Derek Grey has been methodically building his culinary skill set since opting for easy credit from a high school cafeteria class. Since then he graduated from the Northwest Culinary Academy and worked as a pasta cook at Cibo Trattoria and spent a year as a butcher. Today, he brings it all together as head chef at Osteria Savio Volpe, renowned for its traditional flavours:
Q: What motivates and inspires you as a chef?
A: My biggest motivation is my family first and foremost. I strive to give my son and wife an experience that I didn’t get growing up. I am driven by the understanding and hard work that is put in to every meal, and the fact that it’s OK to get your hands dirty and have some fun when cooking.
Q: How would you describe the type of food you like to cook?
A: At Savio Volpe we look at an ingredient and try our best to honour it. If you have a beautiful first-of-the-season sockeye, put it on the wood fire and let it shine. Treat it with respect and it will come out better then you every expected.
Q: What might diners not know about you?
A: I’m a three-on-three NBA Hoop It Up champion, along with four other (much more talented) basketball players. I still have the trophy to prove it. Still remember winning and being booed by 300-plus people, these things happen when you’re not favoured to win.
Q: Describe a couple of your most recent creations.
A: It’s a team effort day in and day out. We think of this place as if it was a region in Italy. What would you do if you had locally grown heirloom fife berries? Well, let’s mill them and make our bread program that much better. It’s the middle of summer and we have some beautiful local English peas, why not add them to a Pope’s fettuccine?
Q: What’s your favourite local product and how do you use it?
A: I have to pick one? It is almost impossible to pick just one. One ingredient I do like to eat every day when they’re in season has to be tomatoes. Simply slice and season with sea salt, black pepper and drown in extra virgin olive oil — they’re even better with a side of cottage cheese.
Q: Do you have one piece of advice you might have for home cooks?
A: Have fun when cooking. Involve your family, friends and loved ones. Make a mess, learn a little and when that meal is ready to eat, sit down, put away the phones and enjoy these moments. Instagram can wait.
Ricotta Gnocchi with Hand-Crushed Pomodoro
Ricotta Gnocchi with Hand-Crushed Pomodoro.
2 cups (500 g) fresh ricotta (strained the night before)
2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour
1 egg yolk
Salt, to taste
Place ricotta, 1 1/4 cups (310 mL) of all-purpose flour, egg yolk and salt in a bowl. With a spatula or plastic bench scraper, mix all ingredients until they come together. Dust work surface with 3/4 cup (180 mL) flour and put dough on the counter, knead the dough till it comes together and doesn’t fall apart. About 4 to 8 minutes. If the dough starts to feel sticky dust the work surface and the dough with flour. Roll dough out into a fist-sized log and let rest for at least 15 minutes.
1 28-oz. (796 mL) can of San Marzano tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, peeled
Chili flakes, to taste
3 tbsp. (45 mL) extra virgin olive oil
Place tomatoes in a bowl, hand crush and add a pinch of salt. Meanwhile, heat extra virgin olive oil on medium heat in a deep sauce pan. Hand crush garlic, add to oil and slowly brown. Once brown, add a pinch of chilies, followed by tomatoes. Increase heat and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large pot, boil 4 quarts (4 L) of water and 2 tbsp. (30 mL) of salt. Make sure it tastes like the ocean. Tip: Put a handful of flour into your water to make it starchy and help the gnocchi cook evenly.
Divide gnocchi dough into 5 pieces and roll out into thick worms no bigger than your thumb. Using the bench scraper cut off 2-inch pieces of dough and roll off the back of a fork to create gnocchi pieces. Set aside. Once all gnocchi are formed, gently place them into the pot of boiling water and cook until gnocchi rise to the top of the water, about 2 to 4 minutes. Remove gnocchi with strainer, making sure to drain any excess water. Toss in saucepan with The Pomodoro.
Makes 5 servings.
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