by Shelley Boettcher
Maybe it’s praise from the
right people at the right
time. Maybe it’s an inspiring
cookbook, or the taste of a
hauntingly delicious flavour.
Every great chef has that moment when they discover they’ve found their calling. That time when
they realize that the universe has pointed them in precisely the right career direction.
But for everyone in the culinary industry, that time is slightly different. Maybe they were still in high
school, searching for something to do when they grew up. Maybe they were already cooking professionally,
but, at least for a while, they weren’t always convinced of their career path until that time.
Here, six of Calgary’s top chefs talk about their “a-ha!” moment, that point in their lives when the
knew they had found the career they were meant to have.
Chef/proprietor, NOtaBLE, The Nash and Off Cut Bar
His A-Ha! moments – first, there was his experience apprenticing under chef Ben Weber and then competing alongside him for a decade, as a member of the Canadian Culinary Team. “I wish he knew what he gave me. I’d say thank you for teaching me to make sauces, for teaching me how to organize myself for service and to be professional.” His time working under chef Bruno Marti was also pivotal to Noble’s career, he says. “Two or three times, I got discouraged and I wanted to leave and become an instructor,” he says. “But Bruno said, ‘Michael, we need people like you within the business. You need to stay.’” He was right, Noble says, “and now it’s my turn to be a mentor.”
Executive chef, River Café
His A-Ha! moment – when he realized he was spending more time reading cookbooks than his course books. “The real a-ha moment was one of the first sets of cookbooks I ever bought: seeing the food, the way it was photographed, and the complexity of every dish,” he says. “All the flavours that were, to me, unknown and unusual. I wanted to put them together and see how they’d work.”
Chef/owner, Meez Cuisine
Her A-Ha! moment – when she opened those cookbooks. “I thought, ‘Wow, I could do this. It was a big a-ha moment for me because I realized I didn’t have to go to university. I could go to school in Europe and learn more of the craft I really enjoyed doing, for which I could actually get paid.” So she did just that. She studied at L’Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne before cooking at the now-defunct Four Seasons Hotel in Calgary, followed by stints at Buchanan’s Chop House and Sunterra. These days, she heads up the kitchen at Meez Cuisine, a gourmet take-away shop and catering business in southeast Calgary.
Read article in the digital issue of City Palate.