Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Home is Where the Soothed Appetite Is

"We have people who come to site, they don't know what a mango is... They try to eat them like apples."
"We can go through tonnes of bologna, white bread and ketchup and then the next night you'll go through a couple hundred pounds of tenderloin that's wrapped in prosciutto and slow-roasted. It really goes the full spectrum."
"People have never had cherries that haven't come out of a jar."
"The only cardinal rule we seem to have is on Tuesdays they get prime rib or rib eye [steaks]."
Executive Chef Allan Bedard, Goldcorp Musselwhite Mine, northern Ontario
An apple, bacon, pecan and blue cheese stuffed pork tenderloin wrapped in prosciutto and roasted and topped with a maple rosemary butter at Musselwhite Mine.
Handout/ Musselwhite Mine    An apple, bacon, pecan and blue cheese stuffed pork tenderloin wrapped in prosciutto and roasted and topped with a maple rosemary butter at Musselwhite Mine.
"We have the best restaurant north of 60."
"It's a key to maintaining stability within the workforce. If you don't have a very good camp facility and food is not great, word spreads fast."
Dale Coffin, director, corporate communications, Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd., Nunavut

"They all say: 'We have great food, really comfortable accommodations' and all that."
"I feel that as there is more development in remote locations, the companies setting up these operations do make a point to make it seem more luxurious. So it's not like you're living in a tent or a trailer."
Oliver Carusone, 22, fourth-year student, Robert M. Buchan Department of Mining, Queen's University

"The trend has been toward fresh, away from frozen, pre-prepared stuff, away from greasy, french fry stuff. People are much more interested in healthy options."
"The sky's the limit. It'll be as good as any Toronto high-end restaurant. But then there are lots of other ones where it's a much more basic offering."
Dave O'Connor, managing director, Outland Camps, catering/remote workforce company
Handout/ Musselwhite Mine
Handout/ Musselwhite MineSirloin steak in a garlic and coffee rub served with a fennel and citrus braised cabbage, topped with sous vide soft poached eggs at Musselwhite Mine.
"With employees on site for 14 days at a time, we have to make sure the food is very good to keep up morale, but we don't want to give the impression that it's filet mignon and crab legs every night."
Tom Ormsby, director, external and corporate affairs, De Beers Canada
The "restaurant" of which Mr. Coffin spoke belonging to Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd., is located 170 kilometres south of the Arctic Circle at the Meadowbank mine in the Kivaliq region of Canada's newest territory, Nunavut. Half of the workers employed there are from Quebec, and another 30% from Nunavut. It's a fly-in, fly-out concern where workers are deployed on a two-on, two-off shift; two weeks on work site, two weeks relief off.

Temperatures can descend to minus 70C, counting the wind chill and the days in winter are gloomily dark. Since alcohol is banned at the camps, food remains the sole comfort for workers separated from family. A 2012 Mining Association of Canada report came to the conclusion that within another decade the mining industry will require fully one hundred thousand additional workers to meet the need of the northern mines workforce. How're you gonna get them up to the mines without entices?

Meadowbank Mine/Agnico Eagle Mines
Meadowbank Mine/Agnico Eagle Mines   The Meadowbank mine is an open-pit gold mine in the Kivalliq region of Nunavut. It is located 2,600 kilometres northwest of Toronto.

Certainly the pay is good, but there's more to life than good pay and stark isolation. So accommodations have also improved with rooms suite-style, rather than the old-style dormitory arrangements, and with that change the quality of food offerings has also improved immeasurably. Mr. O'Connor's catering company gave service to 60 remote camp sites representing various industries throughout Canada, in 2014. That demand will only increase.

One of the logistical challenges for Outland Camps catering in provisioning these remote camps with exceptional food offerings for workers is the need to fly in fresh produce and themselves hire staff to work at those remote sites. So higher-end food at mine sites presents as one solution; from international cuisine to traditional Aboriginal food menus. Quite the change from the once-predictable meat-and-potato diet.

Handout/ Musselwhite Mine
Handout/ Musselwhite MineCajun spiced shrimp served with a onion, tomato and pea blend and sauced with an oyster hoisin glaze at Musselwhite Mine.

Coming from rural First Nations communities where fresh food is hard to come by and expensive, the experience of eating fresh fruits and vegetables presents as a novelty to some of the Aboriginal mine workers. And Mr. Bedard, working for Windigo Catering, itself owned by Windigo First Nations, has taken to altering the names of unfamiliar foods to make them appear more appealing to mine workers who tend to shy away from expressions they have no knowledge of.

He changed Sauerbraten to "buttermilk braised beef"; curry to "spice rubbed lamb with a sweet, coconut milk sauce". When he produces what he terms "pedestrian" food, he makes changes like adding applewood-smoked bacon and Gouda to traditional macaroni and cheese casseroles, topping them with crumbled potato chips. His kitchen leaves nothing to be desired in useful food preparation tools, including a sous-vide machine the envy of the culinary world, and $60,000 ovens.

"Sometimes", he says, "we all have that moment where you take that [food] and you bite into it. You don't really forget about things but you're just more focused on that warm, nurturing sensation. For a lot of people, food is home."

Handout/ Musselwhite Mine
Handout/ Musselwhite Mine   A sample of the food served to miners at Goldcorp's Musslewhite Mine, an underground gold mine located around 500 km north of Thunder Bay, Ont.

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