Interview with Chef Anthony Sedlak

Anthony Sedlak first entered the world of food not because of his love for all things culinary, but to get hold of a free snow boarding pass! That was one of the perks of his job bussing tables at one of North Vancouver’s Grouse Mountain restaurants, where he began working at the ripe old age of 13 years. However, he quickly developed a love for working in a kitchen and by 19 had completed a culinary arts programme and a four-year apprenticeship. He represented Canada at the Hans Bueschken World Junior Chef Challenege in New Zealand when he was 23, and won a silver medal. Later that same year he became the winner of Food Network Canada’s Superstar Chef Challenge, which eventually led to hosting his own show – The Main – for a total of four seasons.

I was super excited when Anthony took time out of his busy day to talk to me about his book, food, and how Vancouver is pretty much the coolest city around!

As someone who began working in the food industry at an early age, how do you think we can get our youth more engaged in cooking?
I think we are already seeing catalysts such as the Food Network really reach out and grab the attention of younger generations. Their programming is so well rounded and appeals to everyone whether you are a professional or have no cooking experience at all. As long as we continue to present cooking and food as fun, the youth will follow!

What are some of the things on your culinary to-do list?
Currently I am working on a new cookbook as well as a concept for another television show, plus I am planning my own product line. I am also very committed to my charity work (such as Big Brothers and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation), and of course the new Corner Suite Bistro De Luxe is super exciting.

Chef Michael Smith said Canadian chefs don’t wave their flag enough, and are therefore often omitted from the world food scene. Do you agree?
Absolutely. We have a number of talented chefs and phenomenal restaurants across the country, and we should be proud of that fact and definitely wave our flag more.

What do you think makes Canadian cuisine stand out from the rest of the world?
Trying to pin point the quintessential Canadian food experience is difficult, primarily because of our rich cultural heritage and ethnic diversity. Personally, I think the key difference with Canadian cooking is our high calibre of ingredients. We are so fortunate to be able to employ some of the best ingredients in the world into our cooking. This is particularly the case on the West Coast, where we have an abundance of incredible fish, produce, wine, cheeses and meats.

What was the first cookbook you ever owned?
The Joy of Cooking

What is your favourite meal to make at home?
I make an absurd amount of frittatas at home!

What’s your favourite meal to have someone else make for you?
Hands down that would have to be my mom making tomato soup and grilled cheese.

If you were stuck on an island with one cookbook, a single kitchen gadget and the opportunity to eat just one meal, what would you choose?
Good question! I would have to say my cookbook of choice would be The Joy of Cooking. My kitchen gadget would be a blender, but not just any blender it needs to be a Vita Prep blender by Vita-Mix. As for my one meal, I would choose Steak and Frites, but it would need to be a rib-eye steak, with the frites cut thickly with lots of salt, a nice red wine sauce and double the usual amount of béarnaise, oh and a side dish of creamed spinach.

Wow. Your island sounds awesome.
You better believe it!

Do you have any culinary pet peeves?
What drives me absolutely nuts is when restaurants poeticize their menu descriptions. Sometimes descriptions can get so wordy I can’t decipher the actual food! Hate that.

What goes into putting together a cookbook like The Main?
I get so disappointed when I buy a cookbook and it has a handful of great recipes but the majority are mostly mediocre with a lot of flops. These days, many chefs find themselves so busy with other projects that cookbooks are being thrown together and published without much care or attention dedicated to the recipes. So it was really important to me that The Main be full of fail proof dishes. As a result, we ended up testing every single recipe in the book with both culinary students and nutritionists before we went to print.

Well in that case you’ll be happy to know that every recipe we’ve tried from your book so far has been excellent.
That’s great!

All of the recipes in your cookbook feature a particular main, while incorporating simple ingredients that don’t overshadow the dish itself. Is this the secret to cooking a good meal?
Yes, definitely. In my opinion simple is the only way to go when it comes to cooking. You should only use three or four elements per dish so that you don’t overcomplicate the food. If you look at any of the highest rating Michelin Star restaurants, they keep their dishes simple and their list of ingredients short.

You won Food Network Canada’s Superstar Chef Challenge, but what most people are unaware of is that you automatically don’t get your own show but instead are given the opportunity to pitch an idea to the executives. How did you come up with the concept for your show, The Main?
Essentially I wanted to create a cool show that was urban, casual and relaxed. The set needed to look like a chef’s kitchen, and I felt that we should try and make our food accessible to the audience, showing them some of the tricks of the trade. Fortunately the executives liked the idea and we have filmed four seasons so far!

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