These days, sustainable cooking is less a trend and more habit, thanks to how easy it is to source local ingredients. A trip to the farmer’s market (or to the producers themselves) often supplements, or even completely replaces, trips to big box grocery stores. In short, we’re good at loving local in Alberta.
There’s lots of other sustainable cooking practices that you can adopt, too. Planning your meals, eating seasonally, using all parts of a food item, and eating together, all fall under the category, and chances are you practice at least one of these. This month we have four Alberta chefs who all practice sustainable cooking. So, plan a meal with your loved ones and use the recipes here, all created with local ingredients and an eco-conscious mindset.
The Kitchen at Schott’s Lake, in Sundre, is a prime example of farm-to-table recipes, all carefully created by Chef Chris in his effort to elevate local ingredients for the guests at the resort. He credits his grandparents as an early influence. “There was always something different cooking at their house – they taught me there is so much diversity with foods just by changing how you cooked or spiced them. Their house always smelled awesome!”
“Fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables usually really get my wheels turning with ideas for what to cook next,” he adds. If you’re looking to get ahead on cooking sustainably, he suggests getting to know local businesses. “Everything you need is right there – you just need to look.”
Rubbing shoulders with the locals certainly paid off when it came to developing his recipe for Bison Tenderloin with Saskatoon Berry Jus. “HGB Bison Ranch, in Olds, has some of the most delicious bison meat I have tasted.” The saskatoon berries come from the Saskaberry Ranch, also in Olds, and, as Chef Chris says, the jus takes the tenderloin to a whole new level.
“I love everything about this dish,” he adds. “From sound of the sear as the meat hits the hot cast iron pan, to the smell of the thyme and garlic as you baste the steak with butter, and the slow reduction of bison stock and saskatoons! Yum!”
Behind the sharable dishes at Calgary’s One 18 Empire is Chef Sean Cutler, whose influence is broad and adventurous. “I like to use flavours and techniques from all over the map, and I really enjoy learning about new cuisines and look at ways to put a fun spin on them.”
Enter his favourite dish, the roasted bone marrow. Decadent and flavourful, Chef Cutler is partial to the playful luge finish. “I really love to eat so I try to create dishes that are fun and interesting.”
He emphasizes that Alberta is home to several great producers, and we have access to them in a lot of different ways. “A little bit of exploring and searching online can put you in touch with a lot of great products and local producers.”
“Growing up in Calgary has always put a spotlight on beef and it’s important to me to represent all the province has to offer,” he explains. He shares with us his recipe for Alberta Beef Tartare, adding it’s the best way to experience the true flavour of the beef. Make sure your beef is fresh, your knife is sharp, and don’t skimp on the seasoning. “Using kosher salt or sea salt over iodized salt it a big difference maker. This will help bring flavours out rather than make the dish salty.”
Chef/instructor Daniel Brasileiro, of Edmonton’s Hallway Café, credits his Portuguese heritage with influencing how he cooks and views hospitality, but he finds inspiration in spaces beyond the kitchen, too. “The passion people show for a subject is infectious,” he says. “All I want to do is dive headfirst into learning as much as I can about their passion, too.”
In the middle of developing the new menus and catering packages at the Hallway, Chef Daniel hints that there may be one or two items that will remain unchanged. “The Raspberry White Chocolate Scones are amazing in the morning with an espresso.”
While he cites shopping local as a great way to cook sustainably, he also reminds us “not to waste any product. Use all of it, even the peels or trim.” Here he shares a method for salt-cured herbs.
“This is an amazing thing to have in your back pocket, especially in Alberta when it gets cold out of nowhere and you have to cut all your herbs before the frost takes them.” Be sure to wash and thoroughly dry your herbs, as moisture is counterproductive. Use different combinations, from your garden to those you can find at the farmer’s market. And then use your salt-cured herbs in everything: “From seasoning your everyday vegetables to proteins, salads, or bread.”
Chef Gyanendra Sharma – ‘Chef G’ – of Cochrane’s Aama Nepalese Cuisine says that cooking always reminds him of his mother. “I remember her as the soul of our family. She nourished us with her food, kept us bonded as a family, and gave us direction in life.” Bringing families and communities together in love and celebration is his main goal when cooking.
It's a challenge to pick a favourite dish off the menu. “For a chef, every dish is like your child,” Chef G explains. The menu offers dishes from the different regions of Nepal and offers diners a chance to experience a variety of flavours. “I enjoy more savoury and balanced flavours,” he says. “Shyakpa (Yak Stew) from the Himalayan region of Nepal is a must try. It’s nourishing and wholesome.”
“Sustainability is key to the success of every business, small and large,” Chef G explains. While researching options for a unique selling point (USP) for the restaurant, they discovered a yak ranch, West Gimlet Farms in Rimbey, Alberta. “What a stroke of luck! It’s local, ethically sourced, sustainable, and a novelty experience.”