You haven’t really eaten out in Vancouver until you’ve dined at one of Chef David Hawksworth’s local establishments, Hawksworth or Nightingale. As one of his nation’s leading chefs, Hawksworth has helped solidify Vancouver’s culinary standing by highlighting Canada’s off-the-dial quality ingredients and always using an honest, simple approach to preparing food. Here, he talks about cooking at home, the future of Canadian cuisine, and how not to prepare cauliflower.
Which ingredients get you excited to get into the kitchen and cook?
Any fresh fish that I can get my hands on, especially wild salmon in the early spring. When it comes to the preparation, I keep things as light as possible. If the weather has already warmed up, I pair it with citrus.
Do you think a main dish should be served with sides, or should each dish stand alone?
My restaurants here in Vancouver take polar opposite approaches to this. At Nightingale, it’s all about separate dishes prepared as simply as possible so we can show off the ingredients. If I do a wild salmon with artichoke, those will pretty much be the only primary ingredients. It can be hard sometimes for chefs to pull back and be okay with that kind of simplicity, but it’s so much better than overcomplicating everything.
At Hawksworth, however, we focus on making sure that a whole dish — and all of its flavors — work together.
What do you feed your family?
I try to get as many vegetables into my son as possible by serving lots of small portions of them. Plus, I know that if I want my son to eat well, I have to limit the snacking. The French really do things well with their approach of putting dinner on the table and sort of insisting it’s either eaten or there’s no dinner. In North America, we tend to cave.
Any inspiring — or haunting — food memories you can share?
When I was growing up, my uncle used to cook classic dishes like Beef Wellington. He was a great chef, so it was always an event when he was in the kitchen. My grandmother, however, used to cook cauliflower in a pressure cooker to the point where you could spread it like butter. So I was really turned off by vegetables when I was younger.
Are there any food trends that you love or hate?
I’m excited that there’s a lot of open-flame cooking happening these days. More and more, restaurants are using wood-burning ovens and charcoal BBQs. In other words, we’re breaking away from complicated more methods, like the sous vide, and getting back to basics, which I think is great.
People Instagramming photos of their food — yay or nay?
Well, I’m happy that people are so interested in their food, but it’s not something I really think about when I’m creating a dish. When you’re in the middle of serving 400 covers in a hot kitchen, it’s not what’s on your mind.
Can you tell us about the Hawksworth Young Chef Scholarship Fund?
Well, it’s just a really great program with so many talented chefs involved. The promising young chefs who win get $10,000 and a stage, or internship, in order to help them further develop their professional skills. And, everyone who participates is so into it; I just love it.
You’ve got a new television show out. Can you tell us about it?
It’s called Origins. It focuses on various chefs in different areas of British Columbia and how they source and create the dishes that come out of their kitchens.
I’m proud of being Canadian and from Vancouver — and anything I can do to highlight the passion and products out here is important to me. We’ve got restaurants here that could blow the doors off restaurants in other countries that have won great awards. That should be more widely known.
Audrey D. Brashich covers pop culture and lifestyle issues for outlets including Yahoo, The Washington Post, and The Vancouver Sun. Follow her on Twitter @AudreyBrashich.