While the foods Squamish chefs Jeff Park, Cameron Hunter and Jeramy Duckworth serve may vary in flavour and style, creativity and a passion for both food and people are common ingredients in each of their kitchens.
— Meet Jeff Park of Salted Vine —
If you ask Salted Vine’s executive chef Jeff Park what his favourite dish to cook is, his answer will depend on the time of year.
“I think it changes every season,” he says. “When summer comes along, and when there are spot prawns… when there are tomatoes in season, I love cooking with tomatoes.”
Vegetables can get overlooked, he says, considered as a side or supplement to meat, when they can be the most exciting part of a dish.
“I think sometimes I want the vegetables to be the start of the dish instead of the proteins,” he says. “I always think there’s a place for well-cooked vegetables.”
Living in Squamish, the local produce is plentiful. As vegetables come into season, he’s happy to try cooking with the fresh ingredients sometimes only available for a short period.
“Once you miss that window, all the sudden you have to wait a whole entire year for those things,” he says.
Right now, his kitchen is still using winter crops, but he can’t wait for fresh produce to arrive as the weather warms.
As for meats, pork belly has a soft spot in his heart (and stomach). At Salted Vine, he makes it slow cooked and roasted with a warm dashi broth, shiitake and pea greens.
“Me being of Korean background, I love cooking pork bellies… that’s something I was very familiar with growing up,” he says.
The meat is relatively inexpensive but cooked well; it can be very rewarding to both prepare and eat.
“Pork belly is one of those products that are fairly cheap, but when you make it nice… (you) elevate the product. It’s all depending on how you cook it and what you serve it with.”
Park moved to Vancouver with his family from Korea when he was 16. He went on to pursue a career in advertising but found that his dream job as an art director in Pasadena wasn’t everything he was hoping it would be.
While he always enjoyed cooking at home and hosting dinner parties, it wasn’t until 2001 that he decided to go to culinary school.
“My dream was to work in the advertising industry ever since I was young. All through high school, I was always excelling in art, illustration and drawings: that’s what I was good at and where my interests were,” he says.
He decided to leave his job and pursue cooking — something he’d always had a passion for — and attended Dubrulle Culinary Institute in Vancouver. Even if it didn’t work out, he knew the experience would be worthwhile.
“Food always brings people together,” he says. “A lot of things happen around food: family gatherings, or birthday parties, or celebrations and that stuff, and I always liked that.
“It’s always one of those things I told myself: if I don’t like cooking school, at least for that six months I spend in the cooking field, it won’t be a waste.”
And for this chef, he doesn’t hang up his apron when he clocks out at night; cooking is part of his life both at work and at home.
“For me, being a chef, I do this every day. I cook every day at home too,” he says. “To cook professionally, I think it’s an amazing thing that I actually got.”
The Salted Vine is located at 37991 Second Ave. in Squamish.
— Meet Cameron Hunter of the Joinery —
For chef Cameron Hunter, the kitchen is his pallet, and the plate his canvas.
“It’s a creative outlet for me. I’m also a photographer,” he says. “I enjoy ways to show creativity.”
Cameron has been a chef for 24 years. Originally from Georgetown Ontario, he started working in kitchens as a summer job in high school and went on to culinary school at Georgian College and Fanshawe College in Ontario after completing his apprenticeship and receiving Red Seal certification.
“I just fell in love with cooking at a very young age and never looked back,” he says. “You find something you’re really good at, and you just kind of pursue it. You keep going.
“I’ve never thought of changing careers. I’ve never thought that I didn’t like it anymore. It’s just always been what I’ve done.”
He moved to Vancouver in 2008 from Ontario, and in 2010 moved to Squamish to work as the sous chef at Furry Creek Golf and Country Club.
He was asked by a mutual friend of the owners of the Locavore Food Truck to cook for them, and now finds himself the executive chef for the truck, the Joinery and Cloudburst Café.
Now working as the executive chef, he says he enjoys building the menus, cooking the food he wants, and running the team.
