Canadian Chefs in Conversation: Alysha Couture, Edmonton AB

by Krlmagi

Alysha Couture adds a French flair to comfort food classics on the menu at Almanac in Edmonton.

Growing up in a small town in Saskatchewan, Alysha Couture was fascinated by cooking and loved eating her grandmother’s home-cooked meals. Eventually that fascination transformed itself into a culinary career. She went to the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology to learn her craft and hasn’t looked back since. She says, “I grew up cooking, I loved it and so I followed my passion.”

She gathered the influence of her grandmother’s home cooking and her love for it as well as the hard work she saw after working in a small family restaurant in her small town. Couture adds, “It showed me how much hard work pays off.”

Sausage Hash with potatoes, peppers, onions, mushrooms and fried egg
Sausage Hash with potatoes, peppers, onions, mushrooms and fried egg

Couture approaches cooking by creating what she calls comfort food with a French flair. She explains, “I want it to be like the food that my grandma made. I want it to be comfortable, I want to create quality over quantity using fresh, local ingredients. I want to make something that people will enjoy.”

The inspiration for creating new dishes comes from reading through her collection of cookbooks. Couture uses them to help her find inspiration. She says, “I combine those ideas and put my own twist on them. After that, I try dishes out over and over again. I switch the details and sometimes I see a recipe and go, ‘Hey! That idea would work well in this recipe!’ I think about what goes together well.”

The ability of her kitchen team members to cope with pressure is important for Couture. She is less impressed by what’s on someone’s resume than by how they cope with a busy service. She says, “ I want to make sure they can work a line when it’s busy and not freak out!”

It's important for Couture to have a kitchen team that returns the respect that she gives them. She adds, “I don’t want anybody yelling in my kitchen. I don’t want any attitude either. I want to have fun but everyone knows they need to work hard too.”

One of Couture’s goals as a chef is to create a positive work environment that creates opportunities for teaching and learning. She explains, “I want people to want to come to work. I want to have fun here and I want my staff to enjoy themselves. I want to teach my staff as much as I can! I’m always throwing ideas around with everyone in the kitchen.”

Eggs Benedict with hash brown, bacon, wilted spinach, blistered tomatoes, Hollandaise sauce, fruit
Eggs Benedict with hash brown, bacon, wilted spinach, blistered tomatoes, Hollandaise sauce, fruit

Involving her cooks is also important for her so Couture is always bouncing ideas back and forth with them. She says, “I want my staff to feel like they’re involved. We try different ideas all the time and they’ll go home and come back the next day with an idea that they want to try out.”

Establishing relationships with small producers is important for Couture. She buys most of her ingredients from the Strathcona Farmer’s Market and is starting to build relationships with smaller producers. She points out, “We’re getting to know some of the suppliers there and starting to place orders with them. It gets to be a relationship where you support them and they support you.”

In the future, Couture wants to expand the business to include more catering. She is interested in exploring creative food ideas for smaller groups. She adds, “I want to be able to cater dinner parties where I can use my imagination and create different dishes for every party.”

The trend towards more locally produced food from smaller suppliers is something Couture is excited to see in the culinary world. She feels that the mutual support that small businesses can give each other is crucial and adds, “You aren’t working with the big companies who don’t even know who you are. The smaller producers treat you well and they want your business.”

At the end of the day, Couture loves to make people happy. She finds inspiration in the feedback she gets from diners and says, “ I just keep going with my ideas, switch them up every once in a while and when people give us feedback on the dishes, it’s great!”

Updated: 01/22/2016, Krlmagi
 
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Mitch on 01/22/2016

OMG... Those dishes look amazing... The Almanac is on my list to go to next trip to Edmonton.

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