Mike, you have done everything from operating several catering companies, taught private cooking lessons and produced and directed award winning television series. Currently, you are the Food Editor-in-Chief of Canadian Living Magazine, how do balance your home and work life and still do so well in your career?
I’d love to be able to give you some all-knowing master parent answer to that one but the truth is that I don’t balance life and career very well. I think when you’re immensely passionate about anything in life other things Will occasionally take a backseat. Being a single parent who has my kids 50% of the time that adds even more pressure. We make do though, my girls are at a great age right now, eight and 11, so they’re old enough to be with me almost everywhere I go, and wherever possible I involve them in my passion for cooking. That makes it something we can share and enjoy together without having to compromise time spent apart.
Do your daughters Sydney & Faith have a favourite meal that you cook for them?
Fortunately they have several. I have an internal rule that whenever they fall in love with a certain dish I swap it out for something new. I don’t want them to get attached to any one thing. Not unlike clients in a restaurant, I’ve developed some rapport with them now. They tend to at least try things before they tell me they don’t like it.
Do you have any staple ingredients that you always have in your kitchen?
When I’m in a hurry eggs are often a go to. Wherever possible I will purchase free range organic. You really can tell the difference. Most people don’t know that a high-quality egg yolk is actually more orange than it is yellow. You just don’t see that unless you buy great eggs, or live on a farm. I also like keeping a few cans of beans around with fresh herbs. It’s amazing the variation of dips you can make by throwing beans, garlic and some fresh herbs in a food processor. And for the kids, there’s always a tub or two of butter pecan ice cream. OK. It’s there for me too.
I’m making your Lamb Shanks with Mint Raisin Quinoa and your Roasted Pears with Pecans and Prunes for Dessert. Which wine should I pair with this meal for my Fiancé and I?
First of all I look forward to hearing what your fiancé thinks of that dish. I adore lamb shanks, I hope he feels the same. Lamb is a strong flavoured meat so you would want something that’ll stand up next to it. My go-to in this situation would be a big Australian Shiraz. What can I say, I’m a fan of my hometown wines.
On a first date, do you cook for your lady? Does she cook for you? Or do you take her out to one of your favourite restaurants?
There’s no way in the world I’m cooking on a first date. If I like her I’m nervous enough without the pressure of me not screwing up a meal. The second or third date however… It would be a series of fun little tapas style dishes that we can nibble on while we sip some great wine and talk. Informal would be the theme.
It seems like you’ve done everything and been everywhere. Is there anything else left on your Bucket List?
Oh my goodness. That’s kind of you but I have a child-like attention span so there will never be enough years left in my life to tick all the boxes. I have however been fortunate to have had some success in my career, and best of all I have two beautiful daughters by my side. Maybe it’s my age but now I’m looking towards projects where I can create opportunities for those that don’t have them. I don’t talk a lot about what I do publicly but affecting change in somebody’s life is more rewarding than any pay-check or accolade I’ve ever received.
Tonight, I made Mike’s Lamb Shanks with Mint Raisin Quinoa and his Roasted Pears with Pecans and Prunes for dessert. I chose the Lamb Shanks in particular because it is something I could throw together, pop in the oven and in the meantime put Ella down for bed. Last week if you were following along on Snapchat(@suzannetoth), my little missy wasn’t too pleased when Dad was trying to put her down which made for an interesting night. Ella in one hand, spatula in another, cooking our meal was a challenge to say the least. To make things easier, I made the Roasted Pears with Pecans and Prunes ahead of time to be warmed up in the oven while we devoured our main course. I paired our main dish with Molly Dooker 2014 Cab Sauv, an Australian wine as suggested by Mike. The lamb fell off the bone, the sauce was rich, the quinoa was the perfect accompaniment. The dessert was sweet but not too sweet and the vanilla ice cream finished it off nicely.
Thank you Mike for being a part of my series, these recipes will be used over and over again! Head to his website www.chefmikeward.com to check out some other great dishes.