Getting Spicy with White Spot's Executive Chef Chuck Currie
We have to admit, we were more than a little excited when White Spot’s Executive Chef, Chuck Currie agreed to chat with us about his life, developing recipes, and what he loves to cook at home! He’s had an exciting history in the restaurant business. Some of us know Chuck from when he was a top dog at the popular Earls restaurant chain. You may be surprised to learn he’s also known as an accomplished musician. A love of music, good food, travelling and business has helped make Chuck Currie one of BC’s most beloved celebrity chefs. Here, we get personal with Chuck, in an interview that’s sure to inspire you!
BT: Can you tell us a little about how you got started as a cook and what influenced you to become a chef?
CC: Well, there were actually a few big influences in my life. The first was that my mom was an orphan and she didn’t know how to cook because she had never learned. In those days, it was supposed to be the mom who taught you to cook but in my case, it was Meta Given’s Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking from which Mom & I both learned. I was fascinated with that book!
Another big influence was when I was first allowed to lick the icing off of the beaters! Eventually I was allowed to make the icing for cakes myself and I became super interested in cake recipes. Needless to say, I stayed interested!
The third big factor was the summer I got a job at A&W. I ended up working my way though university as a cook, moving up from fast foods into places where you really learn about textures and flavours. In some cases, I felt recipes could be improved, so I just started rewriting them. I was going to school to be a music teacher, and somewhere along the way I decided to actually become a cook professionally.
BT: And the rest is history! How did you end up in the current role we all know you as, Executive Chef of White Spot?
CC: The truth is I was actually retired when I began working with White Spot. I had been in the restaurant business for years—I was one of the founders of Earls Restaurants. After I left, I kept getting called as a consultant for a variety of corporations. When I got a call from White Spot asking me to join their team, I wasn’t sure I was ready to get back in there, but after I met President Warren Erhart and his team.... they were truly amazing and I really felt like I wanted to work with them!
BT: Can you describe your creative process for developing recipes for White Spot? Where do you get your inspiration from?
CC: For me, getting involved in the right project is where much of my inspiration comes from. In the case of a restaurant chain like White Spot, I work as part of a great team led by VP of Marketing & Menu Development Cathy Tostenson on our strategy for menu items. There is an awful lot of room for intuition but we also do a lot of research on trends, looking at websites, scouring through recipes, and then much playing in the kitchen. We’ll come up with 30 or 40 recipes and through testing and cross-pollinating among our team of chefs and tasters, we’ll boil those down to around 6-8 for a seasonal promotional menu, or a core menu launch. We do this six times per year. Interestingly, White Spot's menu has actually changed more in the last seven years than it has in the previous 70, all the while remaining rooted in comfortable family dining.
BT: Can you tell us about some of your favorite meal traditions at home?
CC: At home, I have a love for international cooking, which is something I thank my dad for. One of the first international dishes I started playing with was Nasi Goreng (Indonesian fried rice) which Dad used to make on New Years Eve for the family when I was young. Balancing dishes and getting all the flavors right is a lot of fun for me. The harder it is to get that balance, the better I like it! Being a cook and musician, I’m travelling lots, but I love cooking at home with friends whenever I can.
BT: Can you share a favorite recipe with us?
CC: One of my favorite things is this East-Indian influenced roasted cauliflower dish. Enjoy!
Thanks Chuck! That sounds delightful. So great chatting with you! To our community, just a reminder you've got less than two weeks to submit a recipe for our Recipe of the Month campaign. Simply contribute a recipe to our site HERE, and you’ll automatically be entered to win $100 to spend at Cookworks. We’ll announce the winner at the end of the month!