Chef Matthew Carmichael takes global influences and combines them with a culinary sensibility that seeks to get the best ingredients possible and treat them with respect. His approach is in giving his guests an enjoyable dining experience that leaves them feeling good and with a positive sense of the food that he's created for them.
Conversations with Canada's Chefs: Chef Matthew Carmichael, Ottawa
Chef Matthew Carmichael combines a respect for quality ingredients with an approach that favours simplicity and letting those ingredients shine.
Chef Matthew Carmichael
1. How'd you get interested in cooking in the first place?
I got interested through my grandmother and my girlfriend in university. I had never even seen a piece of ginger when I was 20. Can you believe that?!
2. What were some of the experiences you've had that shaped you into the chef you are now?
I researched and fought hard in my younger years to get the jobs that I wanted. I always sought to work in the kitchens and restaurants run by particular chefs that were of renown, who I felt that I could learn from. Each position was a stepping stone to another and helped build my resume.
3. Talk about your approach to food and cooking now.
Now that I am an older and more mature chef it is less about culinary experimentation and more about getting the best quality ingredients. I am more focused now on dishes that let the flavour of the ingredients shine through and speak for themselves and less so on dishes that are complicated, overworked and extreme.
4. How do you approach sourcing ingredients and building relationships with suppliers?
I really and honestly have to like the people that I work with - supplier or farmer. It's their energy and passion that serves as the inspiration for the dishes and meals that I create - essentially their energy is transferred down the line from the supplier or farmer to the kitchen and from there to the customer.
Green Papaya Salad
5. Walk me through the process of creating a dish from idea to execution.
It all stems from the fact that I have been fortunate enough to have worked with different chefs and on different styles of food over the past few years. As a sort of "hybrid chef" I take the flavour combinations that I like and use them as the basis for everything that I create.
6. What are the traits that make up a good chef and a good kitchen team?
Humility is the biggest trait that a chef should hold on to, you can learn from a farmer, dishwasher or even a first year cook. Create a positive environment in your kitchen that is stern but at the same time reflects a mutual sense of respect. It is key to you want to maintain the energy in the kitchen and not bring negativity to the table, literally because the customer will then taste that in the food.
7. What's interesting you in the culinary world of late?
Recently I've realized that it is all about delivery. I have learned how to break down a tuna, make various sauces and extract flavours differently. I have also realized that at the end of the day that the delivery of the food to the customer relates directly to how they feel when they eat it or are in the restaurant. The food I want to deliver to my customers should look fresh and natural - out of respect for the ingredients. I want my food to look and feel accessible to everyone, as it correlates directly and psychologically to how people will then taste and feel at the restaurant.
8. How do you stay fresh and inspired as a chef?
Never underestimate the importance of doing "stages", constantly researching the interests of your local community, continual education and travelling somewhere to expose yourselves to the local flavours and styles of cuisine.
Ox tongue tacos, pork tacos