Louis Charest is the executive chef for the Governor General of Canada. He speaks to Apoorva Dutt about cooking for Duke William and Duchess Kate, and why the real chefs aren’t always the most popular guys on TV.
What is the best Canadian food?
Fresh seafood. A great Bouillabaisse with oceanic flavours, or shellfish served with a light broth.
What are the three most important ingredients in your kitchen?
Salt, good olive oil and fennel. My kitchen has 15 different kinds of salts. Fennel is my favourite spice because it can be used in Italian, Indian, and in French cuisine.
What qualities should an aspiring chef possess?
Make the effort -- come in early, leave late, buy cooking books, watch food shows, go look at produce in the market. Always listen to your chef -- the only correct answer is ‘Yes, chef.’”
Do you like cooking shows?
I’m a big fan of Iron Chef — the original series. Unfortunately all the food channels are now more interested in making celebrities than they are in chefs. Because of this, the best chef isn’t always the most popular guy on TV, that’s all I’m gonna say.
What’s your favourite cooking tool?
A good chef’s knife — sharp, with a comfortable grip, well-balanced and light. A high-speed blender is a close second.
What was the worst moment of your career?
I was waiting for some produce in New York, and it never showed. The doors were going to open in thirty minutes and I had no food. I hurried and made some souffle with what I had as fast as I could.
What did you cook for William and Kate?
When we cooked for William and Kate, we went from coast to coast of Canada. One dish was goat cheese with rhubarb from Salt Spring Island. Another dish was the spruce-tipped smoked oysters. The most unique were the arctic baby shrimps. A scuba diver went under the arctic ice and harvested these shrimps. Within 24 hours of their harvesting, they were on the dining table.