A Quick Bite With Chef Lynn Crawford

A Quick Bite With Chef Lynn Crawford

We’ve had an amazing run of celebrity chefs, cook book writers, big time food bloggers and general fancy pantses on SPC since we opened up shop three years ago. But what we’ve never done is had a cooking lesson from a chef. Until now, that is. And let me tell you, it’s equal parts pleasure and pain having the amazing Lynn Crawford watch over your knife work! A few Saturdays ago I was lucky enough to join a cooking session hosted by Kitchen Aid at the beautiful Cirillio’s Culinary Academy in Toronto. Kitchen Aid had run a contest and the winner, his wife and some friends had flown in from Ottawa for a cooking day with Lynn and a dinner that night at her hot spot restaurant Ruby Watchco. Cool, right?

We were broken down into three teams and made ourselves a three-course meal from the Pitchin’ In cook book (which of course, is based on Lynn’s hit Food Network show by the same name). I was on the first course team and we created an amazing, creamy, thyme-infused mushroom soup. The main course team made fresh pasta using tomatoes (why am I not making fresh pasta?) and the dessert team made an addictive chocolate peanut butter pot au creme. All while Lynn circled the room praising, teasing and cajoling. And then, naturally, we sat down to eat. Now I like Lynn and have always admired her approach to food and cooking but Laura and Scarlett L.O.V.E. her and so I felt a bit bad that I was the one able to attend. But I brought along some notes from Laura so it’s almost like she was there. Except she didn’t get any of that chocolate peanut butter gift from God. Sorry, dude. 

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SPC: Did you learn to cook with your parents?
Lynn Crawford: Sharing the table and having dinner together was an important part of each and every day. We never missed a dinner which is something that’s lost now with many families. My dad came home from work earlier than my mother at one point and I remember as a kid growing up dad would come home and get dinner started and then Mum would come home afterwards and dinner would be ready on the table. My mum is a great cook. They always had dinner parties for friends and family and she had a lot of fun with those and took those very seriously. So when Pavlova with kiwis in the 70s  was a big hit she was right in there. Isn’t funny when you see where trends and food have changed so dramatically.

SPC: Do you cook any of your Mum or Dad’s recipes?
LC: Oh, yeah, absolutely.  In the Pitchin’ In cook book there’s a meatloaf recipe of my Dad’s and a Turkey a la King that my Mum made. Those great home comforting recipes, isn’t that what we all gravitate to? There’s a sense of great pleasure that one receives from recipes that are given to us, it’s such a gift from your parents or grandparents.

SPC: Okay, I have some questions from my online partner Laura.
LC: Okay Laura this is for you.

SPC: She has seen you been afraid of height, afraid of bees and she wants to know if there is any food that gives you a fear factor. Any ingredient that you don’t want to eat it, you don’t want to cook it.

LC: Okay, Laura, that’s a good one. There are certain things I just don’t like. I don’t know if it’s a fear. I mean if you gave me a bowl of tripe I’d probably say no thank you. Hey, I love going for dim sum but I don’t want the chicken feet. Ew.

SPC: For me, it’s tongue. I don’t want to taste something that can taste me.
LC: Here’s an aversion. It goes back to childhood. When the family had gone back to Scotland and visited my father’s mother, my grandmother and it was  a big dinner that was put on and there was a cow’s tongue on the counter in the roasting pan that hadn’t been cooked, it was about to go in the oven. And all the little taste buds.

(now we’re both writhing in our seats)

LC: And I remember being right at that height of the counter, eye level, and seeing what was in the pan and the thing freaked me out. And when it came time for dinner I asked my grandmother what it was she said, “Scottish ham.” I’ll never forget it. I totally didn’t believe her. I was a smart kid, couldn’t fool me. But I like tongue, I do enjoy that.

SPC:  What we love about the show is how impressed and moved people are when you’ve made something out of their ingredients. What have you learned about cooking by working with these farmers and fishermen?
LC: Oh, my journey these last four years has completely changed how I am as a chef and as I am as a person and how I look at food now. The most genuine, the most heart filling part of working with the farmers and the fisherman is seeing the pleasure that they have that they’re being recognized and I don’t think that in the day to day they are being recognized. That I get an opportunity to give them a wonderful experience using their product is the gift that they give me. It’s so genuine and so humbling. A lot of consumers don’t know where there food comes from, how it was made, how it was raised. But then on the flip side there are the farmers and the fishermen doing what they do and they don’t see the pleasure that they give. It’s amazing that we’re thinking about it more. I’m very proud of the show I had a lot of fun. 52 episodes. 52 adventures.

