Interview with Chef Michael Smith
The Food Network Canada star talks about home cooking, Prince Edward Island's food scene and using local ingredients
Michael Smith is a champion of two things — home cooking and Canadian ingredients.
The Food Network Canada star, who burst onto Canada's culinary scene in 1998 with his show "The Inn Chef" and came to national food prominence in 2002 with "Chef at Large," has released his latest cookbook, "Chef Michael Smith's Kitchen."
Fun Weeknight Recipes
Smith says that "Chef Michael Smith's Kitchen" is all about home cooking and fun, favourite recipes that can be cooked on a weeknight. "It's kind of whimsical," he says, "things that I cook over and over again."
Smith's recipes call for tools that average cooks will have in their kitchen. "I don't write recipes for obscure tools that you use once and they get dusty," he says, "I'm not big on all those wacky kitchen tools...You really don't need all that stuff to be a good cook."
Smith's number one tool recommendation? A sharp knife.
Smith says that readers can find easy 20-minute recipes in "Chef Michael Smith's Kitchen" that are still fancy enough for a dinner party, such as Grenadian Caramel Nutmeg Chicken. A stewed dish with caramel and lots of nutmeg, Smith learned it from a Grenadian chef on one of his world travels.
Inspired by Local Food
"I'm inspired by all the ethnic foods in the world; I've been around the world 5 times in the past 3 years," says Smith. Yet he believes strongly in using local food and local inspiration in his cooking, "Local cooks using local ingredients, that's been reinforced for me all over the world."
When he's not travelling, Smith lives on Prince Edward Island and takes inspiration from the province's homegrown ingredients, particularly lobster, oyster mussels, potatoes, apples and beef. Beef? Despite Alberta's reputation as the beef capital of Canada, according to Smith, PEI has the highest percentage (85%) of meat graded AAA or higher in Canada.
"We do it the old-fashioned way," Smith says, noting that cows graze naturally, in fields, not in feed lots.
PEI's Food Scene
Smith says that the best part of PEI's food scene is its connections. "Everybody here knows somebody who produces food," he says, "You have more respect for your food...it's personal."
Smith is translating his enthusiasm for PEI food into action as the official food ambassador for PEI. Given the title by Tourism PEI, he is helping the organization promote the province's culinary attractions as the host of "Food Country," a 24-episode, weekly web series.
Smith is continuing his foray into the digital world with "Chef Michael's Kitchen," a web series for Food Network Canada that will launch in September. He says that it will not overlap with the new book, but it will showcase his cooking style.
"I cook simply healthy food for average Canadian families," he says.
Try two recipes from "Chef Michael Smith's Kitchen:" Mediterranean Braised Salmon with Ripe Tomatoes, Olives and Oregano and Thyme-Baked Chicken with Mushroom Red Wine Sauce.
Photo: Loretta Campbell