In this age of chef as celebrity, its refreshing to cross paths with one who has climbed to the top of the kitchen and has no illusions about why hes there. The Fairmont Chateau Whistlers executive chef Vincent Stufano didnt choose his profession because of the limelight, but because of the limes and the lamb and the crones and everything else he loves to cook with. And Vincent loves to cook, more explicitly to cook food for people to eat as opposed to, say, cooking for food stylists at glossy magazines or for TV cameras.
If you were part of Cornucopias Chefs Trip to the Farm session, you would have experienced Vincents work at its finest. Sunchokes and crones and salsify from Jordan Sturdys North Arm Farm spoke for themselves alongside the likes of pine mushrooms and veal and rabbit in all, a multi-course celebration of fall.
He would have told you how he buys thousands of pounds of pumpkins from North Arm the pumpkins the bears dont get first and you would have oohed and aahed over such details. But you likely wouldnt have known that the same weekend, Vincent was also ensuring that 700 delegates attending the Liberal convention at the Fairmont were well and properly fed, as well as co-ordinating the Gold Medal Plate Dinner, a.k.a. Olympic fundraiser that same weekend.
So heres a short sampling from a self-styled cook, whos been at it for 30 years and hasnt burnt out yet, who supervises some 80 chefs at the Chateau, and who would rather cook a roast at home and be with his family than explore the latest dining hot spot.
GB: Be a philosopher for a minute whats your approach to food?
VS: I dont think its anything earth shattering. For me its making sure you work with a quality product all the time. And its very important to understand the product because I see this so often they have all this beautiful, expensive stuff but they dont know how to put it together. Its either overcooked or poorly seasoned, you know what I mean? So you dont enjoy it much. To me its important to really understand what I work with, to have a strong knowledge of the food.
I read a lot, and I always preach that to my apprentices, to keep reading and learning. Just being on the job daily is fine because that gives you the motor skills and the techniques and all that. But the knowing why, the why, why, why why am I doing it this way? Why do we get this product this time of year? Why are different kinds of salmon prepared different ways? Knowing your foundation is incredibly important.