Youre only as good as your last meal
When a chef steps up into the top job of executive chef, he knows hes going to be wearing a lot more hats than just his chef hat. But when you converse with Scott Kidd, Araxis executive chef, the passion in his voice for the details in his demanding job is unmistakable.
"Customers expectations are very high when they come to Araxi and its my job to make sure those expectations are met. I take my job very seriously in that its very important to have the freshest, best ingredients for Araxi meals."
Kidd feels its important that Araxis menu reflect the smorgasbord of outstanding fish, fowl, meat and vegetables that B.C. has to offer.
"I think when people think of B.C. cuisine they think of fish," he says. "So its important that our menu reflect that and I make sure we get the freshest salmon, tuna, halibut and scallops."
While close to half of Araxis menu features local fish-based dishes like Wild Pacific Salmon or Queen Charlotte Halibut, Kidd credits his specialty as working with under-utilized, sustainable seafood species such as Albacore tuna and Pacific sardines.
Kidd also demonstrates his talents with rabbit and duck from Salt Spring Island, his venison and lamb from Vancouver Island and beef from Alberta.
"I like personally dealing with our suppliers and its good to know the food we are receiving is fresh and of the highest quality."
Kidd also says he likes dealing with North Arm farm in Pemberton.
"Its owner is a guy named Jordan Sturdy and hes as passionate about food as I am. He really cares about what his farm produces. I just bought a thousand pounds of tomatoes from him."
A thousand pounds?
"Sure. In peak season we have incredibly high volume. Well make fresh sauces, freeze them and hopefully they will last us until the spring break."
Kidd says he comes by his passion for food and wine through his Danish mother. But he took a unique path to becoming a chef when he took a break from his third year in pre-med school to go travelling in France and England. While in England he entered the Cordon Bleu school in Sussex, where he began his formal culinary training.
After studying and working in southern England, Kidd returned to Victoria, where be began to explore West Coast cuisine as Sous Chef at Sooke Harbour House. In 1984 Kidd returned to the UK to work at Londons Menage a Trois, under Anthony Woirall Thompson, who was instrumental in deconstructing nouvelle cuisine.
While in London, Kidd particularly enjoyed, "Cooking with offal, including brains, blood, intestines, liver and kidneys."
When he sees the reporter raise an eyebrow and no doubt go a shade whiter, Kidd laughs and says, "Dont worry. North American tastes generally arent geared for that style of cooking. But in Europe and many other cultures its considered a fine delicacy. They truly believe in using everything."
At Araxi, Kidd has successfully introduced lamb sweetbreads (the thymus gland) and calfs liver as components to his innovative dishes.
Returning to Vancouver, Kidd spent the next 14 years playing a prominent part in the creation and promotion of West Coast cuisine at some of the citys top restaurants, including Le Gavroche, Bishops and the William Tell. And just in case he didnt have enough on his plate, Kidd managed to return to university and is now just a thesis away from obtaining his degree in Agricultural (Food) Sciences from UBC.
It was almost two years ago when on a break between restaurants that Araxis owner, Jack Evrensel offered Kidd the executive chefs spot.
"I was cajoled by Jack on a drive up to Whistler. I checked everything out and couldnt say no to the challenge."
And part of the challenge for Kidd is mentoring the chefs under him.
"I cook every day. To me its important to cook at home for family and friends. Its a nurturing experience for many chefs. How are you going to learn or keep growing?
"I love teaching and mentoring. I had great teachers and mentors and if I can pass some of that knowledge along, then I know Ive done my job."
While food is Kidds top priority at Araxi, he retains a good wine knowledge and works closely with wine director Chris Van Nus who is responsible for stocking Araxis 12,000 bottle, award winning, wine cellar.
Despite all the awards and acclaim that Araxi has received over the years, Kidd is determined not to rest on the restaurants laurels.
"You have to be constantly on the move. You can never be complacent. As soon as a restaurant stops growing, the quality starts to slide. I strive for perfection and tell my staff to be self-critical and humble all the time. We continually try to exceed our customers expectations," he says.
So the cliché of youre only as good as your last meal, applies to Araxi as well?
"You got it."