Why I am not following my dream

Around this time last year I was full-swing in the midst of my pastry school experience and I cannot deny that it was one of the best experiences of my life. Seriously.  You can read in my previous posts about why I chose to go, and how intensely I am passionate about baking. I love both the science of it and the artistic elements required to make beautiful desserts. I have grown particularly fond of cake decorating, as you may have noticed in my Instagram feed.

Julia Child says, “Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.”

I have to admit, this quote still rings true for me but I view it differently than I did last year. Continue reading

#2 – Butter On The Endive

The most important food blog ever, is Owen Lightly’s opening header for Butter On the Endive.  I think he can take that claim.  Owen is the blog’s editor-in-chief and works at Araxi in Whistler; he has one blog contributor, Katie Sanders, and each have professional culinary training. When I met Eric Pateman earlier in the summer, this was among the blogs that came up as we chatted about local foodies.

This is blog #2 for me because it is one of the first food blogs that was referred to me. Since then I have read about Butter on the Endive numerous times – and agree it is quality food blogging. With great photography, by contributing photographers, writing and recipes, they even include videos too.

PS. For those who may not know, endive is a type of leaf lettuce.

Endive from KitchenGardens.org

Endive. Photo source: kitchengardens.org

The Rational Experience of a Corporate Chef with Dwayne Botchar

Every time I dine in a restaurant, if I can, I always glance through the kitchen window – where dishes wait to be served, and the restaurant’s front and back of house teams connect.  It fascinates me to see how others operate in kitchens; I think life in a professional kitchen may easily be my Pandora’s box.

Fortunately, as I journey Beyond The Dough, meeting people like Dwayne Botchar help me piece together real kitchen experiences from a distance.

Dwayne is a trained Chef with over 33 years of industry experience.  Now, he sits on the board of directors of the BC Chef’s Association and is a Corporate Chef and Regional Sales Manager for Rational-Canada – an international company that manufactures specialty kitchen equipment, specifically, combi steamer ovens.

Dwayne Botchar

Dwayne Botchar in between meetings in downtown Vancouver.

Due to frequent business travel, Dwayne’s office is mobile, so we met in downtown Vancouver, at Café Artigiano.  Among the barista buzz and café chatter, I tuned in to learn about combi ovens, kitchen life, and some food philosophy.

“Being in a kitchen is very difficult. There is a lot of stress – a lot of stress. Especially working on the line, which is where everything happens.  It’s very stressful. Would I like to work on the line again? I don’t think so. Would l like to have my own kitchen again? Maybe,” said Dwayne, after I asked if he missed being in a professional kitchen setting.

Later he also added, “It is a very difficult industry. Everyone says look at this great restaurant, great food, and this Chef is famous; he must be rich, etc. It’s not like that. The average salary of the average Chef, is a lot of work for little pay.”

Although he does not work directly in a kitchen anymore, he said, “I don’t have to miss anything really, I still get to do everything I like to do. I cook at home, I volunteer with the Chef’s association and we’re always cooking and doing things. I don’t feel I lack in that area. I could get my hands as dirty as I want, as we say.”

On working for Rational, Dwayne shared that the company only hires Chefs and the oven was also originally designed by a Chef. Among the fun facts I learned about their product line, I was most impressed to hear 95% of kitchens in Europe use them, compared to a mere 10% in Canada. Dwayne said, “we’re about 5-10 years behind Europe in that regard”.

Rational Self Cooking Center

Rational's Self Cooking Center product line. Source: Rational-Canada

What do you enjoy about this role vs. being in a kitchen? There are several things. First and foremost, the machine is an amazing tool and it actually can save time in the kitchen, so it can make a chef’s life easier. One of the reasons I like this company is because I can actually help cooks like myself to breathe a littler easier at end of the day, have more time for creativity, more time to train staff and manage production much simpler. The other reason is I can now have long weekends and holidays…. When you’re out eating that’s when we [Chefs] are in business.

