We chatted with celebrated Vancouver chef (and notably our first ever customer while at Medina Cafe) Jonathan Chovancek for a few minutes over a plate of his creamy Celeriac and Golden Quinoa Risotto.
He's just started a new series of cooking classes for home cooks and chefs alike in partnership with Cook Culture, in addition to pushing his business Bittered Sling (with wife Lauren Mote) to the next level. We love his creative use of spices especially, and would fight for a seat at any table he is cooking for!
How does your home cooking differ from your professional cooking?
At home my wife and I like to eat very healthy - this means low sodium, lots of vegetables and sprouted whole grains. In a restaurant we push flavours to the limit with salt and fat and it is delicious! But at home we are fuelling up to have the energy to work out and meet the adventures of the day with a focus on a long healthy life.
What is the number one most used ingredient in your kitchen at home?
Fennel seeds usually make an appearance, but really we use spices in virtually all of the food we cook at home.
What is the biggest mistake you see in home cooking?
Trying to do too much with the resources and time available. Cooking at home is a wonderful thing. Time management and menu planning are sometimes not considered yet are two of the most critical elements to executing a successful meal.
What is the kitchen tool you can’t live without?
My Vitaprep blender, the best tool in the kitchen. From smoothies to hummus to velvety soups to making spice blends - I use it in every way possible.
What do you eat for breakfast?
I like almond butter and bananas on whole grain rice crackers.
Who is your biggest influencer?
My amazing wife, Lauren Mote! Everyday I get up and try to impress her.
Favourite food city?
Have you always cooked with grains and legumes like you do now?
Yeah! We were cooking with quinoa, farro, wheat berries and chickpeas in the early 90's in fine dining restaurants. We didn't care about their nutrition at the time - it was their flavour and texture we loved. Now I always sprout my grains for 12 hours before I use them for nutritional considerations as well as a better hydration in the final cooking process.
What is your current favourite grain to work with?
I think lentils and chickpeas are tied, both for the flavour and versatility of techniques I can use with them.
We feel grateful to have the support of so many amazing chefs in the industry. What are some other noteworthy local folks making a difference in the way people cook?
I think Annabelle Choi is one of the most talented bakers in the city making incredible artisan breads with cultured, whole grains.
Get Jonathan's recipe for Celeriac and Golden Risotto here. It's an easy, no fuss recipe that will take your next side dish excurtion to a whole new level.