For 10 years, the Odyssey de Culinaire has worked to keep the spirit of Southern hospitality alive in Oklahoma. Hosted by the Oklahoma Restaurant Association and Oklahoma Hospitality Foundation, the fundraiser dinner benefits high school students pursuing careers in the restaurant, culinary and hospitality fields.
The event brings Tulsa and Oklahoma City chefs together to plan and prepare two mouth-watering, five course meals.
But in this tale of two cities, no one gets a home-field advantage.
Last week, five top chefs from OKC traveled to Tulsa to cook for attendees. On Thursday, five chefs from up the turnpike will cook for OKC.
“[Chefs are] usually competing against one another in different taste arenas,” said Shannon Moad of the Oklahoma Restaurant Association. “This is one of the times when they put all of that aside and come together and work as a group.”
At the Odyssey de Culinaire, each group works with a theme to create a deluxe meal for the patrons. In Tulsa, the theme was “head to tail,” while OKC’s theme is “homage to Escoffier.”
“Escoffier” sounds like it might be some type of pastry, but it’s actually the name of a French culinary master once referred to as “the emperor of chefs.”
Creating a fine-dining experience for 200-plus people is no easy task, so chefs each take one assistant, a student from one of the foundation’s programs.
“It’s a great learning experience,” said Moad. “It gives them a taste of what the industry’s really like, and it also lets attendees there in support of hospitality education see where the money actually goes and how it’s being used.”
Some of the participating chefs were once student helpers themselves. In part, it is this transformation — from beginner to master chef — that gives the fundraiser its name.
“The word ‘odyssey’ means an extended, adventurous journey in which one experiences a change of fortune,” Moad said. “We say that people are experiencing a change of fortune, especially the culinary students that are a part of this program, because the funds raised go to ensure that they have a bright future.”
pictured Christine Dowd, David Henry, Ryan Parrott, Christopher Pope and Mark Vannasdall