– Words by Susan Lundy Photographs by Lia Crowe
• Born and raised in Montreal
• Chef de cuisine at O’Rourke since October 2020
• Before that: “I owned a restaurant for 16 years just outside of Montreal. I was also the executive chef for the Montreal headquarters of the Airbnb corporation before moving to Kelowna.”
Why did you decide to become a chef?
Mine is actually a very common story. I started as a dishwasher at the age of 15 and very quickly discovered my love for food, people and numbers through the service industry. I was always so enamoured with the fact that people would sit around a table with friends and family for so many special occasions, and in the industry we get to be a small part of those memories and help make them as special as we can.
What’s the one ingredient you can’t live without?
This might sound a little cliché, but happiness. I truly believe that food tastes better when coming from a happy kitchen. When a kitchen team is smiling, humming to music, chatting about food and just connecting through common stories and experiences, I feel that this is reflected in the taste of the food as well as the actual vibe of the establishment itself.
What is your go-to meal when you’re low on time?
I actually share this one with [celebrity chef] Anthony Bourdain: cacio e pepe. There is just something so soulfully and simply gratifying about a nice hot plate of fresh pasta with nothing more than olive oil, garlic, sea salt, fresh cracked pepper and the umami of some good Parmesan cheese.
What would your last meal be?
Any meal surrounded by loved ones and of course…some good wine.
What is the best recent food trend?
In my opinion, the best recent food trend is awareness and responsibility for the ingredients we not only choose to consume but also support as consumers, diners and chefs. The demand for climate-conscious menus has become so great that it is a necessity—as it should be. We as chefs should cook dishes that we are proud of, not only for their taste and presentation, but for the longterm impact they may have as well. And in these days of setting trends via social media, trend-setting happens so quickly that chefs must collectively set the right ones.
What is a good simple piece of advice for pairing wine and food?
Ask! Never be too shy to ask, either in a restaurant or when planning a wine-paired meal at home. Even those who are very knowledgeable on food-wine pairings might be surprised and even find a new favourite when they ask for a second opinion.
What is your favourite cuisine to cook?
My favourite style/cuisine is to simply create on the spot for a client. When someone trusts us to create an experience on the spot, it is both extremely flattering and fun. This is the time when chefs can be at their most creative and really play with ideas and ingredients.
When are you happiest at work?
When the dining room is hopping and full of the sounds of laughter, stories being told and the clinking of wine glasses, you look over at your team and they have smiles and pride on their faces, and the dishes are just flying out of the kitchen perfectly prepared. It makes me happy knowing that they will go home having loved what they do for yet another day.
When are you happiest outside of work?
When I’m with my family. It could be in an ocean, on a mountaintop or simply sitting at the kitchen table playing Mexican train dominoes and snacking on pistachios. As long as we are together, I am the happiest man in the world.
You can find O’Rourke’s Peak Cellars online here.