Thursday, October 21, 2010

Meet Gold Medal Plates Chefs: Executive Chef Matthew Carmichael & Sous Jonathan Korecki and Jordan Holley

The following guest post continues a series of “Meet a Gold Medal Plates Competing Chef” interviews you will see leading up to the Gold Medal Plates Event in Ottawa. It's from the wonderful people at foodiePrints.

For this installment of "Meet a Gold Medal Plates Competing Chef," Don and I had the privilege to meet Chef Matthew Carmichael, winner of Gold Medal Plates 2009 and the bronze medalist at the 2009 Canadian Culinary Championships. Chef Carmichael is Executive Chef at Restaurant e18teen (18 York St.) and Social (537 Sussex Dr.).

Executive Chef Matthew Carmichael

Carmichael is an award-winning Chef who has worked with some recognized names in Ottawa and Toronto, including Chefs
John Taylor of Domus Café, Susur Lee then of Susur, David Lee then of Splendido, Kei Ng of KEI, and Michael Blackie then of Perspectives. Among his awards are ORHMA MAC Knife 2008 and Epicurean Awards Chef of the Year 2009.

Despite his successes last year, Chef Carmichael was quite adamant we meet his Sous, Jonathan Korecki of Restaurant E18teen and Jordan Holley of Social. They accompanied him to Gold Medal Plates and Canadian Culinary Championships. Chef Carmichael attributes his wins to the teams he formed for the competitions and feels his chefs and cooks deserve as much attention for their hard work and dedication. Moreover, he believes it is time the spotlight shine on a new generation of chefs, the upcoming ones.

And, what a treat it was to meet Chefs Korecki and Holley. Both, humble, genuine, and fun. Both, passionate about food.

Chefs Jordan Holley and Jonathan Korecki

What's your philosophy when it comes to food and the restaurant you work in?
"Local, as much as possible, seasonality, and simplicity", said Chef Holley.

"[Local] and simplicity," Chef Korecki agreed and followed up by pointing out how blessed Ottawa is in terms of having access to great cheeses, beef, foie gras, and duck.

Though Ottawa may not always have access to the best produce given its short growing season, both chefs mentioned that some of the best varieties of mushrooms can be found in our region.

What inspires you? How do you come up with ideas for the dishes that you create?
Dishes at Restaurant e18teen and Social are created through collaboration in the kitchen. Ideas are put forwards and developed through a back and forth between chefs and cooks.

For Chef Holley, there are three things that inspire him:
  • collaboration with the other chefs and cooks in the kitchen
  • cheese
  • his wife (who also works in the restaurant industry)
Like another restaurant couple we interviewed recently, he and his wife often "talk shop", discussing current trends and cutting edge cuisine.

While Chef Korecki mentioned similar inspirations, he also discussed how creativity and spontaneity go hand in hand. "When a product first comes in, I think, 'What can I do with it?'" he said. "I really enjoy undertaking the process, taking [products] from the start to the end [prep, cook and plate]."

What is your favourite dish on the menu and why?
After a short pause, Chef Holley replied, "The foie gras burger. You have to come see our foie gras burger!"

According to the Social dinner menu, the foie gras burger is a ground Alberta beef burger, topped with salt cured Quebec foie gras, grilled onions, and chili chutney.

For Chef Korecki, his love of seafood spoke when he enthusiastically replied, "The fish special. I get to have the most fun with it."

With a new featured fish dish every night, it is an opportunity for Chef Korecki to create something different using the ingredients he has on hand: tuna, oysters, honey mussels, sea urchin. A British Columbia spot prawn "duo" was a recent favourite. "It's pretty awesome," he said with a big smile.

What got you into cooking professionally? What keeps you in the kitchen?
As a kid growing up in the 1990s, Chef Holley first became interested in cooking from watching the popular CBC program,
The Urban Peasant, after school. Later in high school, he got a job as a dish washer and eventually enrolled into the culinary arts program at Algonquin College.

As for Chef Korecki, he also started as a dish washer when he was 15 years old, working at a golf course. From there, he attended university, but eventually dropped out when he realized his passion was cooking, not marketing. More often than not, he found himself reading more cookbooks than his textbooks. Not surprisingly, the rule of "no cooking" in his dorm room did not help matters. After attending Cordon Bleu, he went to Toronto to cook before coming back home to Ottawa.

What has been your most memorable meal and why?
Chef Korecki gave a huge smile and said, "Easter dinner this past year." While cooking dinner for his family, his wife and brother sat "at the bar", watching him cook. "The didn't get up once!" he said proudly.

