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.
Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing Chef Andrew Wolwowicz of The Springs Restaurant in London ON. We discussed his passion for making patrons happy through his cooking while he prepared each course. I was all smiles throughout dinner as my meal was rich and savory. Chef Andrew really made me feel at home.
Before I share my experience at The Springs, here are a few questions I asked the Chef Andrew Wolwowicz.
What inspires you when you create a recipe?
My inspiration, I feel lies in discovering new/seasonal ingredients that challenge my palate or, discovering an exciting flavour profile that perfectly complements an idea I was inspired by.
What are your favourite ingredients to cook withor top 5?
My favourite ingredients somewhat may change throughout the seasons, however, 5 ingredients I like to ensure are present in new either meaty or vegetarian dishes are currently;
- Fennel pollen
- Duck all cuts
- Good garlic
- bu bu butter
Who would be your dream dinner guest?
I would have to say I have 2. One would be Daniel Boulud. His cooking style engulfs a philosophy where maintaining the integrity of all the ingredients used in a dish are highlighted. It is a guideline I continually strive to ensure I incorporate in all the food I prepare; I believe I would make him proud!
The Second would have to be Michael Smith. Back in the day, I was addicted to his cooking show The Inn Chef. I felt inspired by the simple elegance he brought to his food. It is no wonder he continually attracts a steady stream of new cooks. Cooks whom I’m certain, whatever level they may be at with regards to their cooking skills, keep at it, while having the fun with exploring new flavours
Did you always know this is what you wanted to do?
Initially, my goal in life was to become a music teacher! Well, that changed once I took my first restaurant job during university. I look back and feel like I was captivated by the whole environment the business demanded. I had a good background with ‘real food’ so to speak in my younger years as my grandparents had a dairy farm; and being of European decent, I had the privilege of being exposed to farm life food. Food that was simple, from the land, flavourful and dedicated to the season. Eating what the bounty from what the garden offered was what we knew. I actually never ate a tomato on a sandwich until university as I had only ever eaten one right off the vine (with a little sprinkle of salt from the salt shaker you carried in your pocket while scoping out the goods the garden had ready!) So I feel that when I was exposed to the business side of food, it tripped my innate desire to offer guests a familiar experience.
What do you see as the new trend in food for 2016?
I am thinking there will be a few fun, yet traditional ingredients/techniques highlighted this year; such a stinging nettles, ashes (charring vegetables to create a flavourful powder to crust food), dehydrating foods, ‘less is more’, pulses & ancestral flavours. These are just a few I will be playing with this year for sure.
To begin, I was served the duck wings as an appetizer, the short ribs for my main, and cheesecake for dessert. The duck wings were huge…. I asked him “Can I pick these up with my hands?” he responded with “eat Suzanne, I just want you to eat!” He really wanted me to enjoy every aspect of my meal and let my taste buds run wild as enjoyed my meal. I even said to myself “Suzanne, you have a full meal coming to you, DO NOT eat all these wings.” I ate them ALL and enjoyed every bite! Next, Andrew brought out the most beautiful plate of short ribs, on top of parsnip puree. I ended my meal with the lightest cheesecake I’ve ever had. It was Fantastic!
The Springs is upscale dining with a comfortable atmosphere. In my opinion, it’s perfect dining experience.
Andrew, your authentic, creative, and your passion for pleasing your guests through your food is admirable. Thank you for allowing me in to your kitchen!