There’s a saying that if you can’t stand the heat, you should get out of the kitchen. But for Brett Turner, the heat drew him to the kitchen in the first place. The chef from northern B.C. aspired to become a firefighter after high school and enrolled in culinary school only as a stepping stone toward his goal.
“One of the requirements to be a firefighter is a trade. I couldn’t picture myself building houses, plumbing, or anything out in the cold,” he tells the Georgia Straight during an interview in Kitsilano. “So I went to culinary school, and I’ve never looked back.”
Turner is the executive chef for Blueprint, an entertainment and hospitality group that owns four pubs across Vancouver: the Charles Bar and Bismarck in Gastown, the Dover Arms in the West End, and Colony in Kitsilano. Although all of the restaurants hold liquor-primary licences, Turner is in charge of creating dishes that pair well with beer, wine, and cocktails.
“Seventy percent of the menu is the same across the company, and 30 percent is unique to each location,” he says. “We look at the alcohol menu first. People coming in, nine times out of 10, they’re having a drink. My job is to look at that and come up with a menu that not only pairs with the drinks but pairs with the whole landscape and style of our place and service.”
According to Turner, who was the executive chef for Browns Socialhouse and owner of a restaurant consulting business before joining Blueprint two years ago, beer and food go hand in hand for summer. He says that as soon as the weather warms up, diners gravitate toward seats on the patio, lighter beers, and dishes they can eat with their hands.
Pulled-pork tacos and deep-fried pickle chips are a seasonal hit, and Turner suggests making them in place of hamburgers at your next back-yard gathering.
“This is a set-it-and-forget-it kind of dish. The good thing about the pulled pork is you have a couple steps and then you put it in the oven and leave it for five hours,” he says.
Turner uses two beers from Vancouver’s Parallel 49 Brewing Company in the dish, and recommends drinking the same beer with the tacos.
“The beer plays a role in the dish,” he explains. “Some people use Coke in their pulled-pork recipe, and it’s the same thing with beer: it’s foamy and works well for braising. Likewise for the pickle chips: you need something bubbly in there, so we use an ice-cold saison. It plays a role in the batter and the way it rises.”
Brett Turner’s pulled-pork tacos and deep-fried pickle chips
1 pork butt, about 2.2 lb (1 kg)
1 Tbsp (15 mL) five-spice powder
2 Tbsp (30 mL) vegetable oil
½ onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 bottle (341 mL) Parallel 49 Brewing Gypsy Tears Ruby Ale, or other red ale
½ cup (125 mL) soy sauce
4 cups (1 L) water
8 soft corn tortillas, each about 6 inches in diameter
Pickled red onions, orange slices, and cilantro for garnish
- Preheat oven to 300 °F (150 °C).
- Rub five-spice powder onto the pork butt.
- Heat the oil in a large oven-safe pot or roasting pan over medium heat. Sear the pork butt on all sides for about 20 seconds each side, or until golden brown. Remove from heat and add all remaining ingredients except tortillas to the pot. Cover pot tightly with aluminum foil and place in oven for five hours.
- Remove pot from oven and transfer pork to a large bowl; leave to cool. Heat the pot with vegetables and sauce over medium heat until liquid is reduced to about one cup (250 mL).
- When pork is cool, use fingers to pull apart and shred. Add pork to reduced liquid in the pot.
- To assemble tacos, warm the tortillas over the grill or in a pan on the stove. Divide tortillas between four plates and top each with pulled-pork mixture. Garnish with red onions, orange slices, and cilantro. Serve with pickle chips
4 cups (1 L) canola oil
½ cup (125 mL) all-purpose flour
½ cup (125 mL) cornstarch
12 pickles, sliced circular
1 bottle (341 mL) Parallel 49 Brewing Hay Fever Saison, or other saison-style beer, ice-cold
- Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat until temperature reaches 350 °F (180 °C) on a candy thermometer.
- In a medium bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, and salt. Just before using, add beer and whisk gently to incorporate. Dip pickles in batter and coat thoroughly. Shake off excess batter and carefully place pickles in oil.
- Cook pickles for two to three minutes per side until golden brown. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, carefully remove pickles and place on a sheet of paper towel to soak up excess oil. Salt to taste.
Yield: 4 main-size servings.
Recipe has not been tested by the Georgia Straight.