Category Archives: Announcements

René Redzepi | A work in progress

Last Saturday, I was fortunate enough to meet one of my inspirations, René Redzepi. In a talk held by the Cookbook Store at the Art Gallery of Ontario, René Redzepi opened up and gave us a glimpse of the inner workings of his creative mind.

René Redzepi

 

In quite a bold move, Redzepi decided to publish his journal that spans almost a year. The journal is an emotionally packed reflection on the life of the head chef at NOMA on a day to day basis. Redzepi says that shortly after his restaurant was crowned the world’s best restaurant, he felt more restricted. “An 85 to 90 hour work week? Who would want to do that if you aren’t enjoying it?”, he asks. The journal was a way to reflect on his relationship with his restaurant and to the process of creating in general. Redzepi claims the results were massively influential in how he makes decisions regarding his restaurant today.

René Redzepi

 

All of this self exploration from committing to the journal for a year put Redzepi back on track creatively. Below is a moment a friend of mine managed to capture during the segment from the talk in which Redzepi describes the many hours he and his team put into figuring out how to make goat brains taste delicious. After this, the famous ants at NOMA did not seem so exotic.

As you can probably tell by now, Redzepi is truly unafraid when it comes to pushing the boundaries. Constantly questioning conventions, the NOMA head chef is always developing his understanding of our relationship with food. Perhaps my favourite part of the day was Redzepi’s recounting of the story behind his decision to put ants on his menu. Redzepi says that it was Alex Atala, the chef/owner of D.O.M who planted the idea of eating insects in his mind and it was only after a while of deliberation did Rezepi finally decide to take the plunge and introduce ants to the menu. In an excited state, Redzepi decided to call up Atala and inform him that he had joined his exclusive club of chefs who have ants on their menu. According to Redzepi, Atala’s reaction was “REALLY?!, I don’t have ants on my menu!”.

René Redzepi

 

The brilliant food aside, Redzepi’s A work in progress has more universal messages about life than I had initially expected. As someone who studied economics, I would describe A work in progress as a man really getting to understand himself. As economists everywhere know, without knowing your preferences, making yourself the happiest you can be is a shot in the dark. In the midst of studying economics years ago, it became clear that discovering my preferences (what most call “finding themselves”) was massively important to my hopes of making myself as happy as possible. I think that I had partially forgotten this in recent months however, hearing Redzepi speak about the importance of understanding what makes you happy or sad reminded me in an emphatic way.

Maybe I’ll start a journal.

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New Chapter

I started Culinary School a week ago. It took me a while to decide whether or not I wanted to do it but here I am. The first week has given me a bit of insight as to what I can expect and it seems like it will be a big change from studying Economics. Never before have I been so excited about the academic side of school!

Unfortunately, I will be tied up with balancing school & work so I will no longer be committing to publishing something I made every single Monday. Instead I will be blogging about what I learn in culinary school in my new section which you can find here. I will continue to update you with my creations however I suspect they may be published on a slightly less consistent basis.

On another note, I wanted to mark my official full commitment to following my dreams with an upgrade in equipment. For the past 3 years I have been using Calphalon’s contemporary 8-incher. It was a gift I received during university and it has been thoroughly enjoyed. It was a massive step up from the Selection/Walmart knives I was previously struggling to cut butter with. However, I felt as if it was time to invest in something serious due to the serious nature with which I am diving into food. After doing countless hours of online research, talking to countless people (truthfully only 7 people), and trying out countless knives, I eventually based most of my decision on how uniquely amazing this knife felt in my hand (compared to the competition in my price range). I present to you my new toy/weapon:

Mcusta Zanmai Classic Pro

Above is a Mcusta Zanmai Classic Pro Damascus Gyuto. A Gyuto is basically a Japanese version of our western Chefs knife. Gyutos in general have a few key different characteristics which I found I preferred to traditional western knives. My Calphalon had quite the large bolster running down the base of the heel and the Mcusta doesn’t have any bolster at all. This was an unexpected characteristic in a knife I thought I would buy simply because I really enjoyed the large bolster on the Calphalon. However, since first holding the Calphalon, my technique has changed and I find myself chocking up on the handle a lot more these days. Thus, the thinner and harder Japanese blade offers me the option for more sharpness. Furthermore, I have found that food has been less inclined to stick to the blade due to the fact that the knife isn’t pushing through food as much as the Calphalon used to.