Is there anything you won't eat?
Chef Korecki immediately replied, "Nothing endangered." Chef Holley agreed, "Same here!" He then added, "I won't eat a Big Mac. I'll try anything once, maybe twice, [but] I won't touch McDonald's."

Describe your perfect Sunday.
Given their work schedules, it was not surprising when both chefs said that their perfect Sunday involved their families.

For Chef Holley, his perfect Sunday would be spending it at home, cooking with his wife.

Chef Korecki nodded his head in agreement. "Same thing! Cooking with family, specifically with my wife."

For those who are newly attending the Gold Medal Plates event, how would you describe it? What can one expect?
Both laughing, they said, "Hard work and very little sleep!" Chefs Holley and Korecki also mentioned that it was an experience of a lifetime.

What did you think of representing the Ottawa-Gatineau region in last year's Canadian Culinary Championships?
Ever humble, Chefs Holley and Korecki stated, "It was an absolute pleasure, an honour."

Though, Chef Korecki did admit there was "a bit of pressure", as he and his executive chef had the responsibility to represent their city well. However, he explained that, in many ways, the Canaadian Culinary Championships was like "cooking with a bunch of friends." While they found themselves competing with people they had looked up to since they began cooking (including Chef Rob Feenie), everyone had won their respective regional competitions. They were among peers.

What is the worst thing that can happen at a culinary competition like Gold Medal Plates or the Canadian Culinary Championships?
This question drew some laughter before both chefs answered, "Your food not showing up!"

They then pointed out scenarios that would be extremely frustrating such as "faulty equipment" and "if something 'just doesn't work.'"

Towards the end of our interview with Chefs Holley and Korecki, Executive Chef Carmichael was able to drop by our table and graciously sat down to a handful of questions.

What's the ingredient you can't live without? (other than basics)
He immediately replied, "extra virgin olive oil."

What would your last meal be?
Without any hesitation, he replied, "a 'killer' seafood tower." Sharing his last meal with his wife, it would be a feast, consisting of "fresh 'raw stuff'" including sashimi, oysters, clams, scallops, and geoduck. "Lobster with warm drawn butter" would accompany.

If you could travel to just one place in the world for food, where would you go and why?
"Malaysia," Executive Chef Carmichael said thoughtfully. More specifically, he would travel to the nation's capital, Kuala Lumpur. There, he would take advantage of the street food. "It is a great mix of Chinese, Indian, and Malaysian cuisine," he explained.

To celebrate Chef Carmichael's Gold Medal win at last year's Gold Medal Plates and Bronze Medal win at last year's Canadian Culinary Championship, we have launched a contest to "
Cook Like a Gold Medal Plates Chef." To enter, we ask you to prepare a "take" on the Chef Carmichael's and Korecki's "Black Box Dish", using the same ingredients they were given (with some allowable substitutions). Since this year's winners of the Canadian Culinary Championship will have the opportunity to stage in a series of Mater Chef Thomas Keller's restaurants in California, the winner will receive a paired set of Chef Keller's cookbooks, courtesy of Thomas Allen & Son, Ltd. Chef Carmichael has also generously offered the winner an evening observing a dinner service in the kitchen of his Restaurant E18teen. Click here for more details.

Prior to the interview, Executive Chef Carmichael mentioned Chef Korecki had a side business, designing "cool" clothing for chefs. Intrigued, Don and I asked Chef Korecki what his business was all about.

Mise En Gear
Mise en Gear (Etsy Store), Chef Korecki's business has garnered significant attention in the restaurant industry. Essentially, he designs his own custom printed whites and bandannas. Chef Korecki recently described Mise en Gear as a company that brings "badass bandannas to the cooks".

Mise En Gear

Badass Bandanna

His prints are so popular that, not only can they be found in kitchens like as e18teen, Social, Courtyard, and Foundation, but storefronts are now requesting to carry them, including CA Paradis.

Thank you gentlemen for your time. Don and I look forward to dining at both e18teen and Social in the near future.

Aside: Here are some shots we took at Restaurant E18teen. Chef Carmichael was kind enough to let us into his kitchen.

Facebook Page:
Gold Medal Plates Ottawa

To purchase tickets for Gold Medal Plates, contact Sue Holloway (contact information below) or click

Restaurant e18teen
18 York St.
(613) 244-1188

Social Restaurant and Lounge
537 Sussex Dr.
(613) 789-7355

Mise en gear

Gold Medal Plates Ottawa
Tuesday, November 16, 2010 6:00 pm
National Arts Centre
53 Elgin Street

Sue Holloway
818 Nesbitt Place
(613)274-3107 phone
(613)274-0851 fax

1 comment:

Blogger said...

Anyone here is interested in receiving a FREE MC DONALD'S GIFT CARD?