Chef Minds: Tim Drew
Chef Tim Drew shared with Forest City Cookbook some insights of what it means to be in the culinary world and what is it that keeps the flame and passion alive!
What is your idea of a perfect restaurant?
To eat at: Tacos and cookies are the only menu items.
To work at/own : Chalkboard wall menu like at Rapscallion in Hamilton. When the dish is sold out, its erased and onto create the next one. No menu, no staples, just a wall, and the customer’s trust!
What is your biggest fear at work?
Letting my crew down, and not just when we are cooking. I love these people like family, and I want to help them through anything.
Which still working Chef Do you most respect?
Any that are still putting up plates. As far as big name chefs go, I really like Sean Brock’s food, style, and philosophy.
What part of work ‘you’ do you most deplore in yourself?
When I lose my patience. I can hold it together through a lot of things but if something gets to me, I hate that feeling. I hate that I’ve lost my control of my calm, I hate to add to that stupid notion of the angry chef, and I hate doing that in front of my crew.
What would automatically make you fire someone?
Spilling my coffee, or dropping one of my knives. For real though, almost all actions can be forgiven, but I only accept that if the person truly has remorse. I would definitely fire someone for violence or harassment against any member of the crew.
What was your most extravagant purchase for your restaurant?
I’m just a worker bee, but I would definitely have a cappuccino machine at my spot, so that instead of spending six bucks on a latte, I can just pay three grand and have it available all the time. We might even sell them to customers…but it would mostly be for me.
What is your favourite food journey?
I got my cooking badge for Boy Scouts by making spaghetti. During University, I worked at a variety of bar and grills, but didn’t really learn how to cook (even though at the time a lot of those chains were making things from scratch). I just followed the method but it never clicked. I dropped out of the kitchen for about eight years to work construction and factory work to try and get money. I realized that money doesn’t mean anything if you aren’t happy and you also don’t have food within reach at all times! A friend brought me on as an apprentice into his kitchen, and I’ve been working seriously at it ever since. I’ve been fortunate to work under a bunch of great chefs, and to learn under some other great chefs at Fanshawe. I’m excited to see where this journey goes!
What words/phrases do you most overuse at work?
(1) That’s not the worst idea in the world. (2) Oh that’s funny to you? [every time I over hear laughter from the dining room] (3) calling everyone “bro” or “dude” regardless of gender identity.
What do you regret most after all your years in the business?
Leaving the industry for a time.
What do you love most about this industry?
You can’t fake it here. You can talk your way into a job, and on day one, you get found out and you are out the door. I love the realness of that. Any other workplace I have been in rewards people who can’t do anything with middle management positions. Wait….I’m in a middle management position at our kitchen…..oh man.
What is your current state of mind?
Life is chill! (Current set up : Pot of black tea, raspberry fritter, Gangstarr - Hard To Earn spinning in the background)
If you could change anything about the restaurant industry, what would it be?
I wish there was a massive revamp on how reviews for a business are done. I welcome feedback, and we look for something useful in the most useless criticisms of what we do. The reviewer arbitrarily assigns a number to an experience with no real criteria. So if they decide its a 2 out of 5….well why is that? How many points do you lose for whatever upset the person?
Its a completely subjective. There should be criteria that is standardized in the review process. The Reviewer should also be subject to a review, like an Uber, or Ebay user. Maybe if they were held accountable for their end of the experience, they wouldn’t be as quick to fire shots.
What do you consider your most essential ingredient?
Chef Bender taught me to use a drop of LSD in every dish. (Futurama S3E22 : The 30% Iron Chef)
I need fats, salt, sugar, and vinegar to make the food I want to make. Any one of those on their own isn't enough to make it great.
The work/life balance struggle is real... How good of a juggler are you? Advice?
I’ve got a good balance. I make the time for myself, and my family. I still work a lot, and make time for that family too.
My Advice : Do what works for you. If you want to grind yourself down to a corpse at age 30 because you put in 18 hour days 7 days a week trying to be the next Noma, that’s for you. There are lots of places to work in this game that allow for time with your family, and don’t expect you to be there that long every day. You get one spin on this planet, and you are only guaranteed whatever moment you are currently in, so you better be enjoying it!
What is your most treasured culinary/kitchen tool?
My Masakage Koishi Gyuto knife. It was the first fancy knife I bought, I use it every day, and sometimes when I stare into the steal and the craftsmanship that went into that knife, I want to make out with it. It will shred my face and destroy me, much like a beautiful woman…but I’m still drawn to it!
What do you consider as the lowest depth of misery?
At work : Making food that I do not care about. (This is in general because Glassroots is sick and I don’t have to do things I don’t care about there!)
At home : Having a silly moment where I forget that I am loved, and I feel alone and sad. (If you ever feel this way…stop and think, because you are loved, you are important, and you will be missed!)
When you finally retire, were will you live?
Ideally, a cottage somewhere. I’m pretty sure toronto bought them all….so maybe I will settle for a tree house?
What is your most marked characteristic?
Being a rascal, but with a good heart, and Rick Flair’s bravado.
What is the quality you most like in a chef?
A willingness to teach the next cook everything you know.
What is your greatest inspiration/motivation?
My competition, which is everyone else that cooks. When I see someone do something cool, I love and hate them so much at the same time, and it makes me work harder.
Superman or batman or Wonder Woman?
I have a saying : Be Robin, but walk like you are Batman.
What is the first thing you remember cooking?
Neil Young or Tragically Hip?
Neil Young….although if we are on that Canadian tip, I gotta back the Hextalls over everyone.
Favourite kitchen word or phrase?