Pino Posteraro, Mijune Pak

Back for a second year, 6 Course Discourse, an evening of gourmet bites, BC wines, and six chefs discussing food industry challenges and discoveries, was hosted by Follow Me Foodie’s Mijune Pak. Vancouver’s Edgewater Casino theater served as the venue, as guests were given wristbands and a wine glass at the door to begin the tasting part of the evening.

6 Course Discourse-8 Maenam: Latiang of lobster: crispy egg nests, caramelized coconut, lemongrass, lime leaf, shallots, cilantro The Fish Counter: Poached BC sidestripe shrimp ceviche Bambudda Gastown: Pork belly appetizers Chocolate Arts: Honey and rosemary dark chocolates
[Maenam: Latiang of lobster; The Fish Counter: BC shrimp ceviche; Bambudda Gastown: Pork belly appetizers; Chocolate Arts: Honey and rosemary dark chocolates]

The event’s first hour provided a chance to chat with the chefs, taste their one-bite gastronomies, and sample BC wines. The Fish Counter, Maenam, Hawksworth, Bambudda Gastown, Chocolate Arts, Thomas Haas Chocolates, Cioppino’s Mediterranean, Savoury Chef Catering, NextJen gluten-free baking goods, and No Fixed Address Catering each offered samples specially prepared for the night.

NextJen: gluten-free raspberry drops Hawksworth: Albacore confit, rice cracker Savoury Chef: Kasu cured grilled flat iron steak Thomas Haas: Nutty Fiancier bar sandwiched with hazelnut cream, almond and Hawaiian mini teacakes
[NextJen: gluten-free raspberry drops; Hawksworth: Albacore confit, rice cracker; Savoury Chef: Kasu cured grilled flat iron steak; Thomas Haas: Nutty Fiancier bar sandwiched with hazelnut cream, almond and Hawaiian mini teacakes]

We made our way towards the theater for the chef talks following the tasting. Each chef briefly chatted about what drives their passion in the kitchen, career challenges, how to help aspiring young chefs to stay the course, and other trials and tribulations of working in the fast-faced, highly-competitive industry.

The Fish Counter men
[Mike and Robert of The Fish Counter]

Our six chefs for the night: Angus An, Maenam; Robert Clark, The Fish Counter; Taryn Wa, Savoury Chef Foods; David Hawksworth, Hawksworth; Pino Posteraro, Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill & Enoteca; Thomas Haas, Thomas Haas Chocolates.

Maenam Chef Angus An

“Feel the textures as you combine ingredients” – Angus An

Chef Angus An talked about flavour-sensory impressions, including smell, taste, and feel. Flavour was important to An growing up; his mother was a great cook. He later decided to take on cooking as a career, moving to New York City to study at the French Culinary Institute. At the time, he thought French cooking was the pinnacle of cuisine. He learned technique at Norman Laprise’s Montreal restaurant Toqué before moving to London with he worked in several restaurants but wasn’t feeling inspired nor fulfilled working 18-hour days.

Chef's panel
[Pino Posteraro, Angus An, Thomas Haas]

David Thompson’s Michelen-starred Nahm was his first chance to be blown away by Thai cooking techniques, witnessing firsthand that flavour came first. According to An, using senses to cook Thai food allows the chef to trust the palate to season food.

Robert Clark, The Fish Counter

“You cannot be a chef without being part of your food” – Robert Clark

The Fish Counter owner and founding partner of Oceanwise sustainable seafood spoke about the sustainability of being a chef, how it’s being undermined on all fronts over the past 60 years. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard Robert Clark speak out about the regulations on our restaurant industry, making it increasingly harder for young chefs to learn the proper skills in the kitchen.

Chef's panel
[Robert Clark, David Hawksworth]

The questions on today’s chef exams have little to do with food, and Clark believes the exam process should make it HARDER, not easier, to become a qualified chef. The entire food system is making it nearly impossible to survive as no one gives it the value it deserves. The current generation doesn’t have the opportunity to work with food, due to changes in the way food is produced. Our culture needs to change if we’re to have viable food supply into the next generations.

