Interview with Chef Daniel McGee

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 Daniel McGee

Chef Daniel McGee

Daniel worked as a dishwasher when he was 15 (he wanted a car), in North Vancouver, where he worked at the Northlands Bar & Grill for 4 years working his way up to prep cook and line cook. He then went to Australia for a year, while travelling he picked up a bunch of cooking jobs. After returning to Vancouver, he worked at Carmelo’s in West Van for awhile then at the Capilano Golf & Country Club for 2 years as a cook. Dan then joined Bacchus in the Wedgewood Hotel and worked there for 4 years, as a cook and this is where he really learned how to cook, he learned butchery and developed his own style. Then it was on to Pied a Tierre as a Sous Chef for 1-1/2 years, then to Pidgin as the Sous Chef for 1-1/2 years. He then joined Au Comptoir as the Executive Chef 13 months ago and has been there ever since.

You can follow Chef Daniel McGee on twitter @dmcgee604

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Any fears for you when you became the Executive Chef at Au Comptoir?

I guess there was always some nervousness, I just tried to be strong, I had a good team in the kitchen starting off so that helped.

Do you have any formal culinary training?

No

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What would you tell a young chef these days, school or work experience?

Cooking schools can be quite expensive and at your pay rate it could take years to pay back those school loans. Depends on the person, some people need to have school training, others do better at learning through experience. Most of my cooks have been in school.

Any challenges for you when opening Au Comptoir to run your own menus?

I spent a lot of time planning the menus from when we started I had 4 menus to plan for the service in the restaurant that included breakfast, lunch, dinner and brunch. You have to have things well dialed and together, lots to keep us busy.

1st dish:

Smoke Salmon and Leek Terine

Smoke Salmon and Leek Terrine

Smoke Salmon and Leek Terrine

Butter

Cornichons

Shallots

Capers

Cchervil

Lemon zest and juice

Confit leeks

What was your inspiration behind this dish?

I wanted to put on a salmon tartare but something more composed than a slice of smoked salmon.

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What are your favourite Foods to eat?

  • Curries
  • Pizza
  • Noodles: ramen, pho and spaghetti

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

  • Farmers Apprentice
  • Fable Kitchen
  • Maenam
  • La Buca
  • Suika

What are your favourite ingredients to cook with?

  • Mushrooms
  • Celeriac
  • Leeks
  • Fresh peas
  • Asparagus
  • Tomatoes

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2nd dish:

Four Spice Duck Breast

Four Spice Duck Breast

Four Spice Duck Breast

Brome Lake duck breast

Endive

Butternut squash fondant

Butternut squash puree

Sautéed kale

Spiced cherry jus

Preserved summer cherries

What was your inspiration behind this dish?

Duck is one of my favourite things. Allows me to use the whole duck in the restaurant. Very versatile, very French and crispy duck skin.

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What do you like to do in your Off Time?

  • Try new restaurants
  • Canucks fan
  • Read cookbooks
  • Try to catchup with family and friends

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3rd dish:

Clubhouse Sandwich

Clubhouse Sandwich

Clubhouse Sandwich

Veal breast (sous vide for 48 hours)

Dried tomatoes

Hard boiled eggs

Arugula

Fries and salad

What was your inspiration behind this dish?

A classic clubhouse which is a staple on Vancouver menus, everyone has got to do one of these.

What is the art to the perfect French Fries?

It’s all about Kennebec potatoes to start, the best balance of sugar and starch and we can get them locally. Handcutting potatoes then rinse for ½ hour to an hour. Then blanch in the morning in cold water and salt. Then drain out. Lastly fry them to order.

What do you want your Cooks to learn from you?

  • Organization
  • Patience
  • Easy to cook but it is possible to put it all together

What type of cook would you wante to hire if you had to hire?

It is all about attitude which is the best skill, if you are eager and willing to learn.

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

By: Richard Wolak