When Stephan MacIntyre craves comfort food, he thinks soup. Unlike many Vancouverites, the Montreal-raised chef knows what it really feels like to come in from the cold and warm up over a hot bowl of homemade split-pea soup. Interviewed on a rare snowy day in Vancouver, he laughs at the stuff that’s barely sticking to the ground outside burgoo restaurant’s test kitchen in Mount Pleasant.
Seated next to his burgoo cofounder Justin Joyce, MacIntyre tells the Georgia Straight that comfort food is about more than just what’s on the plate.
“It’s the company, the sharing. It’s about people sitting down, relaxing, and taking the world off your shoulders,” he says. “That’s what food has always been for almost every culture.”
After moving to Vancouver in 1991, MacIntyre met Joyce and Ken Carty—the third founder of the restaurant chain—while playing ultimate Frisbee. The trio bonded over their interest in sports and food, and in 2001, burgoo was born.
“Our original name was StewArts, but it wasn’t quite what we wanted,” Joyce says. A book on burgoos—communally prepared stews popular in the American South—inspired the name that stuck. “It didn’t start out as comfort food, really. We use the expression ‘food for comfort’, which doesn’t really mean comfort food, but it has become that.”
Last year—12 years after launching burgoo—Joyce and MacIntyre released the restaurant’s first cookbook, Burgoo: Food for Comfort (Figure 1 Publishing). The book features some of the restaurant’s most popular menu items, including MacIntyre’s grandmother’s recipe for split-pea and ham soup, as well as classic one-pot dishes such as beef bourguignon, beef goulash, macaroni and cheese, and jambalaya.
One of the restaurant’s trademark offerings is the After School Special, a soup-and-sandwich combo that lets diners pair tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich.
“What everybody loves is that crispy cheese. Our grilled cheese sandwich is just a really nice blend of cheeses, and it’s a great starting point for anybody to add anything after that,” MacIntyre says.
The recipe calls for a mix of mozzarella, Gruyère, Emmental, and Cheddar, but MacIntyre encourages home cooks to experiment with their own combinations, as long as one of the cheeses is a soft one that melts easily. The recipe also calls for a crusty baguette or an airy ciabatta instead of the traditional sliced sandwich bread, giving a crunchy texture that contrasts with the cheese.
When asked about a drink pairing, MacIntyre suggests a crisp white wine if you’re going for a sophisticated meal. But if your goal is comfort, he says, a cold glass of milk goes best.
Burgoo's gooey cheese grillers
1 knob butter
4 slices baguette bread, each cut ½-inch thick on the diagonal
1 large handful mixed grated cheeses (such as mozzarella, Gruyère, Emmental, and old Cheddar)
- Preheat oven to 400 ° F (200 ° C).
- In a large cast-iron skillet or heavy, ovenproof nonstick frying pan, melt butter over medium-high heat.
- Place all 4 slices of bread in pan. As bread browns, liberally sprinkle cheeses over top, allowing some cheese to fall onto the pan between slices.
- Immediately place pan in oven on the middle rack. Cook for 5 minutes, or until bread begins to brown at the edges and cheese is completely melted.
- Remove pan from oven. Using a spatula or lifter, carefully make 2 sandwiches by flipping each pair of bread slices together, cheesy sides in.
- Transfer sandwiches onto a plate and serve immediately.
Yield: 1 serving.
Recipe has not been tested by the Georgia Straight.
Recipe adapted from Burgoo: Food for Comfort (Figure 1 Publishing). Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.