Toronto Pastry Chef David H. Chow on Cooking with Respect

Pastry Chef David H. Chow
Pastry Chef David H. Chow

At the 13th Annual StarChefs Congress, we’re gathering more than 170 industry icons to share the influences that permeate their work in the kitchen and on the floor. Pastry Chef and Chocolatier David H. Chow will be leading a hands-on workshop exploring his hyper-creative modern bon bons. To explore the theme, “Cooking With Respect,” we asked Chow what cooking with respect means to him.

The one kitchen task you could perform the rest of your career:Making caramel in any of its forms. Like the transformation of flour, salt, and water into bread, using sugar, salted butter, and cream to make a caramel seems like the alchemical reactions of old. Even with such simple ingredients, the result is definitely much more than the sum of its parts. It is so variable depending on timing and temperature and requires me to draw on experience and all my senses at once to create the desired end result—whether it be a soft caramel sauce for an ice cream sundae or a cellophane-wrapped caramel for mignardise.

What’s sacred in your kitchen: Ingredients. I constantly emphasize that every ingredient is the result of meticulous work and time before it even gets to us. For instance, accidentally spilling a few spoonfuls of local wildflower honey on the counter may seem trivial, but the loss in terms of what was required to produce the honey and have it delivered to us is immeasurable.

One thing you do to take care of yourself: Mental and physical well being is of paramount importance both for myself and those who work for me. I am jokingly referred to those who know me as a “Plant Dad” as I have over 80 houseplants crammed into my one-bedroom apartment, as well as a thriving vegetable garden crammed into my small balcony. The plants add much needed greenery and life to my living space and keeping them alive and thriving requires both constant patience and care.
 
At least once a week (almost daily in the summer), I will take time out of my schedule to make sure all my plants are getting all the nutrients and sunlight they need. There is a certain amount of zen that comes with watering, rotating, pruning, cleaning, misting, etc. For me plant care is so far removed from what I do for a living and becomes an almost meditative task leaving my mind clear for developing new ideas and meeting the challenges that come up during the day as a chef and small business owner.

What you want your team to respect: “Respectez les bases” was drilled into me since my formative years both as a pastry chef and as a systems design engineer. One needs to first respect and master the foundations and basics of pastry and its ingredients before trying to dazzle others with new and novel ideas. Far too often, I see people fresh to the industry jump right into the glitz and glamour part of the job—glazing cakes, spraying polycarbonate molds, and coming up with new designs—when they have yet to master the basics such as formulating proper ganaches and fillings, proper lining of molds with chocolates (thin shells are best!), or costing out production.

Change you’ve made in your business: Learning to say no. It is always tough as a chef/owner as you are constantly pursuing revenue sources and striving to prove oneself. But after several successful years in the industry, I have learned to slowly take back control of my time and schedule and prioritize the tasks that will make my staff and business grow and move forward.

Most pristine ingredient in your walk-in: At this moment it’s a 45 percent cream from Sheldon Creek Dairy made locally here in Ontario. As you can imagine, it has a beautiful mouthfeel and incredible flavor, and since it’s summer, it makes killer whipped cream for strawberry or peach shortcakes.

 

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