Chef Caren McSherry

Gourmet Entertaining In a Pinch

Beloved by gourmets across the country, Caren McSherry is always in good company – especially leading up to the holidays.

Vancouver born and raised, she is the petite Prometheus of the palatial Gourmet Warehouse and a giving oracle to chefs and home cooks alike. As anyone who has ever attended her cooking school, read her TV Week columns, heard her on the radio or watched her on Global TV’s Saturday morning segment already knows, McSherry is the embodiment of entertaining.

An avid advocate for local eating, McSherry discovered her passion for cooking at Templeton High before exploring the markets and cooking schools of the culinary capitals of the world. Her measure of the global economy and home kitchen makes an amazing sense.

“By all means, eat local, support local. Enjoy the season and explore the growers and producers in our region. They’re amazing. Just recognize that not everything can be replicated,” says McSherry.

She is referring to the taste of authenticity: the olive oil of Italy, the spices of the globe, the varied salts of the earth. “We are talking about things integral of origin.”

The shelves of her 12,000-sq.-ft. global pantry are lined with more than 22,000 products: a lifetime of edible essentials gleaned from visits to local markets around the globe. The A-to-Z of the two-tiered cooking school/shop’s inventory might exhaust your kitchen capacity, but never your appetite or imagination.

The exuberance with which she shares her epicurean enlightenments is matched only by her common sense approach to cooking. Make no mistake, the Gourmet Warehouse is not a grocery store. It’s where you go to find everything you really need to make your kitchen work.

“I want to release people from the ball and chain of their kitchens and turn them into stars,” says McSherry, as she readies four ideal appetizers ideal for anytime holiday entertaining. “I love having friends over. I love people, conversation, a glass of wine and good gourmet food. Who doesn’t? But it should be simple. We all can use help in the kitchen. If someone asks to pitch in, have a list of tasks ready and an apron or two on hand, for sure.”

Her recent cookbook, In a Pinch, published by Whitecap Books, is aimed at unleashing the potential of “effortless cooking for the everyday gourmet.” It is a bold claim and one she lives up to both on the page and at the table. After years of perfectionist overkill, she has embraced her inner shortcut.

“I will confess to cheating my way around the kitchen on more occasions than one. I have armed my pantry with the best rubs and spice mixtures the world has to offer,” she proclaims in its preface. “This is one of my secret weapons: to enlist the pre-made by the dozens – a rub, a tapenade, a raspberry chipotle sauce, an onion jam, a beautiful lemon curd imported from Britain – to stand beside me in the kitchen as my sous-chefs.”

Whether on the page, in the studio or amongst her culinary peers, McSherry is always ready to turn the festive gathering into something really worth celebrating year-round. Good taste made simple is her stock and trade.

Fresh from the pages of In a Pinch, here are four finger-friendly appetizers to entertain making this holiday.

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