Throughout my career I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to connect and work with some of the best chefs in the world. From these encounters I have concluded that although we may dramatically differ on techniques and flavour pairings, we all unconditionally agree that we want the finest ingredients our earth has to offer – fresh is best. If these same esteemed chefs could advise all the aspiring chefs in the world, I believe they would collectively share this: “Don’t allow yourself to end up with a hollow empty mess.” No matter how passé the idea, cooking with your heart is a necessity to making good food. Like everything in life, if you really love something, you give it your all – you’ll ‘fill it up’, so to speak. I don’t think enough people truly love things wholeheartedly – especially when it comes to food. I believe that’s where close mindedness originates from… “I’m a picky eater” or “I don’t like that” seems to commonly roll off the tongue a lot easier than, “Oh I love that” or “Sure, I’ll give it a try.” We’re so overwhelmed with all that is prepackaged, heavily marketed and poorly cooked that we lose sight of basic ingredients that still have their roots intact.
I wasn’t kidding when I stated previously on the Drake blog that it's my mission to represent a more local, fresh approach on our menu. Putting my money where my mouth is, I got everyone together and we made a garden at the hotel. Along with some eager and excited kitchen staff, I brought my (90lb) puppy Luther along for the day to help out. He put in a full day of digging holes and eating piles of dirt – it’s hard to believe he had time to stop for a mid-day photo shoot. If you can believe all the hard work Luther put in, it would knock your socks off to imagine that we spent all of June working hard to paint everything yellow (actually ‘sporty glam’ yellow to be specific), re-purposing old pallets, milk crates... even getting our favourite graffiti artist Blackburn to 'bling' out an antique bath tub... just to make sure we’re keeping our garden as relevant and urban as the Wu Tang Clan is to our neighbourhood hipsters. Oh, and of course, all the basil, parsley, mint, marjoram, tomatoes, lavender, callalou, radishes, peas and marigolds we've sprouted from seeds thanks to help our friends Gustavo and Jake from Skyline Farms. If fresh is best, what’s better then strawberries still warm from the afternoon sun? Nothing - and for those who can’t be sure, we have plenty of them growing out back too. Food is an essential part of our being and I believe everyone should share in these real life experiences.
If it’s our job as chefs to educate and advise aspiring chefs to learn and grow – aside from making sure their hand towels are dry and their knives are sharp – I believe it’s even more important to teach them to learn about and respect the ingredients they’re using – giving kitchen staff, servers, bartenders and supports staff alike, an opportunity to learn about cultivating and respecting the ingredients they’re using. I believe that keeping garden is a great way to do so. The icing on the cake is that this mentality will breed into more care while cooking, plating, cleaning and ultimately being more creative. When you allow yourself to get your hands dirty and really connect with what you’re doing, you become open to a whole new dimension of thought and imagination.
So what was left to do besides sit back and enjoy the fruits of our labour with a proper Canadian BBQ potluck? In the spirit of the garden, we planned some festivities to indulge in the very best food the Drake has to offer from The Hotel, One Fifty, The Devonshire Inn… and of course, garden-inspired cocktails compliments of Mr. John Humphrey himself. We had ourselves a garden party! With the help of all our friends and Drake family members alike, we collectively welcomed our new garden oasis – a place of imagination, community, and of course, a place so full of love, it’s hard to believe we all fit inside the garden gate. Stay tuned for more garden news in our next edition of The Ake. Don't receive this yet? Sign up in the upper right hand corner. (look up - red box, see?)