March 6, 2011

Chefs At Home

Three of Vancouver’s top chefs invite us into their home kitchens – efficient yet unpretentious areas that reflect their love of food, and family.


Chef David Hawksworth, assisted by his three-year-old son Heston, prepares Roasted Tomato and Fennel soup in his Yaletown condo kitchen.

As David Hawksworth opens the door to his Yaletown condo, his cell phone rings, while Heston, his three-year-old son, tugs at his leg for his attention.

It’s a busy time for the BC Restaurant Hall of Fame inductee and owner/chef of the highly anticipated Hawksworth Restaurant, which is slated to open in April in the Georgia Hotel. At home, he moves with ease in his small but functional kitchen. It is adorned with stainless steel countertops, top-of-the-line stainless steel appliances and an oversized butcher-block cutting board.

As Hawksworth checks on the medley of tomatoes, fennel and onions roasting in the oven, he openly admits to being a carb junkie. His kitchen cupboards are always stocked with various types of pasta, rice (from sushi to risotto) and good artisan bread. “I also always have on hand fresh chilies, mustard seeds and ginger,” he adds.

Hawksworth says he cannot do without his Le Crueset pots and pans, from France, or his KitchenAid blender and grinder. “I also have an overzealous coffee machine,” he says with a smile. For sentimental reasons, his pièce de resistance is his grandmother’s pressure cooker, although he sheepishly admits he doesn’t use it as much as he should.

Asked if his wife Annabel does the cooking at home he breaks into a grin. “Annabel makes a mean toast,” he quips. Meanwhile, Heston pipes in that he and his dad like “to cook pancakes and poached eggs on Sundays.” Hawksworth musses his son’s hair and smiles: “Heston is my little chef in training.”

Meeru Dhalwala and Vikram Jij in their kitchen at home in Vanouver.

Celebrated restaurateur and cookbook author Vikram Vij and his wife Meeru’s private kitchen is large yet unpretentious. Although it is equipped with sleek, commercial-size stainless steel appliances and stainless steel countertops, this kitchen has personality.

Famed for Rangoli and Vij’s restaurants, Vikram and Meeru say their home kitchen is the nucleus of their family life. It is a bright, cheery space that opens to a family room with a piano for their daughters, Nanaki, 14, and 11-year-old Shanik, and there is no television in sight.

Vikram’s tools of the trade include seven pairs of tongs, top-of-the-line knives, and lots and lots of pots and pans, with many hanging from the ceiling. However, it’s the 10-foot-long chopping block that takes centre stage. “This is where everything happens,” says Meeru, as she leans her elbows on the thick wooden block. “It’s where the family gathers to cook, chat about the day, while mom and dad crack open a good bottle of red wine.” One can almost smell the fresh spices, the mangoes and other fruits that have been sliced on this well-used wood block.

Both say they like to eat simply at home. Vikram is a fan of slow-cooked stews, which he marries with an artisan bread to dip into the juices. Meeru, on the other hand, has a passion for vegetarian dishes. “Vikram cooks mostly meat,” she adds. “When he cooks, he makes a mess and uses every pot and pan.”

Meeru playfully jabs him and adds: “We never cook together, I cook five nights a week and Vikram twice a week, Sundays and Mondays.” Meeru then slides open a large drawer, which overflows with lentils, kidney beans, Indian chickpeas, quinoa, and various types of rice and grains. “This is my go-to drawer – it holds my I-can’t-do-without staples,” she quips.

Chef and Author John Bishop

Chef and author John Bishop, of the famed Bishops Restaurant, opens the door to his character home. It is rich with warmth: from the antiques to the heritage hardwood floors to the country-style kitchen, which overlooks the backyard, everything says welcome. Bishop – who counts former U.S. president Bill Clinton, Sharon Stone and Hollywood chef Emeril Lagasse as customers – and his wife Theresa renovated the kitchen 11 years ago.

There are industrial-size stainless steel appliances, granite countertops and red walls adorned with artwork bursting with colour. It is a kitchen that begs friends and family to hang around and enjoy home-cooked goodness. As with his colleagues, the kitchen is the hub of the home.

It’s the heart and soul of the Bishop family, which also consists of son David, 23, and 21-year-old daughter Gemma. “Theresa does all the baking and I do the cooking,” he says.

“At home, I cook less complex dishes – it’s all about simplicity.”

On the large gas range sits a tagine, a cooking pot made of English clay. “It’s great for slow-cooking stews and other comfort foods,” says the British-born Bishop.

When asked what he can’t do without, Bishop doesn’t hesitate. “Really good olive oil, Maldon salt (a flaky, crystal salt from England), and a chef’s trinity – onions, carrots and celery.” Bishop believes everyone should invest in three or four really good knives and good, heavyweight stainless steel pots and pans.

In the end, these celebrated chefs have much in common – none follows recipes or measures anything, and most important, all believe in “breaking bread with family.”


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