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.
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”.
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.