By John Lee
Amira has worked as a cook since graduating from Liason College in such notable establishments such as The Four Seasons Whistler, Splendido and currently at Reds Bistro. Named by the Ontario Hostelry Institute in their Top 30 Under 30, Amira has participated in various culinary events such as Gold Medal Plates and is an active participant in promoting local and sustainable food.
GFR: Who is the person you hate the most on Food Network and why?
Amira Becarevic: I actually don’t watch the Food Network that often. I don’t have cable and I’m trying to build my cookbook collection so I’m reading more. When I have the opportunity to watch it I just watch the old Iron Chef or the new one occasionally. I’m just happy there’s a network that’s all about food.
Please don’t make me do this! I’ve watched like, 3 shows on TFN and they’re as I’ve afore mentioned. Don’t really have a dislike even…Ok maybe digging really deep- I make fun of the guys at work by calling them Cat Cora for twirling saute pans. But really, that’s all I got….
GFR: Which do you have a better relationship with? Food or people?
AB: People. When I mess up a dish, I can’t reason with it.
GFR: How does your job affect your ability to enjoy other people’s food?
AB: It doesn’t all that much (except obviously knowing the difference between a reputable and clean establishment from another) I will try any food at least once.
GFR: How often do you get invited to someone’s house for dinner?
AB: Not very often. I don’t know if it’s because I am a cook and people are worried about criticisms or judgement or that I never call them back because I’m always at work in the evenings.
Just kidding- but I do find that people always apologize about their cooking even if it’s fantastic-and to me, if someone’s going to cook me dinner and put love and thought into it, what’s better than that?
GFR: What would you not be caught dead eating in public but enjoy in private?
AB: I have a thing for cold pizza.
GFR: How do you deal with problem personalities on the line?
AB: I was always told by my chef, Michael Steh, back in the day when he was the sous chef at Splendido, that every cook is a different personality so you have to approach everyone the way you know they respond most positively. Some personalities require assertive and direct confrontations while others need a calm and gentle reminder. That’s what I try to follow.
GFR: Describe a moment of pure food bliss.
AB: My mom’s squab soup. I grew up on it and it’s to die for: like chicken noodle soup but made with baby, home raised squabs (my dad raised homing pigeons for sport racing), and perfectly cooked carrots, home made noodles and Vegeta (a spice mix that every Eastern European mother has in her artillery). Finished with black pepper and if the broth was especially fatty, a small teaspoon of vinegar.
GFR: If not a cook, what else would you want to be or do?
AB: I almost went to OCAD to pursue a career in painting/sculpting since I focussed on art all through school but I got a job at a catering company one summer (my mom worked there to learn new cooking techniques and was friends with the owner -and volunteered me…and that was it.
GFR: Your biggest food industry pet-peeve is…
AB: When patrons take the time to alert their server with great care that they are severly allergic to walnuts and then order the beet and walnut salad-no walnuts please! (I don’t think people know that human beings prepare food in the kitchen.) Why on earth wouldn’t you choose a soup, or a dish whose main ingredient isn’t your allergy?
GFR: Whose approval do you think you secretly and genuinely seek out when cooking?
AB: Honestly? My own. I am so critical of my own cooking. I always think that I should have added more of this or less of that. I’m pretty sure most cooks are like that.
GFR: What personality, living or dead, would you love to cook for? Why, and what does the menu look like?
AB: I’d love to cook for Tony Bourdain. Reading Kitchen Confidential in cooking school made me want to be badass… at the time it seemed right until I understood the importance of trying to achieve finess. But in the end, he was a great inspiration and I think his value of food cooked right with the best and simplest ingredients still rings true for me today. So here goes, I’ve started by revisiting the oldies:
Smoked Trout, Poached Quail’s egg, Celeriac and Chervil salad with horseradish creme fraiche and caviar, croutons
Fennel and Tomato Soup with Bacon Lardons
Pan Roasted Sweetbreads with Foie Gras Flan, spinach,
glazed Shallots and Sherry jus
Braised Lamb leg with Figs, Lemon and Garlic confit, Chanterelles, young potatoes
All of these items are an indirect interpretation of the fancied up french bistro style I enjoy…and of which he writes of in his books. (My versions of his versions.)
John Lee is the President of Chippy’s Fish & Chips
Kudos for GFR’s series on sous chefs, the kitchen’s workhorse, and the conduit for the chef’s vision. There is outstanding talent at this level, and it’s great to have their praises sung through your pieces.