In Our Kitchen with Chef Michael Smith

This week we welcomed Chef Michael Smith from his kitchen to ours to celebrate the launch of his new book, Chef Michael Smith’s Kitchen, with a few terrific events.
Michael spoke to a group of culinary students from Templeton Secondary School (our future chefs) about the realities of the professional culinary world. Quickly steering any discussion away from Food Network, recipes, and celebrity chefs, he instead challenged them to ‘get engaged with food’ and ‘strive for integrity’. He passed on his most important lesson for a cook, ‘meet someone who makes, grows or catches food – go out and find your own food stories.’ A passionate chef and speaker, Michael puts his faith in this new generation of chefs to ‘be the change’ and reconnect us to our food. Inquisitive young minds tend to ask the best questions; here are a few from the evening:

What inspired you to be a chef? Chef Smith’s reply was again honest and real. He needed the money to buy a car so took his first job washing dishes in a restaurant. When he discovered the cooks looked like they were having more fun he switched to that. From there his passion grew.

What’s your favourite dish? What’s on the table pales in comparison with whose at the table. The context of the meal is more important than the meal itself. Although, hands down my favourite dish is anything braised. I live for braising – and caramel. Caramel (and brown butter) are a metaphor for all good cooking and for life.

Which books have most inspired you as a chef? I am a huge cookbook collector and have many that I love. A new chef book I like is Eleven Madison Park by Daniel Humm. Great techniques, a real inspiring collection. Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking is an important one for chefs to have now. I’ve always loved The Joy of Cooking for home cooks. I also read a lot of books on food politics, I am a huge fan of Michael Pollan and love his book, In Defense of Food. Most importantly, seek out books about cuisines you are most passionate about, those are the ones that will most inspire you.

As the students departed, the shop filled with foodies and fans eager to meet Chef Smith and join in the celebration of his new book. Guests enjoyed a tasting of wines from Township7 Wineries from Naramata, while nibbling on treats from Chef Michael Smith’s Kitchen. Chef Lawren Moneta prepared the Corn Cakes with Avocado Cilantro Salsa and Italian-Style meatloaf with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, black Olives, Oregano, and Parmesan (served open-faced style on little toasts with greens and a drop of mustard). After sharing some of his stories on food, filming and family life on the east coast, Chef Smith asked for some volunteers to help him prepare one of his favourite go-to dishes from the book, Shrimp Rice Paper Rolls with Ginger Peanut Sauce and Cilantro.

And, yes Chef Smith does keep his spices in jars at his home pantry just like on his show.