Lesley Stowe on Fine, Simple Food
We had the great pleasure of chatting with one of Vancouver’s most noted culinary pioneers, Lesley Stowe. If you don’t know her by name, you likely know her by taste. She is the woman behind arguably the most delicious gourmet cracker EVER, raincoast crips, and of course, she’s the Founder of Lesley Stowe Fine Foods. A Parisian-trained chef with a penchant for the gourmet, we wanted to find out what this accomplished chef, author, mother and entrepreneur eats at home with her family. Can anyone really be all gourmet all the time? Thankfullly, no! Here Lesley gets personal about her love for simplicity and tips for feeding a family.
BT: Lesley, you’re known around town as a gourmet goddess. How did you pursue your career in food and what has led you to specialize in fine foods?
LS: Well, I personally believe that if you’re bitten by the bug to pursue a career in food then it’s really in your blood, and you’re going to find whatever direction that takes you. I’ve been interested in cooking from a very young age. My mother always did everything from scratch but most importantly, she invited me in. I could do whatever I wanted in her kitchen [unlike my friends whose moms kept them out of kitchen]. In university I worked for a caterer, then spent a year at La Varenne in Paris, and that was it!
BT: Are you really all gourmet all the time? How would you describe your cooking philosophy?
LS: More than anything else, I would say I believe in fresh, natural local ingredients. I strongly believe in keeping it simple but using the best you possibly can. Some of the French style cooking is quite involved but no matter how simple the recipe, the quality of ingredients should always be outstanding. I think a lot of that comes from the connection between the farmer and the end consumer. In BC, Granville Island helped start a trend toward eating quality, local ingredients and now farmers markets are everywhere. People are embracing this and it’s fantastic. As a general rule, I would say I try to embrace what’s happening locally.
BT: Do you have a favourite family cookbook?
I don’t have a favourite cookbook but my favourite three cookbook authors in the family arena are Nigella Lawson, Barefoot Contessa and Jamie Oliver. All of them have family friendly books full of quick recipes with good ingredients.
BT: What’s your current go-to family recipe?
LS: One right now that I really like doing is kale currant pine nut salad. I love this salad not only because it tastes great but also it keeps for a day or two in the fridge. The texture changes and it softens beautifully.
1 bunch black kale
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 1/2 Tbsp currants soaked in boiling water
1 1/2 Tbsp toasted pine nuts or slivered almonds
1Tbsp coarsely grated Parmesan
Sea salt & freshly grated pepper
Directions: Finely julienne the kale, toss in a bowl, rub the olive oil into the leaves, sprinkle with balsamic, add all the other ingredients and season to taste. Serve as a side dish with any grilled fish or meat. I love a bowl of it for lunch.
BT: What kinds of things do you tend to cook at home with your children?
LS: We’re all quite keen on Italian food—pizza and pasta dishes—and we grill quite a bit. As a family, we enjoy making pasta and sauces from scratch. Pizza is a great dish to get everyone involved. We also love Mexican food like fajitas and things where everyone has a role to play and each can customize to their own tastes. Another favourite is calzone. I like to make enough pizza dough to put it in the freezer for a second meal. With these types of dishes, as long as you’ve got some things in your pantry you can always think of some combinations that will be delicious!
BT: Do you have any weekly meal traditions with your family?
LS: Sunday dinners are big for us but we try to eat together as often as we can throughout the week. Sundays are a day when we’ll do a bigger get together and invite grandparents or neighbours. We tend to do things like roast chicken and braised dishes in the winter and grilled dishes in the summer months. However, our traditions change a lot—we do like to change it up!
Thanks for chatting with us Lesley! Your salad sounds delicious, we can’t wait to try that recipe! To our community, please let us know if you try this recipe at home and, as always, if you have a go-to family friendly meal in your own home, please share it here! Let's help each other make family meals as enjoyable as possible.