Canadian Chefs in Conversation: Chef Lorna Murdoch, Winnipeg

by Krlmagi

Chef Lorna Murdoch showcases local, seasonal ingredients in her cooking at fusion grill in Winnipeg.

For Chef Lorna Murdoch, the most important element of her food is the way it tastes. She takes the plethora of local produce and meats that Manitoba can provide and transforms them into an approachable but creative cuisine that lets the ingredients speak for themselves. Murdoch says that her goal is to pleasantly surprise guests with her dishes.

Chef Lorna Murdoch
Chef Lorna Murdoch
Lorna Murdoch

1. What got you involved in the culinary world in the first place?

I ask myself that every day! Honestly I was seventeen and I wanted to get the heck out of Winnipeg and I figured cooking would be a good start. There's restaurants everywhere and I figured that it was my ticket out of here. I watched my brothers and sister go through university and end up having to learn a trade. I figured I'd learn the trade first and then go to university. I never did go to university though. 

 

2. How have all of the chefs you've cooked alongside influenced you?

 I think I've learned most from my bad experiences. I think that when I first started out and they said I should quit, that women would never be chefs. It wasn't that long ago. Now we're everywhere and I'm proud that I might have contributed to that a little bit. Sometimes I think if someone told me I couldn't be a doctor or a lawyer, I might have done that. Of course I've had positive experiences but sometimes it's the things that challenge us that drive us. 

 

3. Tell me about your approach to food and cooking.

This is a local, regional restaurant and we focus on local food which seems to be quite the trend these days. It's kind of funny really.  It makes you wonder how much of it is real sometimes. 

I guess we approach everything from a taste standpoint. I've had a lot of comments about our wine tasting dinners and how well the food actually pairs with the wine. That's because I tasted the wine before I did the menu.

We approach food from the flavours first and foremost, locally and then what tastes good. We try to surprise people without grossing them out. Sometimes with fusion it can be a little too fusion. There's a fine line between creative and too creative. 

 

4. When you create a new dish, how does it unfold for you? What is the 'process' (if there is one) that you go through?

It really depends on what we get. That changes by the day in the summer and a little bit less often in the winter. We do prepare things in the summer to use in the winter. I guess that after that its mostly instinctive.

Panko crusted pickerel cheeks with local fennel bulb & orange salad, creme fraiche and Northern Pike caviar
Panko crusted pickerel cheeks with local fennel bulb & orange salad, creme fraiche and Northern Pike caviar
Lorna Murdoch

4. When you create a new dish, how does it unfold for you?

It really depends on what we get. That changes by the day in the summer and a little bit less often in the winter. We do prepare things in the summer to use in the winter. I guess that after that its mostly instinctive.

 

5. Discuss your criteria for ingredients and your relationship with producers and suppliers.

We're looking for local ingredients of high quality. This restaurant is pretty established now so local producers come to us. If they can sell it to us, they can sell everybody else. They bring us their product, we buy it, we sell it ourselves and it becomes a natural, symbiotic relationship. 

White truffle perogies with duck sausage and walnut cream sauce
White truffle perogies with duck sausage and walnut cream sauce
Lorna Murdoch

6.  As a chef, what are the traits you think are most important in you and in the people you work with?

You need to be stubborn and have stamina and resilience. Most people don't get a T.V. show and the reality is a little bit harsher. You really need to like doing this. You're going to miss a lot of holidays and a lot of parties. 

We train students sometimes and they're always thinking they're going to walk into a T.V. show and they're surprised when they have to sweep the floors at the end of the night. The T.V. chef trend has set pretty unrealistic expectations. On the other hand, it has brought a lot of attention too.

 

7.  Is there anything in the culinary landscape now that really intrigues you?

There was an article about food trends 2014 and one of them was 'everything old is new again'.  That interests me! I'd love to see jello salads and stuff hit restaurants but I don't think its going to happen. I've been watching Downton Abbey and noticing the food in the show. I'd love to recreate some of those things here like the profiteroles and the egg custards.

 

8. What keeps you moving forward in your career as a chef?

Boredom. That's the thing about a creative field, you get bored and you have to do something new. If I wanted to make a ton of money I could work at one of the chain restaurants, re-plating the same thing hundreds of times. It'd make any creative person bored. I think it's the same reason that you see so many chefs opening restaurants.

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Updated: 02/19/2014, Krlmagi
 
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ologsinquito on 02/21/2014

The food looks so delicious.

Mira on 02/20/2014

I really like those pierogies!

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