Pictured above: Chef professor Michael Olson will be featured as part of the CFWI’s Chef Signature Series May 9 at Benchmark Restaurant. Photo by Stephen Dominick.
Niagara College chef professor Michael Olson is dishing out a blast from Niagara’s past.
On May 9 when NC’s Canadian Food and Wine Institute shines the spotlight on Olson for the final segment of its CFWI Chef Signature Series Olson will take his guests back two decades to a time that holds a special place in his heart – his days at On the Twenty Restaurant in Jordan.
After a successful career in some of Toronto’s finest restaurants Olson was drawn to the Niagara region in 1993 to work at On The Twenty where he came to be known as the father of Niagara regional cuisine for his farm-to-table approach. It proved to be a defining time for Olson as well as Niagara’s food scene.
“On The Twenty is what brought me to Niagara. It was an exciting time for me as a cook because I was able to be a part of a movement that led to Niagara becoming a food and wine destination” recalls Olson.
For his Chef Signature Series dinner event Olson is whipping up fan favourite dishes from his years at the winery restaurant where Niagara wines are paired with regional cuisine. Dishes will be accompanied by wines from Jordan’s Cave Spring Cellars as well as beer that Olson is crafting at the NC Teaching Brewery specifically for the occasion. The event will be a reunion of his former colleagues customers and suppliers at On the Twenty Restaurant.
During his time at On The Twenty Olson also met his wife Food Network celebrity chef Anna Olson. Anna will also be participating in the event preparing breads and desserts to be served.
Olson has had a successful career before arriving in Niagara. He has worked in such establishments as the Coco Lezzone and the Liberty in Toronto as well as Navy Blues in Oakville. In Niagara in addition to On The Twenty he worked at 17 Noir at the Fallsview Casino. He joined the faculty at Niagara College 12 years ago.
Olson is co-author of Inn on the Twenty Cookbook and Cook at Home with his wife Anna Olson is a food writer for Sun Media and Taps Magazine and has appeared on television shows including Fresh with Anna Olson and Canada in the Rough. He is a Fellow of Ontario Hostelry Institute and recipient of Independent Restaurateur Educator of the Year and Lifetime Achievement awards through the OHI.
Olson’s event on May 9 will wrap up the Canadian Food and Wine Institute’s Chef Signature Series. The popular series of dinner events was designed to showcase the talents of CFWI chef professors. Guests are served a four-course meal of signature dishes prepared by the featured chef assisted by a team of culinary students. Each course will be matched with VQA wines or Ontario craft beer including selections crafted by students at NC’s Teaching Winery and Teaching Brewery. The events take place at Benchmark the College’s teaching restaurant located at Niagara College’s Niagara-on-the-Lake Campus.
Each event showcased the unique talents and expertise of a different CFWI professor. The series kicked off with Mark Picone on Feb. 7 Olaf Mertens on March 6 Osvaldo Avila on March 22 Tony de Luca on April 4 and Avi Hollo on April 25.