Chef Steve Ramey spent seven years studying to be a teacher at the University of British Columbia before he realized that he had to pursue his true passion for cooking. He says, “I realized at one point that teaching wasn’t what I was enjoying. I enjoyed cooking and that’s how it started out. I just realized that what’s made me the happiest.”
Canadian Chefs Profiled: Steve Ramey, Whistler B.C
Chef Steve Ramey combines a deep love for locally sourced ingredients with creative and unique flavour combinations at Christine's in Whistler B.C.
Chef Steve Ramey
Every kitchen that Ramey has worked in has taught him something but a few experiences have stood out. The first one that he mentions is doing his apprenticeship at Grouse Mountain which taught him many of the basic skills.
Another pivotal experience for Ramey was working for Chef Rob Clark when he was at C Restaurant in Vancouver. Ramey says, “He was one of the founders of OceanWise so he was the one who got me into the idea of using local, sustainable products. He was a huge influence as well in terms of organization and being smart in the kitchen.”
When he was working at DB Bistro in Vancouver, Ramey worked for Chef Stephane Istel. It was under Istel that Ramey learned classic French techniques. He adds, “He gave me a really good solid background in the classics. It’s a good basis and you can carry over those techniques to other types of food.”
The final major influence that Ramey mentions was working at Hawksworth. He gained a great deal of experience and knowledge working with Chef David Hawksworth and his chef de cuisine Christian Eligh.
Seared scallop, carrot, cucumber, fried chickpeas, lime, Indian spiced vinaigrette
Working at Christine’s has been a new experience for Ramey. He explains, “They’ve never done this kind of restaurant on the mountain at Whistler before. I wanted to bring what we were doing in the city at Hawksworth for lunch, simplify it a bit because we don’t have quite the same brigade or the same amount of time here. I wanted people to come up here and be able to have a couple of bottles of nice wine, eat some good food and relax.”
Another important part of working at the restaurant in Whistler is the flexibility they’ve allowed him. He points out, “They’ve been really good here about letting me do lots of menu changes. If I have a product for a week, I can put it on the menu for a week which is really kind of cool with that flexibility because you don’t need to go to a farm that’s producing thousands of something.”
Ramey’s project for the summer season is to establish connections with local farmers. In Vancouver, he was responsible for working to order ingredients from the farmers but, in his current position, he works with a purchasing office. He says, “My plan is to spend some time down in the valley, meet everybody, maybe bring them in for lunch and show them what we’re doing and they can let me know that they’ve got products that they might think we’d be interested in.”
The process of developing a dish starts with a central focus like a protein, an interesting condiment or an ingredient that Ramey finds unique. He strives to balance different aspects like pickled flavours and crunchy, creamy, spicy notes on the plate. After that, he explains, “We write a basic recipe and then we do a recipe test, weigh everything and refine the recipe. We make the finished dish three or four times and I get four or five people to sit down and we’ll all try them and make some adjustments if we need to and then it’s on the menu.”
Hamachi,horseradish, apple, white soy, dill, crunchy fennel
A good example of Ramey’s approach to creating a dish is the scallop ceviche-style dish that he’s working on. He says, “We’ve got some local sea asparagus that we’ll pickle, we made a nice lime cilantro ceviche cure and once we got to the stage, we thought about what creamy element we should use. We decided to go with avocado puree on the plate and maybe some puffed rice for crispiness. We can get some nice watermelon for the time I open. We’re going to source out some heirloom melons so we’ll have some compressed melon there as well.”
In terms of the traits that he hopes to embody as a chef, Ramey wants to be someone for whom people want to work and someone who leads by example. He says, “I respect everyone that I work with and make sure they all respect each other. Really that’s the biggest thing for me in the kitchen. If you respect your co-workers, if you respect your food everything else follows.”
Along with the trait of respect, Ramey’s looking for a kitchen team that has an energetic, passionate approach to food. He adds, “I look for people who still want to enjoy life outside of the kitchen. One of my big reasons for moving to Whistler was being able to make beautiful food and still be able to balance my time.”
Ramey’s love for food is his main inspiration and motivation to cook. He concludes, “Sometimes it comes from traveling, sometimes it’s seeing an ingredient or reading a recipe. It comes from everywhere really. I’m just in love with food.”
Soy braised beef short rib, napa cabbage, charred scallion, roast carrot, king oyster mushroom, peanut
This interview with Steve Ramey was conducted and recorded on April 21, 2016.