A look at one of Canada's most influential and colourful culinary programs
Since 2009, the Hokanson Chef in Residence
program has brought the cream of the culinary crop to NAIT for a week of inspiration and instruction. Each brought a distinct food philosophy and unique presence to the polytechnic. What stands out from those visits for NAIT Culinary Arts instructors?
Among the memories: “the look” from Susur Lee, the reserved humour of Amanda Cohen, the genuine graciousness of Vikram Vij, and more. Here’s a look at an amazing decade spent with some of the world’s foremost restaurateurs.
Test Kitchen Chef, Cactus Club Cafe, locations across Canada
Author, Rob Feenie’s Casual Classics: Everyday Recipes for Family and Friends and more
“It wasn’t easy 20 years ago for a Canadian to become a world-class chef, and Rob was one of the first. He’s a real Canadian – loves hockey and winter and skiing. And he was great with the students, a real joy to see in the kitchen.”
Author, Deconstructing The Dish: Inspirations For Modernday Cuisine and Heart and Soul Cuisine from the Estates of Sunnybrook
“I was glad to see him tell the students to be humble and appreciate the facilities and the program that we have here. He also encouraged food diversity, getting students to try new foods and cuisine from different countries.”
Chef and owner, Lee, Bent, Luckee, Lee Kitchen and Fring’s in Toronto and TungLok Heen in Singapore
Author, Susur: A Culinary Life
“We were having lunch on the very first day [of his residency] and the bowl of soup comes, and I start talking and he just does one of these (mimics a death stare). OK, loud and clear: when Susur eats, we don’t talk – we eat. And then when we’re done eating, we can talk again. That’s how it was the whole week.”
Chef and owner, Mistura Restaurant, Sopra Upper Lounge, Boccone Trattoria Veloce, Boccone Pronto in Toronto, and Soprafino Restaurant in Doha, Qatar
Author, 3 Chefs: The Kitchen Men; One Pot Italian: More Than 85 Easy, Authentic Recipes; and Massimo’s Italian Kitchen: Authentic One-dish Meals from a Seasoned Chef
“Massimo was a character, with great stories, and he was great with the students. He was so easygoing. He was another person you felt comfortable eating a meal with.”
Chef and co-owner, Cockscomb in San Francisco, California, Jackrabbit in Portland, Oregon and Acacia House in Napa Valley, California
Author, Beginnings: My Way to Start a Meal and Offal Good: Cooking from the Heart with Guts
“He was great with the students but it was all about the cooking. His spot was on the line with them … He was so intense and so about the food that I didn’t feel I got to know him at all. He stayed in the kitchen most of the time.”
Chef and owner, Ruby WatchCo in Toronto, Ontario
Author, Pitchin’ In and At Home with Lynn Crawford
“We’d have a plan, and she’d say ‘Yup,’ and go in, and boom! Chaos! ‘We’re going to make the world’s longest piece of pasta!’”
Owner and chef, Eigensinn Farm
“He said, ‘ok, I’m going to make a meal in front of everybody.’ So he’s cutting vegetables, we’re asking questions and he’s only got yes and no answers. He wanted to show people what he could do and share his food but trying to get him to talk about himself was really hard.”
Chef and owner Vij’s Restaurant, Vij’s Rangoli, Vij’s Sutra in Vancouver, British Columbia and Vij’s Shanti in Surrey, B.C.
Author, Vij’s At Home; Vij’s Elegant and Inspired Indian Cuisine; Vij’s Indian: Our Stories, Spices and Cherished Recipes, and more
“Vikram was one who wanted to be with the people, sharing his stories. That was the easiest year for me as the emcee [at the annual luncheon]. I just said, ‘Here’s Vikram,’ and he did the show … And he was so gracious. When he was at the airport leaving Edmonton, he sent me a text thanking me for my hospitality.”
“Every day he would ask us for feedback on how he had done the previous day. He was the only chef who ever did that.”
Chef and owner, Dirt Candy in New York City, New York
Author, Dirt Candy: A Cookbook
“She was very shy but when she got up and spoke she was funny and had great stories. When she was with the students, she was in her element. She gave constructive, honest feedback. I think the students really appreciated that.”
Chef and owner, RauDZ Regional Table, Micro Bar • Bites, and Sunny’s in Kelowna, B.C. and Terrafina at Hester Creek in Oliver, B.C.
Author, The Okanagan Table: The Art of Everyday Home Cooking
“He has that gift to encourage and to teach all at the same time. He’s sincere, he listens. He’s super-connected to the students. He was always willing to go above and beyond, stay extra time, whatever we needed. It was fitting to have him here for the 10th anniversary [of Chef in Residence]. It was a celebration of everything we do.”
This article appears in the spring 2018 issue of techlife magazine.