Resetting the Bar: From public house to private residence
Remember when we couldn’t wait to get to Friday? It was the end of the work week, something to look forward to, and a chance to blow off a little steam and put aside the hustle for a bit of fun with good friends and good food. As we’ve all come to discover, these days a free-and-easy Friday eve at the local pub with a group of friends, and watching the game or enjoying live music, isn’t an option.
This month, we spoke with four Alberta chefs who gave us their spin on pub favourites. We were delighted to discover that instead of menu staples like wings, dry ribs, nachos and beef dips, the dishes being created in pubs today are a reflection of Alberta’s cultural diversity. And, they’re a great way to cap off the work week, whatever that looks like for you these days.
Chef Joseph Lavergne, of Calgary’s Freehouse, says that for the last 10 years, he’s been fortunate to work with some of the most driven and talented culinary professionals in the industry. The variety of locally sourced products ignite Lavergne’s creativity. “But,” he continues, “the most inspiring thing to me would have to be the people and patrons. I feel so blessed that I can provide people with an amazing dining experience.”
While he admits that he doesn’t get out to the pub much, and these days even more so, he says it’s important to put one’s day-to-day life aside for a minute and enjoy food, drinks, and good company, even if we’ve had to adapt what that means. “I do love a good seven-layer dip,” he says, along with chicken wings and cabbage rolls: “Who doesn’t love a good homemade cabbage roll?”
And when it comes to company, Lavergne’s choice is often his daughter, Rose. “On my days off, I really look forward to cooking with her.” They enjoy cooking variations on Rose’s grandmother’s chicken curry, a dish that has become a staple in their household, and one that Lavergne says is the perfect end to a long work week.
Find the recipe for Chef Joseph Lavergne's Chicken Curry here.
Fresh, seasonal ingredients play an important role in the dishes created by Diana Nacita, the executive chef/kitchen manager at Calgary’s King Eddy. Growing up in the Philippines, she recalls going to open-air markets with her mother. “What I thought was a chore as a child, has now become my biggest source of knowledge. To be able to adapt to produce seasonality is a huge drive for me to be creative.”
At the pub, Nacita favours a good beef dip, or roast beef with Yorkshire pudding, both of which remind her of moving to Alberta after culinary school, and being independent. “Pub dining means comfort for me. You’re in a casual setting, with friends – I miss that! – and you just have a great time.”
For Nacita, one of the best parts of working at the King Eddy was the live music. While she didn’t get to see the shows, she could still hear the sound checks, the full sets, and the audience. “I miss live music so, so much,” she says. She’s certainly not alone! Livestreamed music is something Nacita takes full advantage of: “I can cast a show on my TV and eat from the couch!” Live from your living room, your fave band, and a batch of Nacita’s spring rolls!
Find the recipe for Chef Diana Nacita's Lemongrass Chicken Springrolls here.
Rob Filipchuk describes himself as a “hands-on owner/operator” at The Glass Monkey in Edmonton, and enjoys being involved with all operations in the gastropub, both front and back-of-house. From eating a spit-roasted pig in the Balinese jungle to dining in Michelin star restaurants in France, Filipchuk says his global education on food and culture is incredibly valuable. “These travel experiences have had a great impact on many, if not all, of the menu items at The Glass Monkey.”
Creating the pub experience at home doesn’t take much, but it’s the details that count. He suggests taking the time to plate and finish a dish; setting the table, using the good glassware, creating a fancy cocktail with a beautiful garnish, or even just playing music can all enhance the way we dine at home. “I find it's also fun to print up a menu for the evening,” he adds.
He says he’s easy to please at the pub, and he keeps his eye out for menus that use off-cuts, local produce, intriguing flavour combinations and unique cooking techniques - things that say the kitchen is invested in what they’re serving. “When the kitchen is engaged and interested in their work, great things can happen!”
Find Chef Rob Filipchuk's recipe for Korean Style ‘Galbi’ Beef Short Ribs with Vietnamese Pickled Cucumber Salad here.
Marc Bourgeois of The Derrick in Calgary feels the best way to improve as a cook is learning from new foods, both preparing and eating them. “Learning why something didn't work is often more beneficial than knowing why it did. Luckily, when you cook, you still get to eat your mistakes!”
Born and raised in Montreal, Bourgeois has lived in Calgary for the last 15 years. Growing up on a vegan diet and having a well-travelled father meant he experienced new and different foods from an early age. Combined with a love of travel and a girlfriend with a Korean background, Bourgeois says, “I always seem to incorporate some of my French and Acadian roots into my cuisine.”
His recipe for baked Brie and apple compote expresses his French connection, and it’s perfect for sharing whether you’re having a quiet night with a loved one, or perhaps watching a game.
For Bourgeois, sports and the pub go hand-in-hand. “[It] doesn’t feel quite the same unless someone is calling insults at the TV with the game on. At home, there will always be a game on in the background.”
Find Chef Marc Bourgeois' recipe for Baked Brie with Spiced Apple Compote here.