Interview with Angie Quaale

Well Seasoned Gourmet| Langley

I talked with Angie Quaale who founded Well Seasoned Gourmet at www.wellseasoned.ca as well as the BBQ on the Bypass annual BBQ event.

What are the most challenging elements of running a Gourmet Food store?

Keeping up with all the great stuff I get to do every day!  Honestly the schedule is hectic – we have classes almost every day over and above a busy retail store.  It’s a lot of people, a lot of hours, a lot of food and a lot of happy customers.  Tons of moving parts!!

What lead you to open a Gourmet Food store in your area and to become such a food lovers destination in the Fraser Valley?

6 years ago when I opened Well Seasoned, there was nothing like it in the Valley.  I (like thousands of others) was commuting into Vancouver for work every day and driving back in to get groceries/gourmet supplies on the weekend wasn’t very appealing.  We really needed a source in the Valley for of the specialty products, so I created it!

What is your background in Food and Hospitality?

I have a marketing degree.  I also attended culinary school in Alberta.  I sold food commercially for the last 13 years before opening Well Seasoned. I was just really tired of the travel schedule.  Creating Well Seasoned allows me to sleep in my own bed most nights!

Did you ever expect that your Cooking Classes would have become so successful?

I knew people would be interested in them but I didn’t expect to have the opportunity to work with so many incredible chefs every week.  I am really proud of the caliber of instructors we have here – they are all really amazing and they all specialize.  We don’t just have one chef teaching everything. Our sushi chef is really Japanese and our Indian chef is really Indian.  It is important to me that the chefs can express their creativity authentically and it’s great that we are able to offer such diversity. I think that is why they are so popular.  Plus, they are really great value. At about $50 a class you can’t get a similar experience like it anywhere in the area.

What was your inspiration behind creating this outstanding series of Cooking Classes with other Chefs?

To encourage people to eat at home…not every night, that isn’t realistic, we all have very busy lives but I think if people can create food at home and share it with their families it will give them another opportunity to connect.  Food is how I talk to people and how I grew  up…we ate dinner almost every night as a family and I think people have gotten away from that because they feel cooking is too much work and something they can’t or never learned how to do.  The classes are designed to offer inspiration, to demystify dinner so people are motivated to cook and entertain at home…to feed their family & friends good quality food that is simply prepared with fresh local ingredients.

When people register to be a part of a cooking class, what is it that you want them to get out of it?

I want them to leave with a sense of confidence, to think “Yeah! That is something I can do”  I want them to go home and try the dishes they learned in their class – to invite friends over, call the kids to the dinner table and be proud of putting a meal on the table.  Let’s face it – we all get in cooking ruts where we make the same things over & over – we could all use a little inspiration once in a while.  I want to show people how easy it can be to put a great meal on the table by using fresh ingredients and having a few good skills they can do it for themselves.

Have you ever offered a week long cooking camp or thought of creating something like this?

We have a series that runs for 4 weeks it’s called “Cook Like a Chef”.  In part one, the students get a knife & a board and are taught very essential, very useful knife skills.  In part two they are given chicken…they learn how to bone, stuff, truss, roast etc. etc.  Week three they are given a whole salmon to bone, the kill & cook crab, clean prawns, cook scallops etc. and in week 4 it’s all about sauces and stocks – everything from basic vegetable stock to bisque and hollandaise.  I think anyone who takes this series will leave with the skills they need to be a good home cook.  It is basic enough to appeal to every skill level and practical enough to be useful on a daily basis.  The curriculum is excellent as is our Chef instructor Georgia Morley.

I imagine over the years you have had many good and bad experiences in your job, Tell us about two or three of the most interesting experiences.

