RAW:almond popping up in Gimli for seafarer-inspired experience

RAW:almond popping up in Gimli for seafarer-inspired experience

Winter pop-up restaurant RAW:almond is taking its extreme dining concept to three locations around Manitoba, including its first trip to Gimli.

With 40 new menus and three different architectural concepts, the annual outdoor eating experience launched by Chef Mandel Hitzer of Deer + Almond and architect Joe Kalturnyk brings together locally inspired dishes prepared by internationally trained chefs.

Hitzer will be the featured chef at the Gimli event, which will be held on frozen Lake Winnipeg from Dec. 29 to Jan. 7, and organizers say the menu will reflect the region.

"When I think about Manitobans, we often consider ourselves these Prairie folk, but there's this inherent part of our culture that we're also at the same time seafarers," Hitzer said.

"All the lakes that are scattered throughout Manitoba, learning to fish and being on a boat was part of my childhood and also part of my adulthood growing up."

Cooking fish on a frozen lake will play heavily into the theme of the Gimli event, but Hitzer said he's keeping the menu secret. 

"The hard part for customers and patrons coming to RAW:almond is leaving your expectations at home, and not knowing what you're getting into is a big part of what we ask people to participate in, because we're so used to being able to go and get what we want."

The concept returns to Churchill, setting up inside Fort Prince of Wales, in partnership with Frontiers North Canada and Parks Canada. That event runs from March 2 to 10.

The main Winnipeg event, from Jan. 19 to Feb. 13, will feature a record 16 chefs from across Canada, along with more than a dozen local chefs.

Hitzer said he's never invited this many chefs from outside the province before.

He spent a lot of time networking and reflecting on what RAW:almond should be, he said. 

"Why are we doing this, why are we here? And it always comes down to the same thing, is we're building community and it's a collaboration."

This season's lineup includes Saskatoon chef Christie Peters, owner of the Hollow and Primal, which are known for their heavy focus on sustainability and feature on-site horticulturists.

Edmonton Chef Christine Sandford will be featured at the Winnipeg event for the first time. Sandford is head chef at Biera in Ritchie Market and co-founded collaborative pop-up group Staff Meal Edmonton.

The Winnipeg event will also feature Mitchell Bates of Toronto, owner and chef at Grey Gardens.

Ticket prices for the Gimli and Winnipeg events are $130 and $140 respectively, plus tax and tip. Gimli tickets are already on sale at raw-almond.com. Winnipeg tickets go on sale Sunday at 10 a.m. at The Forks Market on a first-come, first-served basis. Remaining tickets will be sold on the site.

Churchill tickets can be purchased as part of a tour package through Frontiers North.