Being a chef and owner of a business is a tough gig, according to Chef Bill Sharpe, who says, “If you can make it in this business, you are strong enough to do anything.”
Sharpe should know what he’s talking about. The veteran chef, now teaching at Hamilton’s Liaison College, has been involved in the restaurant business for his entire life. The moment of decision, for him, came at the age of 7. A friend of his dad was a chef at the Royal York Hotel and showed the youngster the professional kitchen. Immediately entranced by all of that pristine order, Sharpe recalls, “I knew then that I wanted to be a chef. I was very ambitious and read every book that I could find. I read the entire Larousse Gastronomique from cover to cover.”
Sharpe went on to earn his chef’s stripes at George Brown College. His working career, since then, has included corporate management such as running hotel kitchens — the Holiday Inn, the Copperfield restaurants — as well as opening his own establishments: The Chez Bear Bistro, which he and his wife ran in Toronto, and then, The Portable Feast at Queen and Main in Hamilton, a bistro style restaurant with French, Italian and German-based food. This restaurant flourished for ten years, especially after Suzanne Bourret, the Spectator’s food and restaurant writer, honoured it with a rave review.
During all of this time, however, Sharpe was training others, as well as cooking.
“Whether I owned my own restaurant, or was running the hotels, I was always training. At the Four Seasons Hotel, new students who had to be trained were going through every six months.”
So, when the position became open at Liaison College, he closed his own restaurant and became a teacher/chef, instead of an owner/chef. And, despite a few muted grumbles about students who watch the Food Network shows and expect the job to be all glamour and fun, Sharpe admits that it’s a position that certainly seems to suit him. He’s been there now for eight years.
The College, with its 6000 square foot facility, is located in Jackson Square. Liaison claims to be the largest trainer of chefs and cooks in Ontario and teaches “classic French methods” — the basics of food preparation. Besides training professional chefs, the College has a course that might be of interest to our Go Cooking clients. Called “Culinary Boot Camp”, the course is designed for home cooks who want to learn the basics of cooking and using local food. (I hope that I can find the time for it before I become too decrepit to manage it.)
It is one of the courses taught by Sharpe who laughs when I ask what are the worst mistakes that home cooks tend to make. Well, he says quickly, they cook at too high a heat. And knife skills are very important, they need to know how to use a French knife and to learn how to braise and roast properly. But then, he says thoughtfully,
“The most important thing to teach them is how to build the flavours. They need to sit there and think about what it will taste like at the end before they start. For instance, with mashed potatoes or pasta — the cooking water should taste like the sea. If you don’t add the salt at the start, the sauce will end up tasting like raw salt.”
A good preview of Sharpe’s teaching and cooking style is available at http://www.chch.com/under-10-meals/ This is a video from a CHCH-TV demonstration that Sharpe participated in to promote Catelli’s “Feed the Hope” campaign. Up to June 30th, Catelli will donate one box of pasta to a Canadian food bank for every box of pasta that you buy and one serving of pasta for every “like” that they get on their Facebook page.
If you would like to watch the Chef in person, he will be cooking up a storm (Cornish game hens and Spanish rice) in our Go Cooking kitchen on Tuesday, June 11th. I believe that there are still a couple of seats left.
And here’s Bill’s own recipe for spaghetti and meatballs. It appears in a new electronic cookbook called “Gourmet Family Meals for Under $10” which is available through Catelli’s Facebook page.
from “Gourmet Family Meals for Under $10”
1 1/2 lb (675 b) regular ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. (30 ml) golden raisins or sultanas
1/4 tsp. (5 ml) ground cinnamon
1 tsp (5 ml) dried thyme
2 tsp (10 ml) salt
1/4 tsp (1 ml) white pepper
1 pkg (375) g) Catelli Smart spaghetti
24 oz (750 ml) jar of your favourite pasta sauce
Heat the oven to 375 F (180 C). Combine the beef, onion, garlic, raisins, cinnamon, thyme, salt and pepper and form into small balls (you should get about 16). Place on a baking sheet and cook until done, about 15 to 20 minutes.
While the meatballs are cooking, bring a large pot of water to the boil and cook the spaghetti according to package instructions.
Heat the pasta sauce in another pan.
Drain and toss the pasta with the heated sauce. Let it sit for a couple of minutes for the sauce to soak in. Toss the pasta together with the meatballs and serve.