Eat North pairs great culinary experience with dinosaurs for Royal Tyrrell Museum event

Most Calgarians know about the Royal Tyrrell Museum, Alberta’s mecca for dinosaur finds and display, located only 90 minutes from our city. This fantastic museum is set amidst the hills and Badlands that have proven to be a veritable goldmine when it comes to history, and this weekend something amazing — both educational and delicious — will take place on the rooftop of this famous museum.

Set amongst the hills and skies at the latest Eat North dinner event, Alberta Era, inspired by the Mesozoic world, is an opportunity for adults to not only get an after-hours private tour of the museum with one of the Tyrrell Museum’s paleontologists, but also to take part in an epic dinner prepared by some of Calgary’s top chefs. The theme? Dinosaurs, of course. And it’s a chance not only for the chefs to flex their culinary muscles and create something memorable, but it’s also a fun endeavour for the museum, itself.

“It’s the first time we’ve ever hosted an event like this,” explains the Tyrrell’s curator of dinosaurs, Don Henderson about the June 2 evening. “We’ve held our own functions, but we’ve never had an exciting party in this space … ‘We thought that rather than just have the food, we’d also think, ‘Well, what have we got here?’ “

What they have is fossils. Guests of Alberta Era will be bussed to and from the museum from Calgary, then treated to a pre-dinner reception with a viewing of some of the museum’s collection, complete with a presentation by Henderson, and they will be given access to some otherwise non-accessible artifacts.

“As well as getting a hand-held tour going through the galleries,” Henderson says, “we’ll have specimens (on display), so I’m thinking that since it’s people eating and food we could make use of fossil evidence that we have for dinosaurs and other creatures eating or being eaten.”

There will also be a technician on hand to answer questions, because, as Henderson explains, “Most people don’t realize the months and years it takes to get these skeletons ready. Everybody knows about digging them out of the ground, but that’s just the beginning, the very beginning, it takes a long time to get it ready.”

Henderson also wants to educate people on how close we still are to dinosaurs, even today. “Because birds are dinosaurs, every time people eat chicken or turkey you’re eating dinosaur … look at the upper arm bone, there’s a phalange bone, every dinosaur had one, not just the meat eaters – Stegosaurus or Triceratops or Brontosaurus – they’ve all got this, it’s unique to dinosaurs, no other animal has it, and you can see it on your dinner table.”

This collaboration between the museum and the culinary world is the brainchild of Eat North founder Dan Clapson, who used to visit Drumheller frequently as a child. Known for his culinary profile here in Calgary, Clapson set out to pick local chefs that he felt would best suit this sort of event, with each participating chef contributing something to the four-course meal.

Executive chef of Hotel Arts, Quinn Staple, speaks to the collaboration with Eat North: “Dan reached out and asked if (Hotel Arts) would take part, and we’ve done some events with Dan in the past, so this is just one of those times where we fit the mould for what he was looking for, I think.”

With the theme of dinosaurs for the meal, there is a lot of opportunity for the chefs to be creative. “Every course is built around dinosaurs,” says Staple, “so they took omnivore into consideration, herbivore etc. It’s based on that.”

Staple further explains what a dinosaur-themed course would look like: “I’m going to be responsible for the main course, it’s (based on) T Rex, but obviously we can’t get T Rex meat, so we’re doing pork rack and we’re going to leave the bones out and expose them and try to make it as carnivorous as possible. We’ve talked about doing some potential table-side carving, but based on space we’ll see it will be laid out by fires and everyone will get a chunk of meat.”

Other chefs involved in this extraordinary event include JP Pedhirney from Bridgette Bar, Andrea Harling from Made Foods, and Kat Edwards, also from Hotel Arts. It’s the collaboration that will make the meal memorable, with each chef showcasing their skills and creativity, with an emphasis on trying to keep the food as local and true to the area/time period as possible. “It’s all collaborative,” says Staple, “so we’ll all show up with our ingredients and put it together, together.”

And although it is definitely going to be a fun experience for the guests, you can’t deny how fun this will also be for the chefs. Staple agrees “Oh totally! It’s a break from the mundane – we do lots of events here at the hotel, lots of catering, so (this is) definitely not in our comfort zone, but it’s fun to do with other chefs and other events.”

He adds, “And this is a cool event and space.”

The coolest.

Alberta Era promises to be a fun, educational evening. And memorable. And delicious. It takes place June 2 at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, info available here.

(Photo Credit: The Product Analyst.)

Kari Watson is a writer and former Listings Editor of FFWD Weekly, and has continued to bring event listings to Calgary through theYYSCENE and her event listings page, The Culture Cycle. Contact her at