Where do you recommend going for dinner in Vancouver? Well do you have a lot of paper? [pause] A fun and interesting place to go to is SALT.  It’s a great little place, like going to a French charcuterie…. There are tons of places though, the Chef [Jean-George] at the new Shangri-La’s Market is fantastic, and smaller places like Cioppino’s are great.

I could tell he wanted to list dozens more, but then he added, “There is a place I bring people to all the time. It’s a burger joint, but it has the single best view in the entire city.  The Galley at Jericho Sailing Club…has a 160-degree view of everything from English bay all the way over to Vancouver Island…The food is fantastic. The Chef there is solid.”

As we wrapped up, I was left with a bit of food philosophy, “Vancouver really is a great place for food. It really is. Food, besides the obvious that you have to eat to survive, as humans, we have taken it to a whole other level – its an experience now.”

He added with strong conviction, “And food is social. You can break down more barriers of multiculturalism through food, than you can of any other method. When people sit down and break bread together, you learn about customs and so much happens. What happens around the table is what matters.”

As we walked away from the table to go our separate ways, I felt like our conversation definitely mattered.

Your Quay to Great Soup with Ralf Dauns

The Soupmeister

The Soupmeister store front sign in Lonsdale Quay Market.

As the heat wave passes over Vancouver, back to school hovers around the corner. Inevitably cooler weather will soon follow, and your iced café becomes an extra hot latte and your salad becomes a soup! While it may not be what you crave on a hot day now, a hearty bowl of soup is a serious staple for fall eating.

But soup takes time, so you can count on your local Soupmeister in North Vancouver’s Lonsdale Quay to dish up the best of the best every time because its all done in house.

Ralf Dauns at work. Photo credit: Soupmeister.ca

Ralf Dauns at work. Photo credit: Soupmeister.ca

This serious soup expert was born, raised, and educated at Masters level in Germany and has now been in soup business in Vancouver for more than 15 years. Ralf Dauns, recently expanded his market location in January 2010 to include more kettles than ever – allowing up to five different soups prepared and served each day during their peak months (September to May).

So before the soup season kicks into high gear, I sat down with Ralf across from his shop in the market, to learn more about his experience, great soup, and a bit about community…

What are your most popular soups? We have a few staples like clam chowder, seafood chowder, Italian wedding. …Some soups fall out of favour and some come back or some ingredients are not available. [It also depends on] the market price, usually the higher the price the lower the quality – so you want to make good quality.

What is your favourite? I like soups with beans and meat, for example, the Sicilian connection: prawns, sausage meat, different beans, a little parmesan cheese, its almost like a chili.  It depends on the time of year and what mood you are in.

Do you oversee every batch of soup? Yes. Between [my sous chef] and me we taste the soup.  Sometimes we bring in the younger guys as well, to taste, so they understand when you add this, they see what makes the difference.

After being in the business this long, what inspires you to make soup now? Number one, as my friend also says, I really love to cook. …And the other thing is the satisfaction you get from all the variety of customers. You get customers of all ages and backgrounds. Then I run into somebody who used to come here as a kid. 89% of our customers are regulars.

Many of your staff are local kids, do you have apprenticeships? Not directly the cooking part, but I try to teach them work ethic, and a bit more independent thinking. …I’m not a big fan of writing a list of what to do all day, like franchise style. There are so much structures everyone has these days, so I give them room to grow and have some creativity – it’s a bit harder that way [laughs], but its better in the end.

Outside the market, what is your favourite place to eat? At Home [laughs] …I don’t go out very much, but if we do go out for a fancy dinner we usually go to Le Crocodile downtown – it’s very traditional French, and very consistent.

One of the Soupmeister's daily menu lists.

One of the Soupmeister's daily menu lists.

Lastly, what is the key to good soup? Main thing is a good stock. If you don’t have a good stock then it gets really tough. Then you have to have fresh quality ingredients. You can’t rush a soup. Soup is not something you can make by weighing things out all the time because your ingredients taste different all the time…. The main thing is a good stock, good ingredients, and time. You have to put some TLC in there or its not going to happen.

