Myeong and Harris talk about the chefs who were strongly influential on their culinary attitudes. A short stint working with Chef John Morris at the Ottawa Arts Centre had a strong impact on Harris. He says, “He showed me what a modern kitchen can be. It can be polite and it can be really enjoyable. His passion for Canadian ingredients was a strong influence on how we’re approaching the food at our restaurant now.”
Myeong mentions Chef Michael Hay at the Courtyard in Ottawa as a mentor. She says, “He didn’t try to intimidate people or throw pans at them. He was very good at delegating tasks and giving you a chance to improve yourself without threatening you. He empowered me to evolve as a cook in the time I was working there with him.”
The approach to the food at Ma Tante Carole starts with the ingredients for Myeong. She says, “We try to focus on the ingredients themselves. We look at the flavours and the textures of the ingredients. Instead of planning the menu to make it prettier or to sell, we focus on what the ingredients can bring to the table.”
Harris adds, “We’re really fortunate to be located in a rural environment. We have so many local farms at our disposal so I guess our whole idea is backwards. We don’t create menu items first, we bring in the products and then figure out what to do with them.”
Both chefs take a hands-on approach at the restaurant. Harris points out, “We do all our own butchery after we get the meat from local farmers. We break it down ourselves. We make all of our own bread as well."
Letting the ingredients shine is another important aspect of how Harris and Myeong approach food. Harris says, “We try not to transform things too much because sometimes you get a Globe carrot and its the sweetest carrot you’ve ever had so all you have to do is pair it with the right things.”
Their main rationale for using local ingredients comes down to flavour according to Myeong. She says, “When things are in season and available from close to us, they taste so much better that you don’t want to think about using any other ingredients.”