Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Interview with Chef Charlotte Langley for the Canadian Celebrity Chefs Event

I'm now counting down the days to the big celebrity chefs event going on at the NAC Monday, January 24. I love food so much that being able to try many different dishes is a total sensory overload for me that I just can't get enough of. Kind of like a drug, a really good drug.

Looking over the delicious menu makes my heart race. Try it for yourself, if your mouth doesn't start to water, then I'm going to make the assumption that you are just not human. Perhaps even a robot.

Transverse Nova Scotia sea bass crispy seared | citrus cured cool fennel + citrus salad | warm gold beet puree + hay brown butter | dulse and beetroot coulis | applewood smoked mussel bridge done by Norm Aitken (Juniper) and Michael Howell (Tempest).

Oyster | honey flavor roasted foie gras terrine | marrow bones + chardonnay vinaigrette | bacon foam done by Marc Lepine (Atelier) and Mathieu Cloutier (Kitchen Galerie).

Shiitake poached pickerel | beurre noissette | dressed grains + greens | Crispy crème fraiche oyster done by Charlotte Langley (Whalesbone) and Brad Long (Café Belong).

Sweet grass cold smoked Charlevoix veal | crisp potato girdle | Clarmell on the Rideau feta + sage infused retention firecracker spotted prawn crisp | Cloud Horse mead-lychee sting done by Michael Blackie (NAC) and Michael Lyon (Hotel Eldorado).

Poached Atlantic lobster | Bridge sparkling wine beurre blanc Le Coprin mushrooms | sweetbreads with candied fennel corn flan, water cress sprouts | black olive purée done by Clifford Lyness (Perspectives) and Ray Bear (MIX).

Drunken squab + Newfie screech | tatin of sunchokes | foie gras crepinette done by Michael Moffatt (Beckta) and Anthony Walsh (Canoe).

Beet risotto | crispy pig cheek | seared Qualicum beach scallop | Granny smith slaw done by Cesare Santaguida (Vittoria Trattoria) and David Rocco (Dolce Vita).

North country bison hash | Quebec goat cheese + cauliflower ravioli Preserved lemon + rendered bacon hollandaise | ancho chili plum gastrique done by Robyn Bowen (Empire Grill) and Paul Rogalski (ROUGE).

Oh, and did I mention each of these will be paired with the perfect wine?

When I interviewed Charlotte Langley recently, I actually drooled a little bit when she started talking about ingredients and describing her plate for the event. This woman's passion for food is obvious, both through discussion as well as in the kitchen. I've been a fan of the Whalesbone and Charlotte's cooking for a long time – that end result that I savour so much can only come from someone who truly loves what they do. And she does. Chatting with her was a real treat and allowed me to get to know that amazing person hiding behind the kitchen divider at the restaurant.

Brad Long (left) who is paired with Charlotte Langley (right) for the Canadian Celebrity Chefs Event food demonstrations.

When did you know you wanted to be a chef?
I liked to cook so I decided to apply to culinary school and was accepted with a scholarship in PEI. During my first year, I was doing really well, my marks were good and I thought this seemed like a fun career. It seemed easy. But by the second year I realized it was insane and challenging, and a long struggle. But I still wanted to do it. And I fell in love, it was such a surprise. I was 20.

What do you love most about your job?
Giving pleasure to people. Giving them a taste sensation they've never had before and hearing their reaction. It's such a cool feeling to be able to do that for someone.

When you're designing a complete meal, what factors do you take into account? And how do you achieve harmony and balance?
I use all the senses, sweet, sour, savoury, smokey, bitter, all those different taste sensations that we have, and in my mind, acid needs a bit of sweet, and also does really well with a bit of smoke, those are my three favourite style combos. So if I'm going to put tuna on a plate, tuna is texturally soft and fatty so it needs something sharp and edgy to accentuate the softness of it, so as a contrast it needs acid to break it down a bit in your mouth. Fat tuna, lemon sour, smoked fish roe, fat avocado to remind you of the texture of the tuna, it's not the same texture but it has sort of the same feel in your mouth – they're all kind of building blocks – it's a textural thing.

What's your biggest culinary guilty pleasure that other chefs would maybe frown upon?
Meat on meat. I really like ketchup too. And Ballpark mustard. I actually use the mustard a lot in my sauces.

