Checking In With Chef Rob Cassels Before Victoria’s Culinary Championship
Tell us a little bit about your restaurant and/or style of cooking.
Saveur is a small, 30 seat restaurant in the Chinatown district in Victoria. We specialize in Five Course Tasting Menus, one Chef’s and one Vegetarian which change regularly according to what is available at our local farms on the Island. I would say my cooking style is French-Inspired Contemporary.
Where do you eat in your city?
My wife and I like to go out for dinner on Mondays, being my day off, and of course most other chefs’ day off as well which makes our choices slim. Our favorites for dinner are Brasserie L’Ecole and Aura, but brunch is a big favorite for our family as well – Blue Fox Café is a must for us, or John’s place as a great spot to bring the kids.
What would be your ideal food day?
We try to plan our vacations around food, last March we visited San Fransisco to dine at Atelier Crenn, this spring we hope to spend a few days in New York to experience Eleven Madison Park.
What trend do you wish would die?
What trend/s do you wish would be next?
A greater focus on local, sustainable vegetables, and more care and thought put into their preparation. I find that vegetables are often an after-thought to the protein, I think this needs to change for many reasons, including environmental sustainability.
What ingredient do you always have on hand?
What’s your go-to recipe when you’re eating at home?
With my hours it’s usually a late night dinner with my wife of whatever we can throw together, kind of like an episode of Chopped! My family often asks me to make them curries or Thai Chicken as well when I have time.
What equipment do you wish you had in your kitchen?
What cookbook would you suggest for a gift for your foodie friends this year?
An oldie but a goodie is “Charlie Trotter Cooks at Home” – if you can find a copy.
Any hints on what dish you will be preparing for Gold Medal Plates?
Like I said, I try to use our local farm veggies as the main highlight on many of my dishes.
Who is coming with you?
My kitchen team of present, past, and future I hope!
Some questions came from our Facebook friends too!
Erin Vickars What were their most formative struggles to over come?
The struggles in the restaurant industry are ongoing, with chef and culinary staff shortages it is so hard to find people who are passionate enough about food to commit to the long hours and less competitive salaries of the culinary industry.
Kendall Ballantine asked – Who are your favourite local food producers are (farms, cheese makers, etc)?
We work closely with many farms and farmers, but most of our produce comes from Sun Wing Farm. We love their eco-friendly techniques and same-day picked produce. Silver Rill Farm, Michell’s, Dan’s Farm, and Gobind are also favourites on the Peninsula.
Nancy Wong asked – What was the favourite thing they learned to cook from a parent or grandparent and how did that experience help set them on their chosen career path.
I learned a lot from my Godparents’ restaurant, Antoine’s. My godmother taught me classic French style service in the front of house, while my godfather taught me the basics of the kitchen. I was twelve years old when I started there and fell in love with the industry immediately.
Shelley Robinson How much they actually make per hour, how many hours they work per day and how much good food actually costs, what the “ bottom line” of a small restaurant P and L looks like.
As a chef and business owner, I can tell you I’m not in it for the salary! LOL Not yet anyway…we are still a new business and hope to expand, however staff shortages in the city have made this a huge challenge. How many hours I work? – I average 75 to 90 hours per week. Profit margins in restaurants are not huge which is why these hours are necessary for owners, to ensure food cost control, labor cost control, and waste control. Some weeks are hard when all you want to do is cook and create, but have to focus on the business end of things instead. However, when I read our diners’ reviews and know that they have had a wonderful experience with us, it is always worth it.