Photo by Robin Grant/Red Deer Express

A chat with Canada’s culinary guru Liana Robberecht

Robberecht has worked in top-notch kitchens for most of her career

Chef Liana Robberecht has worked in top-notch kitchens for most of her career.

Before taking up the post as executive chef at Winsport in 2015, Canada’s culinary guru spent 18 years leading the kitchens of the famous Calgary Petroleum Club.

In 2011, Robberecht was named Chef of the Year by the Alberta Foodservice Expo and Canadian Restaurant and Foodservice Magazine. She also received the 2010 Golden Whisk Award from Women Chefs and Restaurateurs (WCR).

When Robberecht is not putting together world-class meals and beverages, she trains and mentors young movers and shakers in the culinary world.

The Smithers, B.C. native is also a regular contributor to the CBC Radio Homestretch Show and she writes about food for Restaurantcentral.ca.

Q. Share a story of how you learned about yourself through a certain experience and how it helped you move forward in your career?

A. My first chef position was at my hometown golf course. I was 28 years old. A golf course in the summers is the busy season. Members can be fickle. They expect to see you morning, noon and night. It’s hard to achieve expectations sometimes. I was young, eager, wanted to do everything myself. On the odd day that I was able to have a day off, something would always go wrong, members were not happy, I was told – ‘it’s just not the same when you’re not in the kitchen.’ My first reaction to these comments was ego filling – and I thought, ‘Yes because I am the shit.’ I felt needed and on top of my game. And then I did some soul searching and really thought about those feelings. It became clear, and I had a bold vision. I was not ‘the shit’ if dishes could not be prepared correctly in my absence. I was not a leader. I realized that I could never be a leader if no one wanted to follow me. From that moment on, I changed my approach drastically. I became a mentor and a teacher, which shaped me to finally become a leader.

Q. Describe some of the biggest obstacles you have faced and how you overcame them.

A. In the early days of my apprenticeship, I was very unaware of how male-dominated the culinary field was. In those dark times, I endured slander, sexism, sabotage, brutal negativity. The continuance of that behavior made me physically ill. I visited the emergency room many times due to crazy stress. During that time, never once did I quit or give up (I still ask myself why). I maintained my own personal ethics and vowed to myself that as soon as I was in a position of authority – I would make this a position of change. I have never looked back.

Q. Share something about yourself that you’re working to improve.

I belong to Women Chefs and Restaurateurs. I currently I hold the position of Vice President of the board. My goal for over 20 years, has always been to promote and elevate women in the culinary industry through employment opportunities, projects and mentorships. Canada has a crazy number of talented women in and connected to the culinary industry. Chefs, front of house, owners, winemakers, etc. The list is endless. I love when these talented women come together to make a difference in the community. I love being a part of that energy.

Q. What is your life philosophy?

A. This is a true story. When I was in the eighth grade, for some reason, I had given myself a personal mission statement to follow. It was very simple: be kind to others, they will be kind to you. Be truthful and always laugh. Where did this come from? From some sort of vision. It has always been part of my core ethics and remains still to this day.

Chinook Honey and Tarragon Bannock Recipe

1.5 cups bread flour

.5 cup of pastry flour

2 egg yolks

1 cup soft butter

1 cup milk

2 Tablespoon Butter, melted

2 teaspoons Baking Powder

1 teaspoon Salt

1 Tablespoon Sugar

1 Tablespoon tarragon, dried

½ teaspoon onion powder

2 tablespoon chopped parsley

Combine all dry ingredients, add small amounts of butter mix in, then add in egg yolks, slowly add in liquid – knead into smooth dough. Roll out and cut into pieces, deep fry. When still hot, drizzle with Chinook honey and Maldon salt.

For Chinook Honey drizzle:

1 cup clarified butter ( warm)

¼ cup Chinook Honey

Mix together – keep warm before use.

Grits

½ cup stone ground white grits

2 cups cream

1 cup white wine

6 slices thick cut bacon, diced

¼ cup small diced sweet onion

1 tsp roasted garlic puree

½ melted butter

1 juice and zest of one lemon

salt/pepper

In a saucepan, place bacon, when halfway rendered add chopped onions and garlic puree. Add in cream & wine, bring to a boil. While stirring the cream with a whisk, gradually sprinkle in the grits. Reduce the heat to low and let the grits simmer until you notice only a sporadic bubble on the mixture surface. The boiling should continue for approx. an additional 35 min., during which time you can add the butter

Add zest and lemon juice at the end when adjusting seasoning

If grits are too thick adjust with little hot water, cream or more wine.

Yield: 4 servings

Serving suggestions :

Grits are perfect as a side dish or perfect as a brunch dish, just add poached eggs and enjoy.

Avocado and Spiced Crackers:

2 cups Pastry Flour

1 cup Bread Flour

1/2 cup Hemp Hearts

1/4 cup Chia seeds

1/2 cup parsley, dried

1 ½ tsp baking powder

1/8 cup Siracha Lime seasoning

4 tbsp onion powder

1/4 cup poppy seeds

1/4 cup Highwood Crossing Canola Oil

Add enough water to make a dough, start with 1/2 cup. Preheat oven to 400 F Roll out dough thin as possible, mark out a shape of a cracker, dock with a fork Spray baking sheet with nonstick spray, place crackers on sheet Bake for approx. 10-12 minutes sprinkle with sea salt when finished Place on a cooling rack

Avocado: Mix two cups of guacamole with one cup of Greek Yogurt , mix together Place in piping bag , pipe onto spiced crackers , sprinkle with toasted grains Toasted Grains: 1 cup Highwood Crossing Cereal Grains 4 tbsp coriander seeds 4 tbsp poppy seeds 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds 4 tbsp white sugar In heated non stick pan, add grains, toast the grains for approx. a minute then add sugar, continue until all toasted.

Lemon Hummus

½ cup dried chickpeas ( soak overnight in water, then bring to a boil, simmer for approx 30 minutes or until tender, drain ) * can substitute with canned chickpeas

4 tsp tahini • 1 tsp crushed sea salt

¼ cup Highwood Crossing Canola oil (plus extra for drizzling)

¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Zest of one lemon

2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1 tsp roasted garlic

1 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon

1/8 cup apple juice

Add cooked chickpeas the food processor. Add the tahini, salt, lemon juice, apple juice . Turn on the food processor and slowly pour in the oil while it runs. Mixture should be smooth, not too stiff. You may add less or more olive oil – depending on consistency.

When the mixture is fully combined and smooth, add in herbs, garlic, into the mixture it into a serving dish. Drizzle with some more extra virgin olive oil and decorate with a few whole chickpeas Radishes – Clean and slice, some into thin slices & some into quarters , lightly salt & pepper 1 Apple – core and cut apple into 8’s – toss in 1 tsp apple cider vinegar 8 small inner leaves of butterleaf Assembly : Spoon and drag hummus on left side of the plate, place two apple wedges onto hummus offsetting each other , place two radish slices opposite sides of the apple , then place one radish wedge near bottom of hummus . place two lettuce leaves within the hummus. Drizzle small amount of Highwood crossing canola oil.

The recipes above are all the creation of Liana Robberecht.

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