For the past 20 years, being a mentor has been an important part of Robert Belcham’s life. The executive chef and owner of Campagnolo (1020 Main Street) and Campagnolo Roma (2297 East Hastings Street) is determined to strengthen Vancouver’s culinary industry, and the one way he knows how is by welcoming eager young cooks into his kitchens and teaching them all that he can.
“A big part of what we do is making sure that every person who comes in here learns as much skill as possible to get them one step further to becoming a chef,” Belcham tells the Georgia Straight during an interview at his Main Street restaurant. “We have a mandate that we’re not training cooks to do a station [in the kitchen]. We’re training cooks to become chefs one day.”
Belcham, who was raised in Edmonton and started cooking because his mother “hated to cook”, went to culinary school at Victoria’s Camosun College. However, it wasn’t until he landed in the kitchen of California’s famed French Laundry that his real training began.
“Thomas Keller—he taught me how to cook and how to look at food,” Belcham says about his early mentor. He counts Vancouver’s Robert Clark, with whom he worked at C restaurant (and who’s just opened the Fish Counter), as his other great teacher. “He [Clark] taught me how to manage people and how to get the most out of people…trying to push people to give their best and getting them to understand they’re only as good as their last plate.”
Belcham says that today’s young chefs lack a solid grasp of the fundamentals of cooking, such as knowing how to make an omelette or assemble a salad or sandwich. He claims that these shortfalls extend to home cooks as well, and he believes that changing family dynamics and busy lifestyles are the main reasons why.
“Sitting at a table with your family, talking about your day, or making a meal together is so incredibly important and we’re losing it, and it’s very unfortunate,” Belcham says. “There’s such an increase in the amount of restaurants, takeout, premade meals, and all that sort of stuff because people don’t feel like they have the time.”
According to Belcham, everyone should know how to make an omelette. He describes it as a fast, easy dish that can be eaten at any time of day, and says the ingredients required for making one—eggs, butter, and herbs—are relatively accessible and inexpensive.
“That’s the simple part, the ingredients. You can buy [most of] those ingredients at a 7-Eleven,” he says. “The hard part about an omelette is, obviously, the technique and knowing how to do it and practising.”
Belcham suggests using at least three eggs per omelette so that it’s more robust and therefore easier to flip, and using butter rather than cooking oil to enhance the flavour. He says that pairing the dish with a side salad and a glass of crisp white wine such as Gewürztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc, or Riesling would make it a complete meal.
Robert Belcham’s classic herb omelette
3 large eggs
Salt and ground black pepper
1 Tbsp (15 mL) fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
1 Tbsp (15 mL) fresh assorted herbs (such as chervil, tarragon, and chives), finely chopped
1 Tbsp (15 mL) unsalted butter
1. Crack each egg on a flat surface and release into a medium-sized bowl.
2. Add salt and pepper to taste, and beat the eggs using a whisk until ingredients are combined. Add parsley and herbs and gently shake bowl so that herbs disperse in eggs.
3. In a 6- to 8-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Once butter foams, add eggs. Using a spatula, stir eggs quickly while shaking the pan back and forth until eggs coagulate uniformly.
4. When eggs are lightly set but moist, tilt the pan slightly and, using the spatula, spread the eggs out so that most of the egg gathers at one end of the pan. Fold the thin side of the eggs toward the centre of the omelette.
5. Run the spatula around the perimeter of the omelette to loosen. Remove skillet from heat. Slide nonfolded thicker side of omelette onto a plate. When half of the omelette is on the plate, flip the folded side over to invert the omelette onto the plate.
6. Press omelette with the spatula in order to form into a pleasing shape. Serve with a small green salad.
Yield: 1 serving.
Recipe has not been tested by the Georgia Straight.