We’re always looking for ways to connect you to local flavour and talent, but let’s face it: it’s been a while since many of us have been on an adventure. So, for this month’s Chefs’ Tips we’re heading west to wine country, and all the flavours found there.
The Okanagan vineyards and breweries mentioned here boast restaurants, cafes, bistros, and even BBQ joints, and while they all showcase the fresh produce from the region on their menus, there is one other element they all have in common: they all boast chefs who got their start right here in Alberta.
Having experienced the Rocky Mountains by foraging, camping, and working at the Fairmont Banff Springs, Chef Phil Tees says that Alberta will always have a special place in his heart.
He moved to BC to experience something different, and certainly found that at Liquidity Winery in Okanagan Falls, where his job involved creating dishes for specific wines, instead of creating dishes and trying to pair them with wine. “It allowed us to highlight different flavour profiles in the wines and elevate them for our guests,” Tees explains.
The recipe Tees shares is a nod to summer, full of fresh flavours often found at local farms, and in Tees’ yard. “I have a peach tree in my yard, something I've always dreamed of but never thought would happen.” But, if you can’t grow it, Tees says there’s a good chance you can find it at your farmer’s market: “Most of them have representation from BC farms.”
Chef Tees has recently taken a position as Executive Chef at 1909 Kitchen in the Tofino Resort + Marina.
Find Chef Tees' recipe for Ajo Blanco with Apple, Cucumber, and Snap Pea Salad here.
Currently the chef at The Bistro at Hillside Winery in Penticton, BC, Evan Robertson started his career attending culinary school in Edmonton and Calgary, where he learned the power of developing connections with local producers. “Going out to the farms and fields taught me to appreciate where my food is coming from and the hard work a lot of the producers are doing behind the scenes.”
It’s a practice that you can develop, too, whether you’re at the farmer’s market, or stopping at a roadside produce stand in BC. “You will find amazing things start happening when you put the effort into chatting with people on a personal level,” says Robertson.
The Bistro’s focus is on sharable dishes inspired by the seasons of the Okanagan. So, when it comes to choosing his favourite BC ingredient, Robertson says it all depends on the time of year – from cherries and apricots in June, to fresh seafood throughout the summer. For a dish that is a true blend of Alberta and BC, try this one for Pork Belly and Scallops.
Find Chef Evan Robertson's recipe for Hillside Winery Pork Belly and Scallops here.
Born and raised in Calgary, Chef Chris Shaften travelled and cooked around Canada before heading back west. First cooking at Calgary’s Farm, and then The Ranche, Shaften is now chef/owner at Krafty Kitchen + Bar in Kelowna, BC. A contemporary Canadian bistro with a focus on BC products, Shaften adds, “Krafty’s dishes are inspired by the cultural mosaic of Canada, childhood food memories and our travels.”
Quality ingredients are dependent on region and season, but Shaften’s favourite is wild violets, available during a small window in spring. “They’re fragrant and beautiful, and make amazing syrups and infusion for cocktails, as well as a badass sorbet.”
Shaften’s recipe for Westcoast Seafood Risotto, packed with local shellfish, and infused with Mediterranean flavours, is inspired by the mosaic of cultures found in Canada. Source your seafood at a farmer’s market; Shaften assures this dish can be made just as easily here in Alberta.
Find Chef Chris Shaften's recipe for West Coast Seafaood Risotto here.
Chef Ryan Byrne says his roots for cooking and his family are in Alberta. Originally from St. Albert, Byrne earned his Red Seal Certification at NAIT before moving to the Okanagan. There, he works at Kelowna’s The Hatching Post. “We use simple, traditional techniques to re-create Southern BBQ flavours,” explains Byrne. “The concept is something totally new and unique to the Okanagan.”
The ingredients Byrne uses are local, of course, and the freshness and quality excite everyone who gets to use them. “It doesn’t hurt to make friends with a local supplier, farmer or chef,” says Byrne. “Try to support independent businesses when sourcing ingredients. The extra money it might cost will definitely be worth it.”
His favourite of the local bounty are peaches. “They are always one of the most highly anticipated fruits in the Okanagan, and they’re so versatile.” Eat them on their own, or add them to salads, desserts, cocktails, and even BBQ sauce, like the one Byrne shares here.
Find Chef Ryan Byrne's recipe for Beer Can Chicken with Okanagan Peach BBQ Sauce here.