Saturday, 26 February 2011

Update! Shopping and Staging

Hello everyone,

It has indeed been a few days since my last post but very productive days at that. I am currently doing some staging in the Ottawa area in order to expand my culinary knowledge and to see how other kitchens and chefs operate. I have stages set up for a bakery, butcher, and two restaurants. However, first let me talk about the shopping aspect of my update. Last Thursday I decided that it was time to treat myself and go on a bit of a shopping spree. Being a man and not particularly inclined to clothing or electronics I decided it was a good idea to hit up C.A Paradis.

I took the bus over, which conveniently went from the front of my apartment to the front of the store, and entered with the prospect of grabbing a knife or two. Well an hour later and the helpful assistance of the staff I purchased over 300$ worth of items. First, I went to the knife counter because the knives at my old restaurant belonged to the restaurant and I decided it was time to own a good set for myself. I examined many a knives and chose: a chefs knife, boning, fillet, pairing, and some ceramic. My boning and fillet knives were sinelli they are a lower end brand but knifes for such messy work don't necessarily have to be toooooooop notch.However, I did splurge and get a Mac. The knife I purchased is not typical of most chefs, I tend to like my knives light and nimble. It gives them more versatility and the speed at which you move in a kitchen is heightened. It is important to make sure your knife fits your culinary personality, so don't always tend to go for bigger or more flash make sure the knife sits well in your hand and your purpose. This is the knife I decided on:
I also bought a knife bag just to keep the puppies safe and clean. I also decided it was time to get a new jacket and apron because my other two were getting stodgy and stained, and if you know anything about white jackets there about as hard to clean up as Charlie Sheen. Always buy a double breasted jacket so that it is reversible to keep up a clean appearance. I choose a maroon apron because if anything gets ultra dirty its going to be your apron. I believe the quote is "Judge a chef by the filth on their apron and the cleanliness of their sleeves"

Staging: Is when a chef works for free in a kitchen in order to gain experience and technique.
As I am a younger chef I believe that it is important to participate in stages in the early and late parts of your career. It allows you to gain positive insight into a kitchen even when they are not hiring. I also believe that it is important for chefs to know the other aspects of the culinary arts such as baking and butchery. With that in mind I have tentatively lined up some stages in a bakery and butcher here in Ottawa, and I must say I am excited. I also managed to gain stages in  very interesting restaurants in Ottawa, I will reveal the details after I have completed the stages. I did my first one on Friday with the awesome guys over at Sidedoor, 18's new venture. They were extremely polite and showed me a great deal. Their focus is more on Asian cuisine something I am not very familiar with, so the experience was very new to me. Although not Asian, they even have a new Taco station in which they make tortilla to order to each taco: including braised lamb and beef. I tried to take in as much as I possibly could and am debating asking them to do a couple more. So much thanks to those guys.

Anyways that's whats been happening lately and stay tuned I think I am going to do a restaurant review sometime soon and I have a judgmental palate so it should be interesting.

Cheers, MJ

Thursday, 24 February 2011


So I received a message saying that commenting required an ID so I took that restriction off, so feel free to comment away. Perhaps requests for a topic, restaurant, or dish?


Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Gimme the Beet!

Beets... Beets... Beets the magical fruit (well vegetable) the more you eat the more you well eat..

Beets are definitely one of the most magical vegetables in my honest opinion. The taste, smell, and flavour of a beet is one of the most interesting profiles a vegetable has to offer. It can be bitter, sweet, and tangy depending on the methods of cooking it is put through. I even recently have seen that Michael Blackie has used a dehydrator in order to make beet salt. I mean a beet can be boiled, roasted, pan fried, and even deep fried and the profile still stands up. I mean hell you can even pickle a beet and its magical. It can be eaten cold or hot and it's still magical. A beet also has a very long season and can be found fresh through most months of the year.

Here are a few ideas for beets:
  • Mix them into your next batch of mashed potatoes
  • Boil them off and let em chill and served with some goat cheese or creme fraiche
  • Goulash and soups
  • Pickle them and serve em with some gravlax and smoked salmon
  • Hell even mash em into a gnocchi mix and let it turn a beautiful red
  • The water is also a great natural colouring agent
I have also had some conceptual ideas perhaps using beets blended with herbs to make a beet consume using cheese cloth, or somehow working them into a dumpling, or using them in a stir fry as a mild sweetener.

Anyways, I'd love to hear your experiences with beets and ideas you may have. So drop that sweet beet!


P.S I know I used magical a few..... times wait until I do a post on Heirloom tomatoes and then you'll see the sparks fly

Thinking about joing our gang?

Food, cooking, and culinary expression has grown exponentially over the past couple of decades. Some contributing factors being the rise of the celebrity chef and the expansion of the food network and travel channels. This of course has now sparked a renewed passion in food, ingredients, and techniques by many home cooks.That with the combination of shows about opening restaurants, making over restaurants, and life in restaurants it seems as though many people now wish to become chefs. There are 4 main problems with this fantasy.

