Join us as we sit around the proverbial talking stick, getting to know the new talent that's just joined us. Today, we talk to Alexandra Feswick, a brand-new addition to Drake, and the brand's new Chef du Cuisine.
How did you come to be working in the culinary arts? What first inspired you to choose food as your art form, and how long have you been doing it? I have worked in a kitchen since I was 15 years old – I went to University after high school for Sociology, however, found myself cooking more then I was actually learning – so I finished up my degree at University of Guelph and quickly enrolled at George Brown college. I love food, and frankly, couldn’t/can’t imagine doing anything else. (I have been cooking for almost 15 years). What would you say has been your greatest challenge as a chef, before or during your time at Drake? What’s been your favourite moment? When it comes to cooking, I believe that cooking good food simply comes from loving what you do. I think the best meal imaginable would be at a farm next to the crops you are eating. That reminds me of when I worked with Jeff Crump, it was mandatory that we worked on a farm in the summer once a week. One of my favourite memories is being on that farm and eating a harvest lunch of some of the products we had grown that summer. There was also a woman from Jamaica staying there with a bunch of students from the city and she cooked some kalalou for us – it was the first time I had tried kalalou and was so excited that we got an authentic taste of something that we (as Canadians) had been discarding as a weed - it was cooked so beautifully using a classic family recipe she had been using for years.
What are your favourite meals or recipes? My favourite ‘meal’ is Thanksgiving dinner. I love eating with family and friends – to me, there is nothing more beautiful then sharing a family style dinner. Sharing stories and memories. In fact, I was even married on Thanksgiving weekend – it seemed to be the perfect time of year – an opportunity to truly be thankful with all of our family and friends. We have to eat – even the most self-proclaimed ‘bad’ cooks will light up if you can find that ingredient, that memory or story that gets them excited about what they eat. I love to bring that out in people.
What eventually brought you to Drake? There is something very magical about The Drake Hotel (and all of it’s recent extensions) – when I first moving to the city I emailed anyone who would sit down and talk to me about the opportunities in the city – Bill Simpson (God Bless is heart) was one of those people. Although I didn’t start here until nearly 5 years later, some of my favourite memories have been here at the Drake – namely at 86’d Mondays… When the opportunity arose again to work here, it seemed natural - and I am currently extremely honoured to be part of such a beautiful team. I love how involved we are in the community. If I could be a professional volunteer (and it would pay my mortgage – haha) I would…I love to give back to the community and feel grateful to work with a group of people who feel the same way.
Finally, as a major behind-the-scenes player, what direction would you like to see Drake take in the future? Are there any culinary innovations or big ideas you’d like to see? I would like to see the Drake take a more local, fresh, homemade approach. We are already doing this in many regards, however, I think we could do more. What’s better then an apple freshly picked from the tree you’re standing next to – or strawberries still warm from the plant? I would like to offer this type of experience to our customers on a more regular basis.