Fare + Provisions: Mark Coster Talks To Acquired Taste

Posted by Daniel Okorn, May 29, 2014
Mark Coster by Acquired Taste

With Father's Day fast approaching, we're happy to share our latest campaign, Fare + Provisions with you. The collection includes an exclusive line of food, preserves and pantry items made by some of the city's top chefs. We've also partnered with Toronto-based food publication Acquired Taste to profile the chefs involved in the Fare + Provisions campaign + discuss their views on healthy eating, cooking for kids and the ceremony of family meals.

In our second interview for our collaboration with Acquired Taste, we sat down with wine aficionado + maker of Coster's Prescription bitters Mark Coster to discuss his secret to raising good kids, what it’s like to be a dad when you work in the industry and why food culture is so important.

Chuck: When you look back at your childhood, were there any food related experiences or even wine related things. I mean, you obviously didn’t drink as a child, laughs but is there anything that sort of resonates from your childhood?

Mark: Well I grew up in the Okanagan, so there was a lot of great fresh food available. We raised our own cattle, so we had access to great meat too, but then as far as the cooking culture, it wasn’t as developed as what I experience now. There were a lot of great things around, but it wasn’t like we could put it altogether quite as well.

C: Jump forward to being a father; When you go out to eat at restaurants, do you find that you more or less have an idea of what you want your child to grow up eating? Or do you kind of let them experience their own eating habits?

M: Well, my son eats everything. I think it’s important that they try everything. I mean, they don’t have to like everything, but they do have to try everything. I think it’s important that they don’t just get addicted to the simple food that normally gets dumbed down for kids. I find with my son anyways, he’ll eat sweetbreads; he eats a lot of adventurous foods and he loves it. I mean that’s just been from the very beginning for him eating food.

C: Why do you think parents kind of default, or opt to the chicken fingers and fries approach?

M: I think that if you start catering to them too much, you don’t challenge them on a daily basis. Complex food needs to be cooked properly; it still needs to be tasty. It’s exhausting being a parent laughs; it’s easy to just give up halfway, because you don’t want to have another argument with your child. I’m fortunate because I’m in and around a lot of great restaurants and I know a lot of people that make good food – and I can cook food fairly well (having worked in a lot of restaurants), and I know where to find good food in the city.

C: Do you try to introduce your son to new restaurants; do you bring him to certain places that you know are kid-friendly? Or do you just go to pretty much any restaurant and try to incorporate him into that?

M: Yeah, Liam has eaten everywhere. He’s eaten at a lot of places that aren’t considered “child-friendly”, but you know, you always find something that he likes to eat – for the most part.

C: What’s his favourite thing to eat right now and where? 

M: He loves the duck pizza at Libretto, he got into a fight at school about the best toppings laughs – it was duck and pear for him. He loves This End Up for just sandwiches; he’s eaten at The Grove, Black Hoof and everywhere really. He’s allergic to shellfish and fish, so we have to kind of watch that, but he’s eaten everywhere.

C: So Liam sounds very open-minded. Is there anything that he doesn’t like?

M: He ate kidneys at The Grove - he didn’t go for kidneys, that was not a success.laughs

C: When you’re cooking at home for Liam do you find that you’re a time conscious type of cook, or more creative?

M: You’re always kind of time conscious when you have a child because they go to bed earlier and you’re coming home later with them, so you’ve got real restrictions. I shop at Sanagan’s for meats and stuff like that, and they’ve got a lot of things – I wouldn’t say prepared foods, but they’ve given you one step in the right direction.

C: Considering the way Liam eats, do you find that he brings that knowledge of food to school? Does his group of friends share that same knowledge and appreciation of food?

M: Well, Liam goes to school in Roncesvalles. They’re pretty educated kids, but I think because my career is eating in restaurants, he has a different kind of knowledge than the average west end kid.

C: Is it trickier for you to do your business and to be in this industry as a father?

M: Well the reason that I do what I do now - rather than working on the floor as a Sommelier, is because I had a kid and I couldn’t work until two in the morning, and get up at seven and be vaguely conscious for that. laughs So, I figured out a way to transition the hours so that I could have more quality time with my son.

C: Do you find that Liam has an interest in cooking?

M: Yeah, totally! Liam cooks, he likes cooking pancakes.

C: Would you be happy if he followed your footsteps and took the culinary, or wine path later down the line?

M: Yeah, sure! He’s really into animals and really into drawing. He talks a lot about making video games laughs, but we all talk about different things when we’re eight then we wind up doing. I wanted to be a race car driver, so.laughs

C: What do you want Liam to remember you by?

M: I think that food is just a key part of life, and I just want to make sure that he has an understanding of food and that he has an understanding of ethically raised food. What we consume is really important, whether it’s wine or food or so and so. It’s not so much what I’ll be remembered by, but I’m making sure that I’m imparting to my son the importance of food and the politics of food.

C: Well said.

C: What would you say is the secret to raising good kids?

M: laughs I think it’s just a combination of threats and bribery.

C: laughs

M: No, but really I don’t think there’s a secret, it’s just a lot of effort in general.

C: For the Fare + Provisions product you’re making bitters from what I understand. What’s the reasoning behind your product and can you tell us a little bit about it?

M: Well, I started making bitters about three years ago for Christmas, and I did it as a Christmas gift to my friends – since all my friends are alcoholics, I figured bitters would be a better idea than cookies or baked goods, so yeah, after I gave those out, people really dug them and started asking for more. From there I started thinking about different base alcohols that you could add too, so with each bitter that I make, I’m inspired by scotch or bourbon or rum, and I’m kind of wanting to accent those bases for cocktails. I have no aspirations of being a bitters maker laughs, I just wanted to do that for my friends, but a lot of my friends are bartenders and really liked them so it kind of worked out.

Mark's Rosemary and Ginger Coster's Prescription bitters is now available exclusively at Drake General Store stores + online here.

Photography by Joel Terrón ((www.terronphotography.com)

Posted in: Drake General Store