Once again Stratford’s popular GE Café Chefs Series will be presenting a selection of local and visiting Chefs on selected Sundays through until May the 25th. These interactive cooking classes take place at Stratford’s Local Community Food Centre from 11am until 2pm, with participants cooking a three course menu and then enjoying it with wine pairings from one of six different Ontario wineries.
This year’s GE Café Chefs Series begins on Sunday, March 23 with Chef Robert Rose of Stratford’s Canadian Grub To Go. Earlier this week Good Food Revolution had a chat with Robert to find out what he has in store for his Sunday session where he’ll be partnered with Southbrook Vineyards.
For more information and to purchase tickets click here.
Good Food Revolution: Hello Robert. So what will you be presenting next week as part of the GE Café Chefs Series?
Robert Rose: I am preparing arancini using only Canadian grains, not the usual arborio rice. These will be filled with a great spiced red pepper brick cheese from my favourite cheese shop, Oak Grove Cheese Factory in New Hamburg.
GFR: And please tell our readers about your education and experience up until today?
RR: I graduated from Fanshawe in the cook apprentice program. I apprenticed under Jonathan Gushue at Langdon Hall, David Hassell at The Church Restaurant in Stratford & then returned to Langdon as a pastry chef until August 2012 when I opened Grub To Go (now Canadian Grub Restaurant) in Stratford. I also took my ‘holiday’ staging at two Michelin star Charlie Trotters in July 2012, just prior to it’s closing.
GFR: And so each and every ingredient will be from Canada. Why did you choose to go down that route?
RR: my restaurant, Canadian Grub Restaurant uses only Canadian grown or refined ingredients. No lemons, chocolate or coffee(although we are working with Baden coffee company on a chicory root & barley concoction that we hope to have in the near future). It’s easy to order food from everywhere and cook anything but I want to challenge myself to further explore what Canadians are growing, what the land naturally offers and the heritage of Native Americans. We’ve lost our connection to food, I work hard daily to provide a natural meal for people who want to taste real Canadian grub, not poutine.
GFR: We are just about to get into Spring. What are your favourite Canadian ingredients at this time of year?
RR: I’m a maple man! We cure bacon & make a mustard with early spring maple & then use darker amber maple throughout the year. I can’t wait to go foraging with my three dogs and get wild ginger, leeks, cattails and and and!!
GFR: You were recently a contestant on the television show Chopped Canada. Please tell us a little about your experiences being part of that?
RR: I was happy to be a part of the competition. I wasn’t pleased with being chopped (I’ll return if they want to do a redemption episode because I didn’t error as my competition did) and I’ve since turned that appearance into a dinner series in my recently opened Wawa Grub 14 seat dining room.
GFR: And what was the main thing that you took away from your experience?
RR: the ability to express my food philosophy. The producers force it out of you on camera with all the interviews & thankfully I’m passionate about Canadian food and people are interested in to learn about it.
GFR: You just recently expanded your take out business into a full blown restaurant. Would you explain some of the challenges you discovered whilst doing this?
RR: we needed to expand. We opened in August 2012, cash only, no seats but found we needed to listen to our guests and add debit/credit as well as seats for rainy days. We added 7 but saved the 800 square foot space until March 2013 when we put in 23 seats while slowly buying equipment for the Wawa Grub kitchen. In September I built the bar top with pine barn boards & 8 stools. I then gave construction a rest until late December/January when the plumbing, electrical & 6 remaining stools could be done. I learned that going slow and building in phases helped lower my initial investment and keep me from requiring more staff than I’m comfortable training at one time.
GFR: Getting back to your Sunday lunch on the 23rd, can you give us a sneak peak at some of the dishes that attendees can expect?
RR: I will make a risotto using wild rice, quinoa, barley, spelt, millet & herbs. Once that’s coming together I will show a few quick dishes that can go with this base & then get into the Cheese & arancini dish that I won Best Vegetarian Dish at Savour Stratford 2013.
GFR: Thank you for your time Robert.
Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And he thinks that’s a smashing lineup of Ontario Chefs!