Interview with Chef Curtis Luk

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 Curtis Luk

Chef Curtis Luk

I grew up in Markham, Ontario, in 2005 after studying Computer Science and graduating at the University of Waterloo I started in the restaurant industry. My first job was as a dishwasher, then promoted to cook, worked at a casual place, then Indian and other restaurants around Waterloo. In 2008-09 I moved to Lake Louise to be a cook at the Chateau Lake Louise. I ended up at Attelier in Ottawa, they were the type of place where I wanted to be and I got the job to work there where I was doing fine dining for 1-1/2 years. I then moved on to work at George in Toronto in 2010 (Classical and fine dining) for 1 year. Back to Ottawa in 2011 as the Sous Chef at the Courtyard Restaurant. Top Chef Canada was casting and I decided to apply, I got in and had a great time. I continued working in Ottawa, in the spring of 2012 I moved to Vancouver to work at Fable Kitchen as the Chef de Cuisine. In May 2013 I became the Executive Chef at The Parker where I have been ever since.

You can follow Curtis Luk on Twitter @RunsWithTongs

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How did you end up joining The Parker?

It was more of what I wanted to do in terms of style of food and philosophy of the business.

Were you interested in Cooking when you were growing up?

Always ate Asian food, I was an extended family with my Aunt, I watched her cook and had an interest, but not professionally. When I got into university I started cooking for my friends.

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What Challenges a Vegetarian restaurant in Vancouver?

  • In terms of being in Canada, we have a good climate to grow things from here and the Okanagan.
  • In the winter it is challenging.
  • Getting Vegan customers is even more challenging in using more local ingredients
  • We use nuts, soy and coconuts, and its hard to claim farm to table when you are serving coconuts on the table.
  • Dietary restrictions are often a challenge.

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How has your computer science background played into your cooking profession?

The mind set that I had from studying it to my personal character has changed the way I approach food. From cooking to running the kitchen in a fairly analytical way. I am very good at cracking the numbers, an unseen attribute.

1st dish:

Ratatouille

Ratatouille

Ratatouille

Heirloom type grape tomatoes

Vine tomatoes

Eggplant

Zucchini

Bell peppers

Fennel compote

Herbs garnish

Sea asparagus

Lebaneh

Smoked salt

Scallions

Tarragon

Chervil

Olive oil

What was your inspiration behind this dish?

Wanted to create something for the coming summer season. Thought eggplant then Ratatouille, gives it balance with the Lebaneh, the salt, the zucchini already in season. I created this version as a cold dish.

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How many Cookbooks do you have in your personal collection?

Probably around 100

I know you have a fascination with cookbooks, have you always had an interest in cookbooks?

  • When I got into eating and cooking more, I started buying books on baking then cooking.
  • I look for every type of cookbook. Lots of inspiration to be found in a meat focussed or vegetarian book.

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Are you Vegetarian yourself?

I try to set myself a part and do different types of dishes working from a Non-Vegetarian cook standpoint.

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What is your favourite Food to eat?

Sushi – I like the approach and the Japanese philosophy of light and balance as well as the strong flavours.

Bread – I learned to bake and love rustic sourdough as well as all types of bread.

Burgers – I love a good burger

What are your favourite restaurants to eat at in Vancouver outside of where you work?

Kingyo

Espana

Sea Harbour Restaurant

2nd dish:

Risotto

Risotto

Risotto

Asparagus

Roast shallots

Nigella seeds

Black pepper

Fried buckwheat

Pea shoots

Carnaroli

What was your inspiration behind this dish?

I wanted something to be a richer dish that used spring ingredients. Not gluten free, more pragmatic of a dish. Buckwheat has a unique flavour and I wanted to incorporate that into this dish.

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How do you change your menu from season to season?

I change components or have new ideas, or it is not seasonal.

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What is your most recent cookbook you bought?

Science of Bread

3rd dish:

Anise Parfait with Rhubarb

Anise Parfait with Rhubarb

Anise Parfait with Rhubarb

Star anise

Rhubarb poached and jelly form

Fennel streusel

Almond Tuile

What was your inspiration behind this dish?

Ingredient focussed, rhubarb coming into season, adding star anise, working well with the other ingredients, using jelly that was poached and natural, mixing in the right flavours.

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

By: Richard Wolak