This was the second seating. There was a seconded line kitchen not shown so when we all disappear that is where we are! We did cold courses from the back and hot on the hot line. First we did a mini Cobb salad. Then onion rings with ranch inspired by an old shortrib garnish and cook snack from Boneta. There were also dandelions on that dish to bring in a Hollows element, the ones we brought from Saskatoon were mild and the ones we picked in van were more bitter. Next was a dish inspired by Myra and Lumiere where she was working when I first met her. She is the most well trained and underestimated cook in Vancouver. She made us mini rye bagels and we topped them with cured Saskatchewan steelhead trout, and borage. Next was beef heart and pork meatloaf glazed in ketchup, a play on a staff meal I used to make at Boneta. Sweet was a classic banana split and by that time we were doing Mossimo Bottura style plating. There is a while where lonely Lacey cleans up by herself for a while. I also talk to Mark Brand for a while and tell him about #thehollowsfamily and how I want to be the next Martha Stewart. They said we were a very efficient crew and also the drunkest! Also watch out for Kyle fashioning a homemade paper chef hat and rag neckerchief.
I am from Saskatoon, after working as a server at a restaurant there called Sushiro and reading the book “Kitchen Confidential” by Anthony Bourdain I knew that I wanted to be a cook. I worked at the local Earls tossing pizza dough at the forno oven, but soon realized that I wasn’t learning enough. Plus I did terrible, terrible things to innocent people and I needed to get the fuck out of town. I had already lived in Toronto and spent time in Montreal so I decided to try Vancouver. When I arrived I didn’t know very much about the restaurant scene, all I knew was that Lumiere was one of the best restaurants and that Rob Feenie was involved, I knew him from the T.V. I walked in to Feenie’s which is next door to Lumiere, I was told to go buy some knives and come back on Friday for a “stage” a sink or swim trial shift to see if I could keep up. They were so short staffed that they hired me, I felt like I was totally in over my head. I worked there for a year.
After putting in a year at Feenie’s I moved on to Chow, a step up. I have been there for a year and a half and I have worked my way through all of the stations. I can proudly say that I am on Meats! It wasn’t and isn’t easy I couldn’t have done it without my support team, my friends from s’toon and my best friends here in Van. My partner Ben (who worked front of the house at Feenie’s) helps me build my career everyday. Someday we are going to live the dream of opening our own restaurant, and we will always continue to learn and grow.
This is where my menu inspiration comes from, mapping the seasons and ingredients of out time and place.
Elm seeds, they are everywhere and they are a pest, they spread saplings like weeds when they drop. Luckily they are edible and one of the first fresh ingredients of spring. They have a mild sweet flavour raw and can be tempura battered.
Dandelions, bitter and sweet and when fried they are the texture of tiny bits of cod. They are plentiful and healthful.
Wild violets, they are sweet and early to grow.
Caragana Flowers, they are Saskatoon’s earliest sweet pea.
Fruit blossoms for candying, they only last a few days when they bloom but candy them and they will last the year. There are cherry blossoms, Russian almond, apple blossoms and many more.
Lovage is another first to pop up and you best start using it as it will take over, this year I am going to try and use it as a replacement for some celery uses.
Rhubarb, Wood sorrel, Spring onions and chives. Raspberry leaf, young tender leaves we dry for our teas. Yarrow, young leaves eat fresh. Mint.
With the early hot streak, this was all I had time to document, I feel there is a lot left undiscovered.
In early spring it is time to make the menu based around clearing out the cellar to make room for the spring bounty to come. I have learned a lot each year and we are slowly able to sustain the restaurant all year on produce that our horticulturist has grown. This is the time of year we take stock of the cellar and find a home for everything. The following is just a few ways I have done this.
The Hollows kimchi has been a huge hit paired with our poutine or warmed and served with our cottechino sausage. (We make the cottechino with the skin from our whole pigs but also use the skin that comes on our prosciutto and pancetta, once simmered it is as delicious as fresh pig skin). So in the fridge I found some over spiced kimchi and decided to clear out the natural pickle shelf and bulk it up with any odds and ends that were suitable. I added some cucumbers, some fermented chard stems that had no home, and some root cellar carrots. I also noticed an abundance of pickled asparagus and I realized that it is almost asparagus season again. I put pickled asparagus on the menu, in a dish with more of the last of the cellar made into a vegetable chowder as the trout garnish. I guess we were not using enough pickled asparagus in brunch caesars to use it in time. Potatoes that are left in the cellar but are beginning to sprout are sorted, the good ones go back into the cellar for continued use until next potato season, the rest are boiled, cubed and frozen for brunch hash browns. The freezing actually improves the hash brown and makes them very crispy when fried. The really sprouted ones will be used as seed and planted. I also keep all of the insides of out preserved lemons and soak them in vinegar for months, then I strain it and make a tasty dressing that we use all spring to finish fish, meat and pastas.
Now the cellar looks good and tight for spring, we still have a lot of backyard relish, but we are experimenting with a ‘big mac’ sauce. We are almost out of jam, just in time for rhubarb season, and we have plenty of cocktail syrups to use up in our spring punch specials.
(This is something I wrote months after my stage at Coi in San Francisco.)
I can’t stop thinking about Coi. Now that I’ve had time to let it all sink in and now that I’ve got some perspective I am feeling so inspired from what I soaked in there. I just wasn’t ready at the time to be thinking that way but now that they’ve put the wheels in motion I’m seeing cooking differently. Chef Daniel is such a thinker, and it is very inspirational to be around someone who is constantly creating, evolving and pushing. His favorite sous chef told me that he doesn’t like to work at the restaurants that do lots of covers to make money but sacrifice quality. He says that he wants to cook for the pleasure of creating the best food he can with nothing getting in the way of that. The pleasure of pure beautiful creation that isn’t money driven.
I just finished reading the Reach of a Chef by Michael Rhulman and the chapter about Masa’s truly inspired me, I think because of the seed that was planted in my head at Coi.
Masa cooks purely for the pleasure of creating the best food that he can, and it seems that there are many parallels between him and chef Daniel. The love and pleasure of creating the best you can. It is also weird that Masa’s is one of the most expensive restaurants in America and that Coi is also very expensive, but it really doesn’t seem to be about money somehow. It’s like they would be doing what they do with 6 customers a night or with 100 customers a night. But they wouldn’t want 100 customers a night because then the quality of the food would suffer. Like at Coi they make their own butter not just because it is a superior product but because of the primal feeling of making butter. Its not just, I make this to sell for money, its, I’ve had the process of making the best thing that I can make and I am driven by reasons and passion.