Ana Damaskin says that her initial interest in the culinary world was piqued by travelling across Canada when she’d graduated high school. She explains, “I ended up moving around Canada and just exploring. What drove me to cooking was tasting all of the different Canadian regional cuisines. It’s so different from province to province.”
Canada's Chefs Profiled: Ana Damaskin, Winnipeg MB
Chef Ana Damaskin creates unique sandwiches using local, natural ingredients and scratch making as much as possible at Nick's on Broadway in Winnipeg.
Yogourt and berry parfait - Vanilla, yogourt, stewed berries, maple toasted seeds
When she talks about the people who have shaped her view of cooking, she mentions two chefs in particular: Chef Bee Choo Char and Chef Chris Aerni. She says that she worked with Choo Char when she was an intern cooking at Gio in Halifax and that Choo Char was a great mentor. Of Aerni, she says, “I worked at the Rossmount Inn in St. Andrew’s NB with him and his sous chef Lisa Riordan. They dealt with food on a honest basis. They had a farm on site where they grew tomatoes, other vegetables and the lettuces that they’d use. It was good honest food and you didn’t have to try and hide the natural ingredients with molecular gastronomy. That was what I really appreciated about working there.”
Damaskin says that she’s taking an honest approach to cooking in her latest restaurant. She explains, “I’m trying to keep things a little more toned down because we’re running a sandwich shop. A lot of people turn their noses up at normal eating but having a good sandwich is great and that’s what we’re going for. We roast all of our meats in house, we make a lot of our own breads or if we don’t make them, we use a local producer who already has a great product.”
Dishes often develop from specials or staff meals and are inspired by local ingredients for Damaskin. She explains, for example, “We craved curry one day so we made a curry sandwich and it ended up being extremely popular. It’s now on the menu today. A lot of the influences come from local ingredients. We’ll get something like bison shanks so the first thought is to go to osso buco, even though it’s not veal, it’s very similar and very local.“
King Curry - Coconut green curry, chicken, fresh herbs, peas, sweet pickled carrots in a croissant
When it comes to sourcing ingredients, Damaskin says that many of the producers that she uses come to the restaurant through other local suppliers but adds, “A few of the producers will come and meet us first. We’re working on getting a local ice cream for the summer menu made by Cornell Creme. The owner came and met with us before we even contacted her wholesaler. They make the ice cream here in Manitoba and they’re using local, ethically raised cows for the milk.”
She continues, “We try to have as much contact as we can with the actual farmers and producers. We’ve developed good relationships with some of them and they provide us with a good, honest product. We’re all about honest food rather than something that’s hidden.”
The traits that Damaskin hopes to have as a chef include organization, fair dealing and patience. She explains, “It’s very important to know what’s going on in your kitchen. Even if you’re swamped with paperwork or whatever it might be, the most important thing is to be in the kitchen paying attention to what the cooks are doing. I want to treat everybody in a fair manner because once you lose your temper, everyone else kind of starts to fall down.”
Damaskin says that when she’s looking for staff, she wants people with creativity and culinary skill. She adds that she’s also looking for people with a good attitude and the eagerness to do their jobs well.
In terms of what motivates and inspires her, Damaskin says simply, “I’m motivated by cooking good food and making people happy. I want to cook something for a regular customer or anyone in the restaurant and put a smile on their faces.”
Braised bison shanks in gravy with Bothwell cheese polenta, peas and beet creme fraiche