He’s reluctant to choose a favourite item on the menu because he likes everything. They make all their pasta, and that’s one aspect he enjoys.
“I don’t want to compromise quality, so we take the extra time and we make absolutely everything we can,” he says.
But the braised short ribs and coq au vin stand out. The ribs, he says, are hearty and fill you up. It’s the same for the coq au vin.
“Pretty much everything I cook is something I’d like cooking at home with my family,” he says.
His approach to food is “unpretentious, approachable food. (It’s) surprising: you can read a menu and you’ll eat a dish and (find) some surprising flavours in there.”
At home, he likes making roast chicken, potato and carrots: something simple, easy and flavourful.
But his favourite thing to make is crème brûlée; the first thing he learned to make as a pastry chef in London, Ontario.
“I love just making a simple vanilla crème brûlée… It just makes me happy to make it and eat it,” he says. “I’ll eat one every day if I can. I almost do, too.”
Even in a fast-paced environment like a kitchen, he says cooking makes him feel calm.
“The outside world kind of shuts down, and I feel focused on what I have to do for the day.”
At the Joinery this spring, Cameron says to expect a lot more seafood.
“I feel like we’re so close to the ocean that it’s kind of one of the things that’s lacking in Squamish,” he says. “A lot of people aren’t utilizing where we are. They focus a lot on meat (or) they’re vegetarian. I feel like, just being so close and having so much fresh seafood available, it’s just something I wanted to try out for the summer.”
The Joinery is located at 1861 Mamquam Rd. in Squamish. The Joinery focuses on family-friendly dinners that are meant to share.
— Meet Jeramy Duckworth of Saha Eatery —
Jeramy Duckworth’s kitchen is a “societal free-zone,” he says.
“There’s a sort of revelry in the day that may not exist in other work environments. Cooks: we’re different. That’s why we’re in the kitchen,” he says. “There’s shenanigans. There’s always fun to be had.”
A kitchen is a happy place he says, and he likes to build a sense of camaraderie with all the personalities that come in.
Duckworth found himself in Squamish as just part of “the journey of life.” He had friends moving to the area who asked if he wanted to join them on the coast.
Although he hasn’t been in Squamish long, he’s fallen in love with the town.
“It’s pretty f****** stunning here, eh? It’s pretty awesome. It’s so idyllic, you know?” he says. “Sometimes I’m still just blown away by the majesty of nature (here).”
Before coming to Squamish, Duckworth worked at Green Cuisine in Victoria and Chilled Cork back in Ontario. He’s worked at in other restaurants in the province, and at one point spent five years working at the Portland Hotel in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside making meals for 800 people a day.
Duckworth is self-taught. He started as a line cook, got some experience working in other kitchens, and finally finds himself as executive chef and co-owner of Saha Eatery. When he cooks, he feeds people from his heart, he says, and it’s a form of creative expression.
“I just like cooking: that’s what got me into it. Just love of food,” he says. “I like to eat. I like to eat healthily, but flavourful food. It doesn’t mean it has to be spicy: I just like food.”
The pan-fried halloumi served with cucumber and tomatoes is one item on their menu he particularly enjoys making. Their roasted red pepper and walnut dip and the tabbouleh are other favourites.
“It’s familiar yet exotic at the same time: it’s a lovely flavour,” he says.
Those “zippy” flavours, as he calls them, are part of his cooking style and “flavour pallet.” Spices from the Levant region in the Middle East, from Turkey and Morocco, influence the type of food he serves at his restaurant.
But unlike the other two chefs, Duckworth doesn’t take his work home with him. After cooking all day and washing so many dishes, he likes to keep things simple.
“As a chef, I don’t cook much at home. I like to make f****** buffalo sauce ramen,” he says, laughing. “I’ll buy a pack of Ichiban; I’ll cook some butter and garlic, and throw some noodles in that.”
Saha Eatery is located at 38128 2nd St. in Squamish, and serves food with flavours from Lebanon and Morocco.