Chef Gauravi Shah graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering from McGill University. Despite this, she was still drawn to the culinary world. She explains that after graduation she started work as a nuclear engineer with the Canadian government, but food was her passion, so she went to George Brown College and learned culinary techniques there. Shah worked at several restaurants before she “took the leap” and opened Tilde.
Canada's Chefs Profiled: Gauravi Shah, Toronto ON
Chef Gauravi Shah creates innovative tacos that reflect her diverse, multicultural roots at Tilde in Toronto.
Chef Gauravi Shah
The culinary influences that have shaped Shah are diverse and varied. Her family moved to East Africa where she says that she discovered how “food evolves when cultures amalgamate” because Indian and African cuisines combined there. Toronto, where she lives now, also influences her because of its “melting pot of flavours” that she says she tries to emulate in her food.
Shah explains that cooking is an art and a science for her. She elaborates,”My technical background as an engineer means that I do look at the science of food, but I’m a very creative person so I look at the artistic side as well. I try to balance the two sides to come up with the flavour profiles that will be impressive to my guests.”
The chef says that her approach to cooking comes from taking simple flavours and combining them to make an “interesting, complex experience for the guest.” Shah says that she wants to take her guests on a journey of flavours, tastes and textures.
When it comes to creating new dishes, Shah says that she starts by looking at what ingredients are fresh and in season. After this, she starts to play around with flavours and sees how well they combine. She says, “They may not be conventional combinations but, in my opinion, there’s no harm in experimenting and seeing what works out. I have a fried fish taco but its paired with a spicy yogurt sauce. Conventionally, people say that you shouldn’t mix seafood and dairy, but I tried it and its one of the most popular dishes at the restaurant right now.”
Today the increasing consciousness about dietary restrictions might make some chefs feel constrained but Shah says that she considers including vegetarian, vegan-friendly and gluten-free options a challenge to “make something for them that’s as delicious as possible.”
Chef Shah preparing Korean chicken and mole pork tacos
Shah discusses what she’s looking for when it comes to sourcing ingredients and says that she wants to maintain a sustainable and local approach. Shah adds that she’s trying to make more of her ingredients organic and local as well as sourcing her wines and beers from suppliers in her area.
When it comes to the traits that she hopes she embodies, the first thing that Shah mentions is that in the past, she worked with some chefs who became stressed and created a negative working environment. Shah says that she doesn’t think that environment “fosters creativity and productivity.” She says that she wants a productive, healthy working environment and adds, “I think that what makes a good chef is not just the ability to teach, inspire and lead. It’s easy to become a leader if you’re everybody’s boss but I think its very important for chefs to continually learn.”
As for her kitchen team, Shah says that she wants to see them showing a dedication to learning. She points out, “I don’t mind if people are inexperienced, and if they don’t have all of the techniques perfected. I just want to see a dedication to work, learning and improving all of the time because that’s what I strive to do.”
Motivation, for Shah, comes from her desire to see the male-dominated nature of the restaurant industry change. She explains, “It is changing so what motivates me is the thought that some day I can be a powerful female chef that other girls look up to.”
Wings with Tilde signature sauce
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