Chef Alfred Contiga

Vancouver is home to some of the best chefs in the world, many have worked for the top chefs and restaurants around the world as well as around the city. Dishing with the Chefs is a series of Interviews with some of the top chefs in and around Vancouver.

Chef Alfred Contiga

Last month I spent the afternoon with Chef Alfred Contiga at Society Restaurant in Yaletown. I have known Alfred for a couple of years, ever since I met him at Coast Restaurant when he was the pastry chef.

At 15, Alfred was a prep cook at Outback Steakhouse in Toronto after 1-1/2 years he was promoted to a line cook. He did an advance Apprenticeship course at high school in cooking for 6 months. Then he continued on to Humber College for the remaining 6 months (3 months school and 3 months Apprenticeship at the Air Canada Centre). Alfred then worked another 6 months at the Air Canada centre making pastries. He then moved on to Rain Restaurant and apprenticed as a Pastry Cook and then Line Cook for 6 years. After the 2nd year he became the pastry chef and within the 6 years he worked  years on ‘ Made to Order ‘ tv show on the Food Network. He then opened up the Drake Hotel in Toronto as a Tourneau and was there for a year. He then became the pastry chef of George in Toronto as it opened. Then opened C5 (another fine dining restaurant), then did catering gigs on the side in his own company. Then worked for a pastry shop doing wedding cakes ‘ Just Temptations ‘. He then went to NY to visit a friend, and got hired to do some gigs including Kim Cattralls 50th birthday, dinner for Hillary Clinton (fundraiser). He went back to Toronto as a Pastry Chef at Terra restaurant. Then he was head hunted by Glowbal Group eventually moving to Vancouver to be the Pastry Chef at Coast Restaurant. He spent 2 -1/4 years at Coast, then promoted to the Exec Sous Chef and then promoted to the Executive Chef at Society.

While growing up did you always want to be a chef ?

Yes I watched the food network while growing up (lived in New Jersey before moving to Toronto).

What did you like to do in your off time ?

  • Go to a movie
  • Have a glass of wine
  • Paintball

What is your favourite cuisine to eat personally ?

Italian

The First Dish:

Short Rib Gnocchi

Short Rib Gnocchi

braised short rib

wild mushrooms

handmade gnocchi

tomato concassese

watercress

What was your inspiration behind this dish?

Society is a comforting restaurant –Beef Shortribs & Gnocchi is the best comfort food.

Do you Cook at home ?

Sometimes

What do you like to cook at home ?

Simple foods, such as white rice and steak or Steak, chicken and rice or chicken adobo.

 The Second Dish:

Lobster Ravioli

Lobster Ravioli

Home-made ravioli filled with lobster

Tomato sauce

Capers

Shallots

Garlic

Sun dried tomatoes

Balsamic reduction

Brioche toast

What was your inspiration behind this dish?

Italian feed, comfort food with a fine dining touch –used fresh capers to give it a pop of pickling liquid.

What are your favourite restaurants in Vancouver outside of the Glowbal Group ?

  • Chambar
  • L ‘ Abbotoir
  • Salty Tongue
  • Meat & Bread

The Third Dish:

Grilled Filet Mignon with warm vinaigrette tomato salad

Grilled Filet Mignon with warm vinaigrette tomato salad

Vine ripe yellow tomatoes

Green beans

Vinaigrette

Tenderloin

What was your inspiration behind this dish?

Healthier side of eating steak.

The Fourth Dish:

Chocolate Brioche Bread Pudding

Chocolate Brioche Bread Pudding

With vanilla ice cream

Butterscotch

Chocolate brioche

What was your inspiration behind this dish?

Nostalgic –bring you back to warm growing up, sweet, warm and ice cream.

Describe the fanciest desserts you have ever made

1)    C5 Restaurant – Crystal 5 at Royal Ontario Museum

6 different elements on a platter

  1.   Strawberry sparkling wine sorbet with dollop of balsamic
  2.   Strawberry Baba with cinnamon and dried strawberries
  3.  Strawberry smoothie with mini tapioca balls
  4.   Strawberry trifle that was chocolate encased
  5.  Strawberry mascarpone twice baked soufflé
  6.   Strawberry gelee rolled in acidic sugar

2)    The chocolate dish at George restaurant

Chocolate bomb cake filed with pistachio crescent, pistachio nougat, chocolate outer layer, chocolate glass. Then rings of chocolate and gold flakes on top – pistachio paste smeared underneath.

What is your favourite dessert to make ?

Tiramisu

What is your favourite dish to pair with an espresso ?

Chocolate Souffle

What is your favourite dessert to pair with a 10 year old Barrollo Wine ?

Chocolate Gateau – made of bitter sweet chocolate, with amarino cherres with cherry compote

Who are your mentors ?

  • Lorenzo Loseto – was exec chef at Rain Restaurant & George restaurants in Toronto
  • David Christian – Top Chef for seafood in Toronto
  • Susur Lee – Top chef in Toronto
  • Josh Wolfe –showed me the way , passion for food and the people.

What is the difference between butterscotch & caramel ?

Butterscotch is made with brown sugar, cream, bourbon, bourbon and vanilla bean

and

Caramel is made with sugar, water and cream

What are your top cities for culinary travel ?

  • New York
  • Chicago
  • Napa

Stay tuned for the next chef in the Dishing with the Chef series.

By: Richard Wolak