Monday, September 14, 2009

Chatting with Chef Michael Smith

Yes, I'm a little star struck...last week I spent an hour with Chef Michael Smith, one of my all time favorite celebrity chefs. We talked about his latest projects, his food philosophy, which is really very simple, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

I've been a really big fan of Chef at Home for a long time's actually in its sixth season and I have frequently been inspired after an episode, with the likes of these Star Anise Carrots that were heavenly, as were the slow oven roasted tomatoes I threw in the oven in less time than a commercial break. So it should be no surprise when Michael said that his job "is to help you impress yourself in your own kitchen"...couldn't have said it better myself.

And he's just finished season two of his latest tv series- Chef Abroad (I call it the National Geographic Foodie Special) with trips to Morocco, New Zealand, the jungles of Peru, Thailand...26 countries in the last two years! I've seen the Morocco show and am entirely jealous. You can almost smell the wonderful aromas in the spice shops and feel the frenetic energy as Michael helps out some local chefs set up their "restaurant"'ll have to catch the episode, it was awesome. I can't wait to follow him on his wild food journeys around the world. When he says he has the best job ever, he's not kidding.

And if that's not enough for you, he's the ambassador and driving force behind PEI's Fall Flavours , a week long festival with over 150 culinary events. I'll be heading over for the opening weekend, September 25th, so stay tuned for my adventures. I'm already trying to decide what to wear!

Just check out some of the events for yourself...
Friday, September 25th
1pm-3pm Dipped in Chocolate - Island Chocolates Company located in the former general store in the beautiful seaside village of Victoria by the Sea will offer a chance to make molded chocolates, chocolate clusters and try their hand at hand dipping and learn some chocolate history.

6pm-9pm Family Style featuring Chef Michael Smith
Chef Michael Smith serves it up Family Style at this exclusive dinner and cookbook signing at the Culinary Institute of Canada for the launch of his newest cookbook, The Best of Chef at Home: Essential Recipe's For Today's Kitchen. Can't wait for that!

Saturday, September 26th
10am-1pm Morning Chef Calvin Burt in his amazing garden and home, nestled in the heart of North Shore Country, to learn how he goes from harvest to feast using vegetables, fruits, herbs and a stunning floral oasis.

Afternoon: The Handcrafted Beer and Wine festival is quickly becoming the event of its kind in the Maritimes.

6pm-9pm Roma Gala Heritage Feast -a spectacular menu featuring local PEI foods. and that's just the first weekend!

Okay, back to the interview.... his newest book...The Best of Chef At Home looks wonderful...I got a very brief peak and am eagerly awaiting my very own copy. I'll tell you all abou that once it's in my hot little hands.

So what did we really talk about....

Well given this superhuman activity I did ask him what his biggest challenge was and no surprise...balancing work and home. He adores his wife Rachel, who inspires him and his son Gabe, who is now 7 and feels blessed to live the life he to exotic places and home in beautiful rural PEI. That said, it's hard to just pop in and out. The shows mean travel for a week at a time and that does break the routine at home. But he is lucky enough to be able to spend all of July and August, plus December with his family.

We did talk a lot about his food philosophy and the platform Chef at Home, in particular, gives him - to get us to reconnect with local sources of our food. In North America in particular, we've become disengaged from what we eat and where it comes from. But it wasn't until the birth of his son that he really altered his perception of food, and the fact that we need to get closer to the source. Bottom line...cook your own food...which he adds, means no processed food.

He loves Michael Pollan's philosophy..."eat food, not too much, mostly plants". Did I mention that most of the week he and his family eat vegetarian? Sound demanding? Sound hard to do...not really...just watch Chef at Home and you'll see why. Michael actually makes his own bread every day...the recipes for "City Bread" & Country Bread" are in the new book and take no time at all. Whisk dry ingredients together, add wet, let ferment overnight and bake in the morning. Easy as pie - or make that bread!

Naturally I couldn't end without asking him what's next....Heading the team of Chefs at the Winter Olympics in BC this winter! And after that, something much closer to home and helping us understand the connections between what's on our plates with where it comes from. The show will have lots of stories with some of his favorite producers like Robert Shaw who raises pasture raised beef and the 14 year old who raises chickens.

His guilty pleasure - French fries; Gabe's favorite meal...cheeseburger & fries when he's out and brown rice and lentils is his comfort food at home.

His final words of wisdom to us home cooks..."simple is best and use local, impeccable ingredients for an unbelievable difference in your meals".


Helene said...

Such a great interview. So nice to read that he will be at the head of the Chefs for the Olympics. Well done.

Katerina said...

Wow, lucky you how neat to get to sit down with him!

Bellini Valli said...

Ruth, we are so envious right now. I am sure we would have all loved to be a fly on the wall. Enjoy the festival in PEI..look forward to hearing all about it!!

Psychgrad said...

What a neat experience! He definitely is doing a lot of good work to spread the word about healthy eating.