SPC: What do you say to people who say, “I can’t cook.”
LC: I could say a lot things here…. I think people who say they can’t cook, they don’t know how, or that they don’t… then how are you sustaining yourself and why are you saying that? It’s a bit of a cop out to say that you don’t want to see the beauty of what an heirloom tomato is and how many different things you could do with an heirloom tomato. I mean, we’re sitting here at lunch today and we heard about tomato sandwiches and somebody just liked it with cream cheese and somebody says, “I’ve never done that before.” I mean, tomatoes are such a beautiful thing, why wouldn’t you want to make a beautiful tomatoe sauce, I mean, how easy was that?

Everything I cook at Ruby Watchco is something I cook in my own home, and yes, I’m a chef and I have a few tricks up my sleeves however it’s about exploring. And building a repertoire, you can’t go in knowing it all but if you don’t go in and at least try a few different things in a week or in a month, set the limit there that you want to do something. I don’t want people to go home and make fresh pasta until  they’re really comfortable with making a really good tomato sauce. And then you see the difference making fresh pasta and see how easy it is and how delicious it is. And that you get kids involved or family involved. We joked around today at lunch saying throw a dinner party but don’t have any of the prep work over and you invite your friends over to help cook that meal and what fun that is.

People stop and buy a rotisserie chicken or at the grocery store because they don’t know how to cook chicken. Well they probably had a really bad experience. Why don’t you just evaluate the shortcomings of what that experience was and try to improve on it? Because you don’t go in making your best roast chicken the first time. Or trying out any recipe for the first time. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again until it’s perfect. And then if you really can’t figure it out have someone cook along side you.

SPC: Do you think there are essentials to that everyone should know how to cook?
LC: Filling your pantry with great ingredients is so important. It’s almost like you have a flavour booster kit, you have a good olive oil, good vinegar, salt, a pepper mill. Ad you expand upon that. In mine, I like maple syrup, I love sherry vinegar, I love espelette peppers, I go on about that all the time. I like different hot sauces because I like heat. I like to have a pesto and have confit garlic so you don’t have to have raw garlic all the time. These are the flavour boosters. If you have these things in your mise en place then your’e set to go.

The essential things you should elarn to make? You should learn ot make a stock. You don’t need to buy that packaged stock, you don’t know what’s in there in those little boxes. You have no clue. Make your own and freeze it. It minimizes waste by using all the veg trim. Sauces. A couple of different sauces. Learn how to cook fish well. Learn . A roast chicken is a great idea, nice roasted chicken, it’s simplicity. It has to be what you like to eat.

SPC: Do you ever cook with kids?
LC: Kids are the best! Come on. I love kids in the kitchen. What’s interesting is the demographics of people who watch Pitchin’ In, so many kids. The kids love it. There’s a certain amount of playful about the show and I’m probably the biggest kid around but if you can inspire a young kid to have fun in the kitchen is when things start to really get exciting at home and that they participate and have a little bit of say of what is being served for the family. I was very hands on as a kid growing up – it’s good. There’s nothing better than kids laughter in the kitchen and to have that playfulness and fun in the kitchen. I find that very inspiring.

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5 Comments

  1. Gemma
    April 27, 23:06 Reply

    Loved reading the interview! We had the pleasure of meeting Chef Lynn last October whilst she was filming the Pitchin In pheasant episode with my husband, she was so much fun and the food was delicious! Hoping to head to Toronto sometime to visit Ruby Watchco!

    • Ceri Marsh
      April 28, 18:35 Reply

      Hi Gemma,
      That must have been a pretty cool experience! I can tell you that Lynn seemed genuinely filled with admiration for all the farmers and producers she worked with on Pitchin In. She told me she was so glad to be able to spotlight all the work and passion that goes into what they do. She was a riot – I feel really lucky that I got the chance to cook with her! And yes, I’m dying to make it over to Ruby Watchco myself. Thanks so much for reading!

  2. Joan Micallef
    October 29, 14:55 Reply

    I have been a fan of Lynn from Restaurant Make Over to Pitching In. A few weeks ago my Cousin was at the Cirillio’s Culinary Academy and bought the new Cook Book for my birthday and she told Lynn about me cooking her a dinner a couple of times a week. Lynn signed the book and I am very appreciative of that. So, thank you Lynn, very much. (You signed it “call me when dinner is ready” you have missed 3 already. (lol)

  3. Jennifer
    November 06, 21:17 Reply

    I watched your segment on Cityline today and visited the website afterwards. You presented one recipe, mushroom cheddar soup, and referenced another, breakfast cookies. I visited the Cityline website and followed the link to yours but was unable to find either. I would appreciate you sending the link for both recipes.

    You presented a fun segment.

  4. Chuckie
    February 11, 02:27 Reply

    Have you lived in newyork at all, you look familiar or might have seen you on the food net work every thing looks delish.

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