A No-Bell Prize for soups?
COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Liam Dolan, Executive Chef at Cochrane’s Portofino Italian Ristorante, prepares Friday’s soup du jour – but without bell peppers. Photo by Warren Harbeck
For most Fridays over the past few years, my wife Mary Anna and I have had the tradition of treating ourselves to lunch in Cochrane at Pierre Langlois’s highly rated Portofino Italian Ristorante. And as our tradition would have it, we almost always order the same item, the soup of the day. And it’s always delicious!
But the past couple of times we’ve been there, Executive Chef Liam Dolan has outdone himself with thoughtful, tasty service – so much so, that I think he deserves the No-Bell Prize for soups.
“No-Bell”? Is that spelled right? Yes, indeed it is, and that’s exactly what I mean. Let me explain.
Mary Anna has a problem with bell peppers. They disagree with her digestion. So whenever we’d order our soup, Mary Anna would confirm with our outstanding server – usually Joanne Faupel or Christian Langlois – that there were no bell peppers in it.
Eventually Chef Liam twigged onto us. Anticipating our Friday noon hour presence at our regular table, he has begun planning days ahead to make sure there are no bell peppers in that day’s soup. (I’m not sure how it would affect him if we ever failed to show up.)
Such customer consideration is not a new virtue for Liam, of course. The 22-year-old graduate of SAIT Polytechnic’s Culinary Arts program and Bow Valley High School delights in making others happy. Indeed, as he says, such sensitivity to, and interactions with, Portofino’s guests gives him “an adrenaline rush” – as does working for Pierre, “a father figure and inspiration for me.”
But his skills at the skillet have not come without a cost. While still a fulltime student in his culinary arts program, he sometimes would be working two jobs, typically up at 4:00 a.m. or earlier and putting in 20-hour days, with very little sleep.
And why such dedication to the industry?
“I am a food service professional with a humble desire to make a wholesome difference in the lives of people,” Liam says.
His Friday soups made without bell peppers are an outstanding example of his passion, creativity, commitment and sensitivity.
Therefore, I count it a privilege to nominate Executive Chef Liam Dolan for the No-Bell Prize for soups. He leaves a good taste in our mouths and happiness in our hearts.
© 2018 Warren Harbeck