MZCP8.2

The knife is made in Seki, Japan. It measures 8.2 inches long of VG-10 stainless steel. VG-10 is just a cutlery grade stainless steel produced in Japan that consists of many elements including some specific elements that must be in a particular proportion to one another which include Carbon (1%), Molybdenum (1%), Chromium (15%), Cobalt (1.5%), and Manganese (0.5%) to name a few. The blade is finished with Hamaguri form which just means that the edge of the blade is shaped asymmetrically. The left side of the blade comes down on to the food at 90 degrees whereas the right side of the blade comes in just under 90 degrees making it extremely easy to cut through food with minimum force which makes up for the heaviness often found in western Chef knives. Another thing one might notice about the blade is that it has a kind of rippling water design to it. This is caused by the technique used in producing Damascus Steel. Unfortunately, Damascus steel has been found and dated as early as 300BC and even with modern technology, reverse engineering the exact process has not been fully completed. It is a steel used in ancient Asian and Middle Eastern sword making. These are just some of the characteristics that make my Calphalon feel like a clumsy broadsword in comparison.

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Change in circumstances

I recently finished my undergrad and as of early this morning finally moved out of Kingston. The moving made it impossible for there to be an update today but there will be one on monday. Being a students was absolutely incredible. I got to learn as much of what I wanted whenever I wanted.

It would seem however, that nothing lasts forever. I now have more responsibilities now that school is over which means it’s going to be hard to post with the frequency that I’ve been posting at. This is why starting on Monday I will only be publishing something once a week on Mondays until perhaps the next time I’m a student (September).

How to make Mayo

It took a while for me to decide if I wanted to prank you all. For those of you who know me it may be hard for you to believe that I decided not to. Instead, my page on how to make Mayo is up in my “how” section. Enjoy!

Meeting Anna Olson

At the Biosci with Anna

Meeting Anna Olson

In my second year of university I was exclusively watching the Food Network on TV. In my “why” section, I talked about Michael Smith being a player in shaping the way I think about food. Another chef I really enjoyed watching was Anna Olson. The reason why I liked watching Anna Olson is because like Michael Smith, she would explain why things are done a certain way. That meant that I would actually take something away from watching her programs instead of just the realization that food can be made way better than I was making it.

I could tell from watching Anna Olson on TV was that her approach to food was similar to mine. She was constantly looking for why recipes were done a certain way, and why certain ingredients reacted with each other in the ways they did. I think this is a smart way to go about things because it allows for a deeper understanding of cooking. Only when this kind of knowledge is achieved can one be confident in being successful in letting their creative side run wild. Knowing the fundamentals allows one to understand what is likely to work and what is not likely to work.

What I did not know until two weeks ago, however, was that Anna was actually a Queen’s Alumna and that she was coming back to give a lecture. I decided to do some research. To my surprise, Anna studied politics and sociology and ended up with a job at a bank downtown Toronto after her undergrad. It was only after three years downtown that she realized that she needed to follow her passion. Her passion was baking. Similarly, I had worked at a bank for a summer. It did not take long before I realized that it wasn’t for me. I started to wonder what else I may have had in common with Anna Olson.

Luckily for me, a friend of mine brought to my attention that the Queen’s Student Alumni Association was holding a contest in which the prize was to have breakfast with Anna Olson and her husband Michael Olson. Even luckier for me, I was selected to be one of the contest winners!