1. Cooking is an extremely labour intensive job: I know many other authors and people have said this but it has to be reinforced. I am 21 years old and I have worked cramped and busy lines and let me tell you between the dehydration, burns, and general pains there is not much time to breathe. So unless you are physically able to put your body through this stress don't do it.

2. Many don't realize you have to become a cook first: Let me tell you how my adventure went dishwasher-prepcook-dessert cook-garde manger-assistant chef-sous chef-head chef *very briefly*. That took me approximately seven years, and hell I'm still probably another seven from being where I need to be.I am just trying to reinforce that unless you win the lottery or have some unnatural god given talent that heading a restaurant problem won't happen for at least 5-8 years.

3. Do you remember college/university: Do you remember all those super late nights that you spent cramming for a final/midterm/paper. Do you remember how much you hated it and couldn't wait to go out drinking with your friends. Well if you want to be a chef you better welcome yourself back into that life. Many of us have bookshelves of cookbooks like you had Plato or Neitzhcshe. Ever read Escoffier front to back in search of an ounce of imspiration. Do you have more issues of Food Arts and Savuer magazine then you have of GQ, Maxime, Playboy, Vogue, or Cosmo. I am trying to make a point: That becoming a chef/wanting to become a chef takes a great deal of research, hardwork, and time sitting at a table with books.

4.Is it all you think about: I am serious it has to be all you think about, it has to get you excited, and most of all you need to be in love with your dream.
Please post your thoughts and questions below

Monday, 21 February 2011

The Po'boy

This post is more about my fascination with authentic and regional cuisine. Nothing irks me more when someone says oh lets have authentic Chinese, Indian, or Arabic food, because those are not true authentic foods. Chinese can be broken down into multiple cuisines such as Szechuan, Indian into Punjab, and Arabic into Lebanese/Iranian. So for me as a chef I believe it's extremely important to come up with dishes that may not be direct takes of these foods but honour their origins and authenticity. The example that will use today is the Po'boy, which is a New Orleans classic and regionally important dish. So when I was Chef at M********* we had to do an Jazz fest menu so I automatically thought New Orleans. However, like much of my style I like to take classics and put a spin, an honourable one, on it.

I will not go into details about the history of the Po'boy as it can be found quite briefly on wikipedia:

The Po'boy was created by a deli owner to help feed starving workers during a labour strike. However, as a chef of a casual fine dining restaurant one can see why I couldn't put the dish above on a menu, it wasn't refined enough. So I had to get my mind working (cup of coffee and a couple of cigarettes really get the culinary juices flowing for me who knows why) and I came up with a Po' boy slider. A slider was great for our tapas style menu and also allowed for a bit of refinement on my part, for my own sake though I had to stay true to the ingredients while making very slight alterations.

This is the recipe:
2 Jumbo Shrimp
2 Slider Buns
1 tbsp of creole seasoning (onion powder, garlic powder, dried oregano leaves, dried sweet basil, dried thyme leaves, black pepper, white pepper, cayenne pepper, celery seed, sweet paprika)
1 good tangy pickle
1 tbsp of creole mustard
1 bit of diced lettuce

 Peel the shrimp and dust em with the creole seasoning and fry em quick in a pan with some clarified butter. Then take some more butter and toast the buns in the same pan. Assemble the sliders with some slices of the pickles, lettuce, and mustard. NEVER add tomato its a sin.

Anyways hope this post shows how chefs can honour the original version while putting a creative spin on things.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Street /Food/ Trucks

As many of you probably know L.A has a vibrant street food community. Check this link out:

It makes me wonder why Ottawa does not have, to some end, some sort of fun idea like this. We are one of the most popular tourist destinations during the summer and winter months. Not to mention that we have numerous outdoor activities in the summer and winter that would require mobile food stands (if it does happen it's usually crap). I first thought of this when I was reading an Ottawa Citizen article about the City no longer issuing permits to people for street food activities, and not only were they doing that but not renewing licensees that had expired. It just seems that Ottawa is continually limiting itself in grand new culinary experiences. Many would argue that the market has too many restaurants and the competition wouldn't be fair to them. There would be so many reasons not too, but alas many great things have had strong opposition.

I mean I don't know but it seems like it may be a good idea, and perhaps maybe get the ball rolling on our evolving culinary scene.

Welcome to the Blog

Hello to all,

My name is Matt Johnny and am currently cooking "professionally" in Ottawa. However, like many others in the industry I don't just do this for work but it is also a passion. So with that passion I decided that it may be productive to get some of my idea's and experiences down on "paper". So this blog will consist of recipies, travel, ideas and rants. So all I can hope for is those that share my experiences with me will take something away from it.