Brayden Kozak is a young Albertan chef with a deep interest in working with local producers and ingredients. He takes an eclectic approach to food and cooking that incorporates a wide variety of elements and is driven by his relationships with the local suppliers to Three Boars and the ingredients those suppliers provide for him to work with.
Canadian Chef Interviews: Brayden Kozak
Brayden Kozak is a young chef with a deep interest in working with local food suppliers and creating unique food at Three Boars restaurant in Edmonton.
Chef Brayden Kozak
Sometimes a person’s path in life is determined by minor events. In the case of Chef Brayden Kozak, it was being a bad server in a restaurant while he was still in high school. He explains that the kitchen staff noticed this and responded accordingly. They demoted him to being a dishwasher which he says was the ‘happiest day of his life up to that point’. Once he started cooking, Kozak explains, he got hooked when he saw how people responded emotionally to the food he’d been cooking.
After a stint at NAIT* in the culinary program, Kozak went to work for Chef Brad Lazarenko whom he cites as an inspiration as well as Chef Drew Noble in Vancouver. He also talks about working at Molé restaurant in Victoria where he came to understand the value of using locally grown products. He says, “Seeing the difference in quality and knowing the names of the people who grew your stuff was kind of eye opening.”
That profound respect for local ingredients became one of the philosophical lynchpins of Kozak’s cooking. He explains that the quality of the small, local producers is one of the reasons he favours this approach. He says that the quality is “just untouchable compared to the stuff that you're getting from any large distributor.”
Kozak points out that he makes trips to farmer’s markets regularly with his staff to continue to pursue the idea of getting the best products possible. On top of this, the chef says that the rapport between the producers and his kitchen team is crucial. Another important part of Kozak’s respect for food is his conscious sourcing of local products. He points out that he makes trips to farmer’s markets regularly with his staff. He explains, “Now we've got to the point where we have farms actually growing stuff specifically for us. It's been really amazing, not only to get to play with the best product available, but to build relationships with these fantastic people and become friends with them.”
One of Brayden Kozak's dishes at Three Boars.
Another Three Boars dish.
When it comes to the cooking process itself, Kozak focuses on using quality products and doing “everything we can not to screw it up.” After that, Kozak says, it’s just a matter of working in the small work space he currently has and trying to get the dishes to flow easily from the kitchen. He adds, “Sometimes we get a bit too, I don't know, excited about something and we'll end up throwing way too many individual components on one plate. Sure, the plate looks amazing but when we're trying to produce it on the line it's just a complete disaster.”
Kozak takes a considered approach to creating new menus and dishes. He looks at the products that are coming to the restaurant and decides what to do with those ingredients. After that’s established, the chef explains, “We spend between a week and a month playing with the dish and planning it so that when it comes time to put it on the menu we've all actually tasted it.”
Cooks are often not paid well in the restaurant industry, but Kozak wanted to address that issue with his hiring. He says that in order to attract talented cooks, he’s willing to pay higher wages. He points out, “I know I spent years struggling and wishing I was making more money. Without going broke we wanted our staff to feel happy to be there and feel happy to come to work so we have fairly high labour costs as well.“
*Northern Alberta Institute of Technology
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