Breakfast w/ Anna

On top of hearing her lecture on her culinary journey, I also got to speak with her in person about some of her experiences which might be similar to mine in the future. What I found most refreshing was her advice on keeping doors open. Growing up, I was encouraged to my options open but, at some point there were pressures on me to find out what I wanted to do in life. I remember in high school talking to my guidance counselor about course selection and what university program I should enroll in. I was convinced that what I took from grade 11 onwards would determine the outcome of my life indefinitely. I was confused and pretty stressed out at the time. I was, however, unable to really say with any certainty that I wanted to do one particular thing.

During Anna Olson’s lecture she spoke of Queen’s as a place where, for the first time, you could learn whatever you wanted, as much as you wanted. You were freer than you’ve ever been. I must say, I did not go into Queen’s expecting this, but it was definitely and particularly true in my case. I did not go into university with the objective of self discovery in mind, however, that is exactly what happened. I learned things about myself and the world that are not taught in classrooms. To me, Queen’s greatest contribution to my life will be the unique educational experience it offered outside of academia.

Speaking with Anna Olson was fantastic because she went to Queen’s, worked for a bank and then left it all to pursue her passion. She has had incredible success in the food industry and at first I thought I would be more interested in that. However, in the end, what interested me more was how she was able to make a living doing what she loves.

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Make your own Potato Wedges!

Everyone loves carbs. Its evolutionary biology. It is one of the fundamental truths to the world. That last statement might be a stretch but, at the very least, carbs explain why I’ll never have well defined abs.

If we’re all being honest, french fries are one of those things that if it were healthier to eat, we’d be inhaling 5 times more (conservative estimate). But what if I told you I had a healthier alternative? You would probably not be that surprised, actually, given the title of this page. Nevertheless, my explanation for  how to make potato wedges is now in my “how” section.

Next Level KD!

My page on how to make Mac and Cheese just came out today. You can have a look under the “how” section. Give it a shot!

How I make stir fry!

Some of my close friends have been asking for this post in particular. Soon my phone will be flooded with texts thanking me for getting this out onto paper for them but I hope it helps as many people as possible. I’ve actually come to believe that for some reason they are going to be more pumped about this post then when I offered to teach them in person. It is kind of hurtful if you think about it.

Anyway… you can find out how I make my stir frys in my “how to” section now!

Why buy salad dressing when YOU can make it?

New Years resolutions notoriously fail eventually. But it is still January and although it may be late in the month, I still see the strongest of us trying to uphold healthy lifestyle practices. A particular friend of mine is hitting the gym with incredible frequency. One day I notice her pick up a pre-made salad from the grocery store with pre-made salad dressing. When I asked her if she was in a rush she said no and that she was going to go home to enjoy her salad. I smiled while I died on the inside a little bit.

Reasons to make your own salad dressing

Baby Greens w/ Tomatoes & Goat Cheese

1. Freshness

When you make your own it’s fresh. The ones you buy have been sitting in bottles for months not going bad because of all the preservatives that have been added. Homemade salad dressing will last months in your fridge but sadly not very long in a cupboard. Is it absolutely necessary to you to keep your salad dressing in a cupboard? Is this a non-negotioable? Don’t even get me started on the health related affects of additives that can be found in store bought salad dressings.

2. Nutrition

Store bought salad dressings often contain 3 times as many calories as a homemade one would. I admit this finding is a bit less scientific than I would like. It is based on picking up a few salad dressings at the grocery store and then measuring the calories that go into my own homemade dressings (most of which come from the oils I use). This is important to note the nutritional difference because pre-made salad dressing usually uses poor quality oils with little nutritional value. If you make your own however, you have the option of using a nice olive oil that, for example, has numerous nutritional benefits.

3. Economical

It is just cheaper when you make it at home. Again I won’t go into quantitative comparisons. I’ll let you verify this on your own.

So how do you make a salad dressing? Go on over to my “how to” section to find out!

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