Taryn Wa, Savoury Chef Foods

Why I love this industry
Taryn Wa, Savoury Chef Foods Catering owner is happy to share her food with the public. After four years at university, she decided to make the switch to cooking, much to her family’s discontent. While on her career climb, she was told that she was too young and would eventually run out of ideas, however Wa learns something new every day.

Some of the toughest years of her life so far have been learning how to run a business AND improve on food ideas. She loves being part of a supportive community full of people pushing themselves to grow and to change. There’s always room for improvement in this tough but extremely rewarding industry.

Chef David Hawksworth, Hawksworth

David Hawksworth, on becoming a chef
The Hawksworth Restaurant owner finished high school and then off he went, slowly building up a culinary career. Culinary Institute of America (CIA) currently charges $34,000 a year with full board — this is a huge debt to enter the industry with. Hawksworth’s advice is to try not to take on too much debt: you need to travel and experience different cultures, take pictures, read, travel and eat!

Have a 10-year plan – do you want to be head chef? Sous chef? Keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities. David wants to see Canada on the culinary map, so he started a foundation (now in its third year) that annually crosses the country looking for a young chef to bestow a $10,000 prize and stage at the Canadian restaurant of their choice, giving a leg up to a young chef with great goals. Each year, 10 Red Seal chefs under the age of 28 compete for the coveted opportunity.

Chef Pino Posteraro, Cioppino's

“Build your passion, build your palate” – Pino Posteraro

Cioppino’s head chef winds up with more French chefs at his Yaletown restaurant than Italians; it’s easier to obtain a French visa. As former Chef’s Table Society President, Pino Posteraro believes that Canada needs to open the industry to women, young people, and new Canadians.

Chef's panel

Being a chef drives you to the level of insanity. You don’t find the right partner, you’re f-ed. His wife and kids help to make the busy chef’s life a lot easier, as the passion and pride of owning the iconic restaurant often involves being away on Sundays and at the last minute, if something should go wrong in the kitchen. Being a self-described edge-of-insanity control freak, Posteraro doesn’t believe in PR. What he does believe in is his cooking. Motivating staff is the hardest part of his job in an industry that takes patience and perseverance.

His Yaletown rent has gone up from $26k to $57k a month; this means $12k a day to break even or the well-established restaurant will have no chance to survive. “You have to be at the top of your ability every night.”

Chocolatier Thomas Haas

“No profession is a sprint; it’s a marathon” – Thomas Haas

Named Top 10 Chocolatiers in North America by Pastry Art and Design Magazine, Thomas Haas is grateful and thankful to be in the best place in the world. He began 30 years ago in a tiny Black Forest bakery, first cleaning the shop, later “promoted” to peeling apples in a corner.

Chef's panel

He describes the hardest day in his life: “I’m left-handed. The owner was furious, as there was a large amount of qualified pastry chefs ready to take on my job. I learned from that day and through perseverance was able to excel through the right attitude and mindset, even though the apple peeler was meant for a right-handed person.”

Through three generations of pastry chefs, Haas has excelled at his craft, owning two chocolate shops that are never without fans, some more *eclectic* than others (at this point, a customer story sent the audience roaring with laughter). His best advice is to lead by example and things will fall into place. Simple but true.

Angus, Pino, Thomas, Mijune, Taryn, Robert (missing David)
[Angus, Pino, Thomas, Mijune, Taryn, Robert (missing David)]

The fun and engaging evening (made even better by the chefs together on stage, answering tweeted questions from the audience – often poking fun at one another) wrapped up as guests chatted awhile with the chefs and nibbled on the remaining batches of NextJen’s yummy gluten-free cookies. Many thanks to the chefs and especially to Mijune for organizing such a seamless event!

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