Several top Vancouver chefs are featured in a new cookbook that’s benefitting A Better Life Foundation and the work it does to help people living in the Downtown Eastside.
Food Stories: A Cookbook for a Cause is a passion project of Hakan Burcuoğlu, a local filmmaker and cofounder of The Curatorialist, a web-based magazine.
With a desire to profile the people behind the plates, Burcuoğlu teamed up with Food For All Publishing and the design team of FEVKALADE‘s Emre Parlak and Deniz Cem Önduygu for the 150-page book.
It has 20 accessible recipes from 20 B.C. chefs, who share personal tales about what drew them to food and cooking in the first place and what continues to drive them in their professional and home kitchens today.
Among the chefs featured are Gourmet Warehouse’s Caren McSherry (who shares her recipe for “Goodbye to Meatloaf” Meatballs), Iron Chef champion Alex Chen, executive chef of of Sutton Place Hotel’s signature restaurants (Char Kway Teow, or Malaysian Fried Flat Noodles), Juno Kim of Juno Kim Catering (Mushroom Soup), and more.
“I wanted to look at why people do what they do as opposed to what they’re cooking and what their dishes look like,” Burcuoğlu tells the Straight. “I interviewed 20 chefs over four months all in the privacy of their own homes. They all cooked for me in their own kitchens. I wanted to refrain from a book lionizing chefs and portraying them in these sterile environments.
“I had an unfiltered lens into their private lives,” he says. “It’s more a storybook than a cookbook. Obviously, the recipes have all been tested; they’re great recipes. But it’s also very personal and sentimental and also very poetic.”
Consider an excerpt from the chapter on Andrea Carlson of Burdock & Co. (who provides her recipe for Risotto with Charred Radicchio), called A Locavore’s Lullaby:
We’re ensconced. Amidst a bouquet of bergamot, and the duende of dancing dust. A prepossessing room, inlaid with intarsia, and victim to leadened light—as if peering through a pinhole, cascading shadows swindle the sight.
Yet, in this relic, a ruse; deep in penumbra pounces the curious cat, disguised in monochrome, yearning for a pat. Brandishing bravura, she leaps onto lap, a mother’s caress—it’s time for a nap. Both bodies silhouetted, in bashful embrace, frozen on top a futon, they gleam with grace. Whiskers now in slumber, we must retire to cook, but then beckons her nostalgia —“This, is that book.”
That bellwether—esteemed food journalist Craig Claiborne’s abiding bestseller, The New York Times Cookbook—Andrea discovered in a bookshop at age thirteen became an inciting incident, for it flamed an efficacious relationship with food, and succored her deliverance from a childhood immured.
Food Stories also has more than 150 candid photos that Burcuoğlu took of the chefs not just cooking but also doing everyday tasks like grocery shopping.
A Better Life Foundation aims to enhance food security among women and children fleeing violence, street-entrenched youth, and people living below the poverty line in the Downtown Eastside.