the airport on his way to Prince George. He'll be working on it at the hotel while he's here. But when the pans get hot at the PG Chef's Challenge Dinner, he will be focused on the food.
Blumer has made a custom out of judging this city's best culinary competitions and he is getting to know the people involved, and their restaurants. One of the reasons the celebrity writer of cookbooks and host of hit food shows is so eager to wing back up to P.G. from his home in L.A. is the quality.
"I have to say, the quality of food in Prince George is amazing," he said. "I mean, all of them: Ryan (Cyre of White Goose Bistro) for fine dining, Jagdish (Gill from Karahi King) for Indian, all of them. I'd be happy finding their meals here in Los Angeles."
Joining these two local kitchen masters in the challenge are Brian Quarmby of Birch & Boar Butchery, Kelly MacKenzie from Cimo Mediterranean Grill, and Jim Demarce from The Twisted Cork.
Each chef will present their original dish as a course for the meal which will be concluded with an original dessert from none other than Blumer himself. Throughout the evening, Bob will be interviewing the chefs as their dish is served and the winner will be decided by votes from the audience and a panel of guest judges.
All of this is in aid of the Prince George Hospice Society. Again, Blumer is happy to help a worthy cause in Prince George, as he does with so many charities. He has a public platform, he said, and feels it important to use that to affect positive change.
To that end, he is heavily involved in organizations like Second Harvest, No Kid Hungry, and Love Food Hate Waste. Food security is a common theme in that philanthropy, and food rescue in particular. This is a waste reduction philosophy that for Blumer stems back to his beginnings in show business when he wasn't on television or smiling out from bookstore shelves. He was a manager of music acts. In those days, he and the musicians he represented were often gone for long tours in strange places, and often the money was tight for long patches of time. Blumer, in survivalist mode, made every food dollar stretch like the skin of a drum. He became frugal, creative and health-conscious about every morsel.
"I have found my niche in this conversation in coming up with creative ways to use all these foods that we often end up throwing out and wasting," he said. "I get a lot of pleasure out of trying to inspire people to use their food and their leftovers and their soon-to-be-composted things in creative ways."
His food rescue motives are illustrated by a recent IdeaCity speech he gave (the annual bright ideas symposium created and hosted by Moses Znaimer) in Toronto. He used the bits and dregs of the common kitchen (the nearly empty packages and nearly expired jars) to make a delicious pizza. It was a modern take on the Stone Soup fable, and it made splendid use out of food in our own kitchens we were about to waste.
"You're not going to save the world rescuing this little red bell pepper, but how you do the little things is how you do everything," Blumer said in the speech. If we curtail the waste in our own homes, and then demand the same of our grocery stores and farmers, it puts more food into our own mouths, allowing for better distribution of the food we therefore don't need to use in its place, and even more important than that is not wasting the energy, the greenhouse gases, the transportation and packaging resources, etc. that go down the drain when good food gets discarded instead of eaten as intended.
Making amazing food in unorthodox ways is the topic of his next book. He's aiming it at an international release date within a matter of months, so he has his creativity levels on rolling boil.
"It is really about how to cook anything but in a rogue way as opposed to how you'd cook if you had been taught by Thomas Keller (acclaimed chef) or someone from the CIA (Culinary Institute of America). It's from my 30 years of travelling around the world, entering competitions, hosting shows, working with chefs, working with winemakers, watching a lot of street-food vendors make what they make, all distilled down into a book... tricks, tips, hacks, all my learning."
Blumer also has his name on two new television projects being pitched to undisclosed networks.
"I'm at a point now where I'd like it to happen, but if it doesn't happen I still feel very fortunate to have made shows for 12 years in a row and I have lots of other things I'm working on," he said.
The book is almost all-consuming at the moment, and when you have a mind as creative as Blumer's (he set seven food-related benchmarks with the Guiness Book of World Records, as an aside to his on-air duties and authorship), another great idea isn't far away.
"My mother was an English teacher and I was the bane of her existence because I was so bad at English, so if she knew, at this point in the game, I was working on my seventh book, she would roll over in her grave with a smile on her face. She wouldn't believe it," he said.
To taste his dessert and sumptuously dine on the feature dishes of PG's best chefs, all vying for the title and talking with Blumer live at the creation station, book your seat at the table for PG's Chef Challenge Dinner on Wednesday night at the Black Clover Banquet Hall.
Tickets are $100 with proceeds to the Hospice Society. Seating is limited and the event is popular so email your wish to attend as soon as possible: firstname.lastname@example.org.