____________

This serious soup master enjoys what he does and has taken soup to a fine art level.  His soup has become a staple in the community, and that is heart warming in itself.  During our chat, Ralf said, “what I like about it too, it’s become part of the community,” he pointed out a customer at the counter and continued, “his dad used to come here and now he comes here,” you could tell he was proud, and with good reason – it’s more than just soup, it’s soup with a community story.

Endless Edibles with Eric Pateman

Edible BC retail location in Granville Island Market

Edible BC retail location in Granville Island Market

On a busy afternoon in Granville Island market, I made my way to EdibleBC at the north end of the market. As I passed vendors of fresh produce, meat, breads and pastries, the market hummed to my delight, with tourists and locals. I had the opportunity to meet Eric Pateman and learn more about his business. We found a seat at the Granville Island Tea Merchant, one of Eric’s neighbours, on a first name basis no less, “Good afternoon Eric, what can I get for you?” Just like an episode of Cheers, everyone seems to know his name.

Later Eric explained, “It’s all about relationships in this business”. Owner of EdibleBC, Eric Pateman’s business is showcasing local flavour and he is a pioneer in culinary tourism.

Truly passionate about what he does, Eric’s energy is fresh and inspiring to hear, so when he began his story from the beginning I was all ears, “I’m a fourth generation Vancouverite and I’ve been cooking since I was 12 years old. I had my first catering company when I was 17.” Now he is a trained Chef, has an Oxford MBA, and is well known in Vancouver’s food industry.

Eric Pateman displayed in an ad for Granville Island Market

Eric Pateman displayed in an ad for Granville Island Market, as a Birch Syrup expert!

“I’m a local guy, that thought there had to be something better,” and so Eric left Vancouver on a search for something more. He did find some inspiration in Paris, France, during his travels, which he brought back to Vancouver. And EdibleVancouver was born. “I thought it would just be a website where I could tell people where to eat, and didn’t know if would go anywhere. Six months later we had five employees.” His business began as a culinary concierge, for people to tour the great eats of Vancouver, and it grew into events, and now retail, online shopping and even blogging.

In 2005, EdibleBritishColumbia opened on Granville Island in the spring. Known for distributing quality local artisan products, they host interactive market dinners after hours in Granville Island, and other creative culinary tourism adventures.

Inside Edible BC store

A selection of some of the products available at Edible BC in Granville Island Market.

What inspires you about your work? Its different everyday, everyday brings new challenges and opportunities. Companies approach us everyday with new products; we receive 20 – 30 products a week. We promote the best of what everyone else is doing. I’ve done the corporate thing, and this is much better!

How do you choose the products in your store? We have a monthly staff meeting. All staff are involved, products are tasted, reviewed from a marketing perspective, shelf space, etc. If it makes the grade on all the levels then we’ll bring it in.

Voted top 40 foodies under 40 in Canada by Western Living magazine in 2008, what do you think qualified you for this? Because what we are doing is unique. We are promoting small artisan products, and culinary tourism is huge now. Part of it is the business background, passion for what we do, and hitting the market at the right time. If we’d started a year earlier, it would have been a different story.


What is your favourite product?
It varies every month.

What is your current favourite lunch place? Go Fish. It’s the best seafood in Vancouver by far. They do fish tacos, grilled oyster pulled sandwhiches, scallop burgers, and fish and chips. It is outstanding!

Birch Syrup from Quesnel, BC

Birch syrup, featured during EdibleBC’s 1500+ market tours during the 2010 Vancouver Games. Eric describes, “It’s like maple syrup but from birch trees. and comes from Quesnel, BC. Maple syrup takes 40 litres of sap to make 1 litre of syrup, and it takes 100 litres of birch sap to make one litre of syrup.” Birch syrup outsells maple syrup in their store five fold; with a more molasses and trickle flavour it has more cooking implications, such as birch syrup ice cream, salad dressing, or marinades for fish.

Well, if you ask this foodie, follow Eric Pateman and his endless edibles. You can trust his products, because they are passionate about what they do – their signature is sharing other artisans’ signatures! Eric Pateman’s team is still growing and the edible journey has really just begun, they just incorporated EdibleCanada…