Raelene Gannon moves tea from cup to plate

Raelene Gannon returns to George Brown at Trending Now series

“If you are not a tea drinker–than cook with it!” said Raelene Gannon, one of the first fifteen certified tea sommeliers in Canada as she inspired guests of The Chef’s House to try something new on March 9.

Gannon was looking for a good match to scones as part of a tea and food pairing course at George Brown College (GBC), when she thought to herself, “why can’t I put tea in the scone?” A few more recipes followed and then an idea for a book came into sight. “From that first course I knew I was in trouble, I was hooked, but I really fell in love with it,” said Gannon.

With no professional culinary background, Gannon, who graduated from GBC in 2010, describes herself as “just a foodie.” Gannon calls her concept of integrating tea into food, the “tea from cup to plate revolution.”

It started in China, where she traveled for one of her jobs. On the last trip she got so sick, she could not drink her usual morning cup of coffee and turned to jasmine tea instead. “Coming from Canadian red rose boxed tea, I never heard of anything like (jasmine tea).”

The entire menu of the night was based on the recipes from Gannon’s self-published cookbook, Tea: from cup to plate. “I was a part of every process, from developing recipes to design, layout and pictures,” she said.

A couple twists on the menu came from cooperation with chefs and the desire to try new things. “I just want to inspire people to try this whole new concept of tea and cooking with it,” said Gannon.

As a flavour, tea brings exceptional fragrance to literally everything, from blueberry tea cocktails and pomegranate green tea martinis served during the reception, to cauliflower and cheese butternut spice tea soup. Those keen on sauces had a blast enjoying tea pesto and walnuts on crostini. Lapsang souchong tea chicken lettuce wraps and baked Canadian triple brie with assorted flatbreads followed.

The real hit, however, were the oolong tea braised beef short ribs with butternut squash rooibos risotto arancini, served with herbal scented celeriac puree and rooibos glazed carrots. The scrumptious dinner also featured French wines: gewürztraminer and Chateauneuf-du-pape. Earl grey tea chocolate cake with lavender ice cream and orange sauce closed the evening.

“It was such an eye-opener for me to see everyone’s inspired faces,” said Gannon who said she enjoyed every smile and every interaction. “It is teaching where everyone wins. When somebody teaches and somebody learns, we all listen and we all learn.”

According to Alison Fryer, a professor at the chef school and a coordinator of the event series, one of the ideas behind the Trending Now dinners is to bring back successful graduates to motivate and mentor current students. Fryer said that bringing women chefs back is even more important as a way to show that the industry has successful women as well as men.

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Raelene Gannon moves tea from cup to plate