I get to do something every single day that makes me think I have the coolest job in the world.  Today – I am being interviewed by you.  That’s pretty cool.  Tomorrow night I am hosting a cooking class that was sold at a live auction for a local charity that went for $6500.00 – the Mayor of Langley will be the Sous Chef.  I love what I do and the people I get to work with.  I appreciate the diversity in my job and the creativity.  When you work around food, as you know, things have a tendency to go sideways occasionally and that happens at Well Seasoned too.  I just roll with it….it’s food and wine – we aren’t doing open heart surgery…we’re having a great time !

Tell our readers about your annual BBQ on the Bypass event and what it is all about.

This is the 5th anniversary for the BBQ on the Bypass. It is the 2nd biggest cookoff in Canada.  We will have apprimately 30 BBQ teams that come from as far away as California and Saskatchewan to compete for cash, prizes and the prestige of being the Grand Champion.  Teams will compete in four main mean categories; beef brisket, chicken, ribs and pork butt.  There is no gas or electricity allowed. This is an old school southern style bbq cook-off.  Charcoal and wood are the only fuel sources allowed.  Teams cook their food overnight and turn it in to our panel of fully certified expert judges.  The judges evaluate the food for taste, texture and tenderness and assign the appropriate score to each entry.  The scores are calculated and the winners in each category decided.  It’s a tough competition, there are some great cooks in the Pacific Northwest…we know our BBQ here.  Last year’s winner was a one woman team from Portland called Sugar’s BBQ. Lynnae is a fantastic cook and she will be back this year to defend her title.

Tell us about the 1st Annual Great BC Bake-off, what inspired you to create this event, what is it all about and who is eligible to enter?

Over and above the bbq event we are also hosting the 1st Annual Great BC Bake Off. A pie and butter tart contest open to the BBQ teams and the general public.  This is our first year for this component but it is already generating a ton of excitement so we are confident that it is going to be a great addition.

All of the details for the event can be found on line at www.bbqonthebypass.com it is a FREE family event held at Well Seasoned in Langley on Sunday September 19th, 2010. Hopefully we will see you there this year!

What do you like to eat when eating out in restaurants in and around Vancouver?

I appreciate the diversity in our restaurants here in Vancouver.  We can get just about anything we want.

I must say I have an affinity for cheese so Au Petite Chavignol is a go to place for me…they have great food and an excellent wine list.  It’s so comfortable there – it’s an awesome place to just chill.  I love it.

I am also a big fan of Restaurant 62 in Abbotsford.  It’s a quick commute from my home and my store in Langley. Chef Jeff does a great job with local Fraser Valley ingredients and Eric keeps the wine list interesting.  The service is always good and I can always count on a great meal.  It is by far my favorite place in the valley.

I have a huge list of restaurants I want to try but getting into Vancouver for dinner more than 3-4 times a month is a hard thing to do.  I tend to eat a lot of cooking school leftovers J (not that I am complaining – they are always really good!)

Which cities around the world provide you with culinary inspiration for you when you travel?

I love San Francisco.  It reminds me a lot of Vancouver with access to similar ingredients.  Of course it is a great restaurant city and with Napa next door the wine availability is heartbreakingly great.  When I had a “real” job I spent a lot of time working in San Francisco so I have a few favorite places I like to go but I make sure when I am in town it is on a farmers market day so I can take in all the amazing food at the Ferry Terminal Farmers Market…it makes me so incredibly happy.  There is a guy there with a truck full of rotisseries, he makes the best porchetta I have ever had…he serves it on a crusty bun with fresh made mayo, arugula and caramelized onions.  That sandwich is worth the cost of the airfare alone.

If you could offer any advice to people wanting to become involved in the food and hospitality industry, What advice would you give them?

Do it because you love it…for no other reason than because food &/or wine is your absolute passion.  If it isn’t you won’t make it…the margins suck, the costs are high, the spoilage has to be micromanaged and the hours are terrible…but it’s so rewarding and so incredibly satisfying if you are passionate about it.

What is on the horizon for you and Well Seasoned in the near future?

More.  More stores, more chefs, more classes, more customers and more delicious locally sourced fresh food. We are ever evolving and loving every single minute of it.

By: Richard Wolak