What was your worst kitchen disaster?
When I worked at C in Vancouver, I was garde-manger there and it was my first professional restaurant job. One day the pastry girl was really sick so the chef got me to work pastries. The kitchen there is split-level, so I had never even seen the desserts that came out because it was all done upstairs and then just filtered out into the dining room. I was also asked to pin bone a case of sardines while doing pastries. I had never done either one. When the dessert orders started coming in I had a hard time finding everything and so it ended up taking me 20 minutes just to get the first one out.

The disaster in this case was everyone's desserts were late, they were probably wrong, I'm sure they looked awful, I had no idea what I was doing. And the sardines didn't get finished. It was a disaster because I let my chef down. He was upset. I was so disappointed in myself. It was a huge sign to me that I didn't know anything about this career.

Another disaster was our first night open at the Gastropub, we set the fire alarm off and it wouldn't turn off. It went off for like 5 hours and we couldn't figure out what was wrong. It was hard-wired into the building. Everyone still sat there and ate.

What other profession would you like to try?
I would like to go back to university at some point to get a degree in biology because I want to do water preservation in Canada. I don't have any experience in it but it's something I'm really interested in. Next to Asia we have the second largest mass of fresh water and it's very important to me that we take care of it and maintain it.

A lot of the atmosphere at the Whalesbone revolves around the staff, their friendliness and the music playing loud. What's your favourite song to belt out to?
Depends what night of the week it is. Some nights I really get into Bob Marley – on the quieter nights of the week. It chills out the guests a little bit. And everyone knows reggae.

One of my favourite bands of all time is Timber Timbre, he's from Toronto. It's really dark but so gorgeous.

When Jenna was there it was Abba.

And there's a song by Marvin Gaye but I can't think of the name of it right now. It's a super upbeat dancing song. Whenever I'm in a bad mood Jared will put that song on.

What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?
Laughs. He's just not the one.

Be honest with people. Tell them how you feel.

Name 3 great wines that you love to drink.
Laughing Stock from BC has a juicy, fresh red that I love.
Blue Mountain Brut that we have at the restaurant. It tastes like bacon, hickory.
Evolution No 9, it's a mix of 9 different grapes – fresh, light, sweet and sour, it has a ton of really nice flavours in it, some residual sugar and goes well with anything.
And Semillon with oysters. That's 4.

When you cook for yourself is it experimental or quick and easy?
More refined I guess, because I'm not in a rush. I'll make myself spaghetti and meatballs but I'll try it differently. I'll try to take myself out of the box of how I normally would make it at work or for other people. I try to slow down and introduce a new method different than what I'm used to doing, just to see if it changes things at all.

Lately it seems like there's a lot more culinary events like the Gold Medal Plates, dueling chefs, Taste of Winterlude, and now the NAC's celebrity chefs event. Why do you think Ottawa has become so food crazy?
I have no idea. When I first started working here it wasn't like this at all. In the past 5 years it's grown really fast. Maybe all the cooks that were working together before at 5 or 6 small places finally got the finances to open their own place and all just did it at the same time. Farb's, Fraser, Murray Street, Town, all these places opened up within a year or two of each other.

Have you ever done anything similar to the celebrity chefs demo?
Not really, no.

Have you met Brad Long before?
No, I called him though and we chatted about our ideas. He seems cool.

Are you worried about your dynamic in the kitchen at all?
Not really. Only because he's not going to be there at all for the prep until the day before. And a lot of the prep that has to be done, because it's such a large number of people, can't be done the day of, it needs to be done at least 2 to 3 days in advance.

We're doing a mushroom poached piece of fish and he's given me the recipe for the broth which is a signature flavour combo of his. And we're doing a crunchy grains and greens base, so sprouted grains as well as cooked and sautéed grains and spicy greens. It's going to be really healthy actually. He's giving me his signature dressing that has a bit of a Japanese flair. So both his two recipes but with my interpretation, so I think it'll be fine.

What's your motto or advice that you live by?
Passionism. I don't always feel it but I try to think about it. Don't do something unless you want to do it well or do it nicely or with care. Don't just do something to get it done.

You too can chat to, and learn more about Charlotte and the other magnificent chefs at the show. There are still some tickets available through the NAC.


S Lloyd said...

Great interviews. You help us discovering those chefs and this is priceless.

Recipe For Lasagna said...

Interesting interview :)