Namaste Lamb, Fall Flavours September 23, 2017

Namaste. For many westerners, the first exposure to the greeting is usually associated with yoga. The word conjures up feelings of being peaceful, tranquil. But the addition of a little four letter word changes everything. Lamb. Pairing up namaste and lamb, the evening got a whole lot spicier.

In India, namaste is a not really a yoga-related term at all. According to Deepak Singh in an NPR article from 2015, “It was the equivalent of hello, but with an element of respect.”

At the beginning of his speech, chef Vikram Vij greeted his guests with namaste, then encouraged everyone to greet each other similarly. The crowd enthusiastically joined in the respectful salutation. And then Vij started adding the seasoning.

Chef Vikram Vij // Photo Credit: Richard Schroeter/Salty

“Use your hands when eating. You don’t make love with a knife and fork.” were chef’s instructions for the evening. “This will be the best Indian orgasm you’ve ever had.”

Chef Vikram had an agenda for this second Namaste Lamb event (there were two other lamb-focused events in 2014-2015 as part of Fall Flavours); amidst the levity and jokes he brought a serious message about how lucky one is to live in Canada, not to take it for granted, and to support and lift up all communities, no matter one’s point of origin. He paused to ask the whole audience to join him in thanking the Canadian Forces, specifically HMCS Charlottetown, whom he cooked for in December of 2016.

Photo Credit: Richard Schroeter/Salty

His enthusiasm for the food, the event, and relationships buoyed up the guests, who attended from almost every province and territory in Canada.

After Vij listed his reasons for becoming a chef (food, alcohol and sex, in that order), he invited local chef Andrew Millar, executive chef at Rodd Crowbush Golf & Beach Resort, to the front. After saying a few words, Millar took his leave to head back to the centre of operations, the prep tent. The tent sat innocuously behind the main venue, but teemed with servers and kitchen staff.

Millar led the team for this event. “We started prep with the Samosas at the beginning of the week. Thursday and Friday were the busiest, with chef Vikram checking the flavours and adding spices.”

Chef Andrew Millar outside of the preparation tent. // Photo Credit: Laura Weatherbie/Salty

There’s a delay with the samosas: the entire kitchen went into overdrive. Samosas need to be fried twice, Millar said. Once at high temperature and again at a low temperature, and the low temperature posed a challenge.

The overall delay might have been ten minutes. Vij was so entertaining, no one realized there was an issue.

Another featured guest was Steven Taran from Harmony Meadow Farm, who supplied the lamb for the evening’s meal. He spoke a bit about their farming philosophy. “We have alot of respect for our animals. We like to say our animals have really good lives, and one bad day.”

Taran added they’re very proud of being featured on the menu of chef Vikram for Fall Flavours, but also regularly on local menus by chefs including Kyle Panton (Sim’s Steakhouse—Charlottetown) and Michael Smith (Fireworks—Bay Fortune). “Five years ago I never would have predicted we’d be here.”

When not speaking through the P.A., Vij circulated among the tables and spoke to diners as they tasted his recipes. DJ Jiten spun modern Bollywood and Bhangra music, while video monitors and purple-dominant lights decorated the interior of the tent. There were promises of dancing once all of the dishes were cleared away.

DJ Jiten sets the tone //Photo Credit: Laura Weatherbie/Salty

Haley Zavo, executive director at The Kings Playhouse, hosted the night. “I love how much attention chef Vikram Vij and Namaste Lamb gives Eastern PEI, especially in shoulder season.” She highlighted the resources of local chefs, and how their knowledge of local ingredients elevates the entire event. “And that knowledge is here all of the time.”

The sun sets as guests dine. //Photo Credit: Laura Weatherbie/Salty