Fresh thinking and flexibility remain the key ingredients at play in Chef Brian Fowke’s Kitsilano Daily Kitchen. After two decades of making other people’s kitchens hum, he would not have it any other way.
Nearly five years and well over 12,000 menu options later – neither would anyone who has discovered Daily’s principled charm.
The Daily monicker applies as much to Chef Fowke’s perpetual foraging – be it at Granville Island Public Market or anywhere wooded between the North Shore and Pemberton –as to the menu itself. From day one at Daily, Chef Fowke changed the menu game entirely, serving only four appetizers and four mains, fresh in every way, everyday.
It is a format that puts Chef Fowke’s passions to play in the most food forward ways imaginable, presenting a daily opportunity for fresh foraging and expression.
“Finding the freshest ingredients has been what it’s all about from the beginning. For the first long while the day would begin with a trip to Granville Island because it is so close and then back to spread out all the ingredients on the bar by 11 a.m.” says Chef Fowke.
“Now it is all a bit more organic. The brain trains itself to put all the pieces together. You see salmon, think chanterelles and then go back to grab a blood orange.”
While recently that 4×4 offering swelled to 6×6 to accommodate an established audience, the guiding ethos remains unwavering. From plate to adeptly paired glass, Chef Fowke’s creation takes local to heart as few do.
“We change the menu daily, but we’ll change the menu as we go too. If Kristjan from Sea Tilth comes through the door with fresh anything, we’ll be changing up the chalkboard because it’s going on the menu,” says Fowke.
“The idea for Daily’s menu concept came from sitting down with a farmer who was raising rabbits and having problems connecting with local chefs. It really hit home. For all the support of local, for the small, sustainable food movement to work, we as chefs have to be more flexible.”
While he admits that certain international accoutrements such as French truffles will always have a place in his heart and on his plates, the base of each dish is always local.
The wine list too is exclusively B.C., although a selection of Old World bottles is also on display and available for anyone looking to compare.
Interestingly, while pairing local wines with local ingredients makes delicious and logical sense, it also required Chef Fowke to revisit the more classic definitions of B.C. wines with which he had been groomed during his years with Joe Fortes.
“When we opened here, we knew the B.C. pairing would cause a lot of table discussion, so we wanted less jargon and a more conversational approach,” says Fowke.
“Our B.C. wines and grapes are structured differently than many have been wine-educated to believe. Our Pinot Noirs are very different from France and some of our Merlots are light enough to pair really well with salmon. We had to get out there, taste, talk and revisit a lot of prior thinking.”
Fowke adds with a laugh, “We’re still doing that actually, so when it comes to pairings our front staff knows them all”
Of keen interest to any who opt for the multi-course Chef’s Menu is the approach to pairing with each dish.
“We like to pair a dish with a pair of wines – one complementary and one which contrasts. A Chardonnay and a Cuvee Blanc can both work wonderfully but in very different ways.”
That flexibility has been the driving force for Chef Fowke since, leading him to follow the seasons and his suppliers far more closely than most.
“The truth is it is fun and we are doing our part to serve a bigger picture. As to the cost, another farmer once explained to me that if we only bought what was in season, it would be half the price. In a lot of ways, I have spent the past four years relearning, but good things always take time. James Joyce didn’t write Ulysses when he was 18,” he says with a grin.
From his earliest apprenticing days at the Windsor Arms Hotel under executive chef Oliver Bonacini to his journey out West as executive chef for Joe Fortes Seafood to his avant-garde efforts with Rare and Metro in Vancouver – Chef Fowke has never been happier than where he is today.
“Maybe I am just too crazy to stop, but what we are doing is really about opening people up to the wider spectrum of what’s available. It’s cooking with what you have and it makes a difference,” says Chef Fowke. “Having kids has made a real difference about how I think about what we do. We can’t fix a lot of the problems in the world, but creating a better culture of food is a great place to start.”
Chef Fowke’s Barkley Sound Chanterelle Mushroom Risotto recipe
Wine pairing: Without a doubt, the buttery richness of this risotto pairs perfectly with the 2012 Church and State Winery Gravelbourg Chardonnay. The wine is balanced, and the finish of minerality enhances the mushroom.
• 1 ½ lbs fresh Barkley Sound Chanterelle mushrooms, cleaned
• ¼ lbs unsalted butter
• 7 cups rabbit, duck or chicken stock
• ¾ cup leek, julienned
• 1 ½ cups carnaroli rice (or arborio)
• ½ cup Chardonnay
• ¼ cup grated 30 month old Reggiano cheese
• 2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme to taste salt and pepper
• Bring the stock to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Sauté the leeks, over low heat, for 45 minutes with half of the butter. Turn the heat up to medium high and add the mushrooms. Cooked until tender. Add the rice and Chardonnay. Cook until almost dry. Stir continuously at this point. Add the ¾ cup of stock and let cook until full absorbed. Repeat until all stock is cooked. Add remaining butter, cheese and thyme. Stir well and season to taste. Serve and drizzle with olive oil.