They say that one day we all become our parents.
Of course we absorb the awesome and the flaws, become special snowflakes out of a cocktail of exposures beyond our creators but the people who raised us tend to have a substantial impact on who we grow to be.
My face and mannerisms, speech and general nature my mother gave me. She also made bad ass cakes, so it’s likely I owe my career choice to her.
My father gave me his work ethic. While it is easy to throw around the word ‘artist’, it is the best way to describe my father. He has launched practically his entire existence into cultivating, creating, and teaching the craft.
Before he retired, my father had little time to devote to his passion, but every morning and every night he practiced by drawing for 15 minutes in dated sketch books. He probably did this for 25, 35 years. I’m not sure. My mother, with the desire to see the world, lured him out of his studio with the promise of inspiration from walking the Louvre, viewing the coastline of Newfoundland, and crossing the Manhattan bridge (the promise of croissants also helped). Not everything is about art with him, but I’d hazard a guess that 85% of what enters his line of vision is translated into an idea, either nurtured or filed away for later.
When I was in my early twenties I gave up sculpting and painting because I didn’t believe I could create anything close to what my he has done. Eventually, after realizing that he was 42 years older than I and therefore was always going to be ahead of my game, I rerouted that creative energy into food, leaving the visual arts to my dad, laid aside my guitar for my brother to be the musician. No worries, neither of them can bake a cake.
Plating Textures of Mushrooms at Gold Medal Plates
Bronze Medalist, baby.
I’m on the brink of working 10,000 professional hours since my graduation from culinary school in 2010. This doesn’t take into account the non-paid hours spent in my home kitchen recipe or technique testing since 2006, the hours of reading or contemplation. It was around the time I realized the literal figure of my dedication to my craft that I noticed a lack of tension, or rather that I’d subconsciously let go of a lot of fear and frustration I’d been carrying around with me regarding my work. Maybe it was exhaustion from squeezing out over 300 work hours a month for almost a year. But I think it’s because I’m finally good at what I do.
Design from my Susuki Foundation Gala dish ‘Bees’
Final dish: Honey, Apples, Cranberries, Almonds, Kouign Amman.
Sometimes I feel a bit silly, at work I probably look like I don’t accomplish much, that save for the weekly Friday and Saturday night shit-shows that occur when I’m slammed and everyone else is like “can I sweep here?”, I’m sure to the newbies my job looks like a cakewalk — because frankly it is. But when someone is good at what they do, it will appear effortless. After 10,000 hours I think I deserve to appear effortless.
Kouign Amman And a Lesson in Waxing Butter
Jealous of those Europeans who have access to higher butterfat awesome?
I was too, but Chef taught me on my first day that, given you’ve got some extra elbow grease on hand, you can make your own.
With a cold block of butter, take a rolling pin and pound the shit out of the butter to release the water. The butter will begin to sweat all that extra water the Canadian dairy producers sneak in there to stretch the product. Once it starts to soften and sweat I literally squeeze the water out, stopping before the butters structure is effected by the heat of my hands. Waxing, as it is called, is the way to get a better tasting croissant, puff pastry, or in this case, Kouign Amman.
I was given the opportunity to create the final course at the local food & urban agriculture gala in honour of the Susuki Foundation and their work. We had three amazing local chefs in to contribute a course, and it was hosted by the critic for the Herald and CBC. Never had I done something like that, nor had I even spoken into a microphone to address the people who were eating my food, but it seemed to have gone well. I have mainly the bees that live on our roof to thank for the deliciousness of the dish, as well as David Lebovitz’s Kouign Amman. Thanks, David!*
*I really can’t be bothered to re-type it and the instructions. Let’s face it, Doctor Who is on. Sorry, it’s not you.