Chefs from across British Columbia will meet in Victoria on November 19, 2015 to compete in the Gold Medal Plates for the BC spot in the Canadian Culinary Championships which is held in Kelowna this upcoming February. We’re heading over to check out the event and as a prequil have interviewed the chefs. Here’s some of the questions we posed to Jonathan Chovancek of Bittered Sling Bitters.
Tell us a little bit about your restaurant and/or style of cooking.
I’m the chef behind Bittered Sling Bitters — an award-winning retail line of artisanal bitters that provides an array of unique flavours for cocktail and culinary creations — which I co-own along with my life and business partner, Lauren Mote.
My cooking philosophy is that food needs to be delicious, preferably in season and sourced from somewhere with high ethical and environmental standards. Food is about sharing and creating memories. Quite often a dinner is less about what you are eating and more about whom you are eating with.
Where do you eat in your city?
I enjoy everything, but for Thai food I always think Maenam (1928 W. 4th Ave.), where I can enjoy the four-course menu paired with wines and cocktails and really dig into some of the fresh seafood owner and chef Angus An keeps in his restaurant fish tank.
What would be your ideal food day?
I like to head to Granville Island with my sweetie for charcuterie at Oyama Sausage Co. and Benton Brothers Fine Cheese in the Market, then a cheeky gin tasting at The Liberty Distillery before picking up a bottle of Joie Noble Blend to drink on Sunset beach as the sun sets.
What trend do you wish would die?
Fast food — the highly processed, out-of-a-bag-and-into-the-fryer type of high fat, high sodium, high glucose fast food, which has overrun our food culture. The same goes for television programming that glorifies gluttony.
What ingredient do you always have on hand?
What’s your go-to recipe when you’re eating at home?
Black garlic and black vinegar short ribs with onions and parsnips. First, sear the ribs with a heavy amount of salt and pepper, some star anise and cinnamon, then cover with hot stock, place a handful of black garlic and whole, unpeeled parsnips with the ribs and braise in a 250 F oven for 12 hours. Let the meat rest in the liquid overnight, then remove the meat and vegetables, finish the broth with black vinegar and reheat the meat for unreal, jaw-on-the-floor flavours.
With the holidays coming up, could you give us something easy to prepare that would impress? Recipe please.
Festival Squash, Bacon and Swiss Chard Frittata with UBC Farm Squash. Recipe featured in The Butcher, the Baker, the Wine and Cheese Maker By the Sea by Jennifer Schell. Thanks to Jennifer Schell for sharing the recipe and photo!
Festival Squash, Bacon and Swiss Chard Frittatawith UBC Farm Squash
2 festival or acorn squash
2 small potatoes, cut in half
1/2 cup Swiss chard, chopped
1 tbsp Manchego cheese
1/4 tsp fennel seeds, toasted
1/4 tsp coriander seeds, toasted
6 whole eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 rashers double smoked bacon
Salt and pepper to taste
- Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds. Season with vegetable oil, salt and pepper and roast in the oven at 350F until the squash is tender.
- Use the deepest half of the roasted squash as a bowl to hold the frittata.
- Dice bacon and render over medium high heat until crispy. Keep fat, and sauté the other half the squash, diced, along with the Swiss chard and potatoes. Add toasted fennel and coriander seeds.
- Distribute evenly into the squash bowls.
- Use a blender to combine the eggs and cream
- Strain and pour the egg wash into the squash bowl. Sprinkle with cheese.
- Bake on a sheet pan in the oven at 300F until set.
- Serve with a side of lightly dressed arugula.
What do you want for food/food equipment gifts this year?
I would love a new set of Staub enamel cast iron pots from Cook Culture please!
What cookbook would you suggest for a gift for your foodie friends this year?
True North by Chris Johns and Derek Dammann – an extraordinary book on Canadian cuisine.
The Butcher, the Baker, the Wine and Cheese Maker By the Sea by Jennifer Schell.
Any hints on what dish you will be preparing for Gold Medal Plates?
You’ll have to attend the event to find out!
I also surveyed my facebook followers (many are chefs as well) as to what questions they would like answered by chefs when I interview them. Here are some of them answered.
What inspires you in your daily work?
My amazing wife Lauren Mote! Everyday I’m inspired to impress her.
If you could only have one small kitchen appliance what would it be?
There’s two: A coffee maker!
A Japanese Mandoline slicer. You can cut almost anything into translucently thin and uniform slices and it stays very, very sharp.
Who is your favourite supplier, and why?
UBC Farm is great for a multitude of social and environmental reasons, but quite frankly their soil is incredible and their produce tastes delicious. They grow 12 different varieties of squash and pumpkin alone, and the flavour, sweetness and texture they achieve is amazing.
What is the one dish you never tire of making?
Seasonal spicy vegetable chowders.
What country/city would you travel to just for the purpose of eating?
Turkey. I am looking forward to travelling with Lauren to Istanbul with Chef Deniz from Cafe Medina to eat all of the things!
What is the trick you use in the kitchen that is a hack or if it saves you the most time?
I take the peels, seeds, juice and scrappy bits from charred, roasted peppers — the stuff most people throw away — and add tea and vegetables to make a tasty broth. Or steep it out, strain and ferment it into a delicious vinegar.