[Today on the East Coast By Taste roster is an up-and-coming Haligonian chef Adam Todd who gives some insight about his experience at a couple of the top restaurants in the city.]
By Adam Todd
When I was given the opportunity to write this guest post, I was very excited. The subject intrigued me. I was asked to write about my cooking philosophy…without a second thought, I committed to doing it. Shortly after, I realized…I didn’t really have my own cooking philosophy. I’d better get one!
For a little background, I am a recent graduate of the NSCC Culinary Arts program, and have been working in kitchens for over seven years. I have cooked and learned from Chefs of every calibre, some with unique and innovative views of food and cooking. I’m still in the early stages of my career so I’m trying to learn and experience as much I possibly can. Currently I’m an apprentice Chef at Bear Restaurant and work part time at the Wooden Monkey, both in Halifax Nova Scotia. I also have a very part-time catering business that specializes in intimate, in-home dinner parties called Relax Dinner Parties.
The Wooden Monkey, Halifax’s foremost food conscious hot spot, is the realization of Lil MacPherson’s philosophy on food. After working at the Wooden Monkey for only a month, it’s very apparent that there is a deep seeded dedication to Lil’s forward thinking about food. For her, the most important thing about food is that we know exactly what we are eating, who and how they are growing it, and what possible effects it has on our environment and the earth. All are very important questions that don’t normally get asked. Her answer: the menu at the Wooden Monkey. It’s locally sourced, featuring free range meats, organic vegetables, fair trade coffee, and locally brewed beer and soft drinks, with lots of vegetarian and vegan options that are unmatched in the city. They support over 20 local farmers and bakers, brewers and cheese makers, most of which can be found at the Halifax Brewery Market, and have been supplying the restaurant since they first opened. When I asked her to sum up her philosophy for the Wooden Monkey, she said it’s “To serve REAL food, that’s healthy and taste good”. You would think that would be similar for most restaurants. The difference is that the Wooden Monkey actually lives up to it.
Also known for his use of high quality local ingredients is Chef Ray Bear. The Bear menu features, Northumberland Lamb, Oulton Farms meat, Brewery Market vegetables, and local and organic seafood. We are one of the few restaurants in Halifax that serves Nova Scotian Squid. Working at Bear Restaurant has opened my eyes to creative and innovative food. Chef Bear is constantly creating, always fine tuning the menu, adding components, or whole dishes depending on what’s in season, or what’s available. That’s the driving force behind Bear’s menu.
Every day, each meal is started with an Amuse Bouche, a small one or two bite dish. It’s a great way to stay creative in the kitchen. It gives us a chance to play around with flavors and texture and get some reaction from the guest. Some amuses even turn into menu items or we use a variation of the dish on our tasting menu. As Chef Bear’s apprentice, working closely on line with him daily, I know his creativity come from the food itself. He puts the food together in a way that makes sense, but you haven’t seen before. I remember the day we started serving the Fois Gras Poach Lobster Tail on the menu. Pushing yourself creatively with flavors and artistic design of plates is big part of Chef Bears teaching.
I still have so much to see and do. I hope to someday have opportunity of passing on what I have learned and gained from my mentors as my own teaching and philosophy. For now, my philosophy is learning about, and exposing myself to as much food as possible, and surrounding myself with people that feel the same way. I feel this will get me to where I need to go.
Here a few suggestions of interesting cook books that I have read a few times and use as a source of inspiration.
Top 3 cook books (in no particular order):
The French Laundry, by Thomas Keller
Au Pied De Cochon, by Martin Picard
Happy In the Kitchen, by Michel Richard
Some other good kitchen reads that keep me going are Kitchen Confidential and A Cook’s Tour by Anthony Bourdain.
Adam Todd is an Apprentice Chef at Bear Restaurant in Halifax. He also cooks at The Wooden Monkey and is the owner of Relax Dinner Parties. Check out his Facebook page for some of his recipes.