Salar Madadi hadn’t quite adjusted to the time difference between Hamilton and Las Vegas when I talked to him on Monday. In fact, he told me, he was still wearing his Las Vegas t-shirt.
The chef and owner of Meat Ventures Meat Wagon was not visiting the sequinned “Sin City” to try his luck at the slots. Instead, both good fortune and hard work had brought him there to participate in an international competition titled “The World Food Championships.”
Madadi competed in the bacon division (his specialty) and had to create two different dishes: The first challenge was a Signature Dish for which he made a Korean sandwich using a braised slab of bacon cooked in the pressure cooker so that it was all “plumped up and tender” and embellished with ingredients such as chili and kimchi.
The second part of the competition featured a Themed Dish which Madadi explained had to fit into a “bacon and egg brunch” theme. For this recipe, the Meat Wagon venturers created a soft boiled egg which was breaded in panko crumbs to be displayed in a potato purée ring mould, garnished with a candied bacon slice. The contrast between the runny yolk and the crispy panko coating was a standout in the contrast of tastes and textures. But the soft boiled egg, alas, turned out to be Madadi’s nemesis: as he recounts, it was very, very difficult to peel the soft, squishy eggs and it took more time than was expected. Anyway, suffice it to say, the Hamilton pair just missed (by .3 points out of a hundred) landing in the top ten competitors. Undaunted, they hope to qualify for the competition in Las Vegas again next year when they will be more experienced and better prepared to take on the other international contestants. For a blow by blow account of the chef and his wife Jeannie’s adventures in Las Vegas check out his blog at
After a few days rest and recreation, they returned to Hamilton to visit our Go Cooking kitchen where they reprised some of their specialties and demonstrated some new riffs on the bacon theme in an all bacon menu.
Bacon is central to Madadi’s cooking. He makes his own bacon by smoking it over cherry or hickory hardwood and told me why this gives it a very different flavour.
“For store bought bacon,” he says, “they use a liquid smoke bath where they inject a brine into the meat and the smoke flavour is artificial. It takes a week to cure our bacon and although we have also made smoked chicken and lamb bellies and beef — bacon is our specialty.”
For our Go Cooking session, Madadi experimented with bacon flavours to show how bacon is used around the world. The menu included arugula and crispy pancetta salad, a Chinese style red-braised pork belly dish with bok choy and the pièce de résistance — candied bacon crême brulée with a layer of cherry bacon jam and a touch of cayenne. (He assured me that the cherry bacon jam was “more sweet than bacony”) Guests were delighted by the combination of flavours and textures — the smooth creamy brulée with the sweetness and saltiness of the candied bacon punctuated by the slightly tart tang of the cherry bacon jam. In fact, all reports lead me to believe that the evening and the food was enjoyed by all.
The crême brulée dish is one that Madadi serves from his food cart. He has had the popular cart in Hamilton less than a year, cooking and trying out new recipes on the weekends, while still working at his day job as a computer programmer.
His story is a familiar one. With a Filipino-Iranian background, he always was willing and able to try different and exotic foods and his passion was always for cooking. As a chef, he is self taught, learning the tricks of the trade on his own by entering a lot of barbecue competitions.
He grew up in Mississauga, married Jeannie and ended up living in Toronto. The move to Hamilton was in search of a larger living space (“We had a small condo’ and two dogs.”) He is so happy that they had the flexibility to make the move and sees Hamilton as a place of opportunities. This summer, he worked out of the Roux Commissary where he found a lot of helpful and friendly people who were willing to give advice and share experiences.
Right now he is working with a food cart which he describes as a sort of wagon from which he serves smoked chicken sliders, along with the bacon specialties. The cart, however, does not allow him much leeway for cooking a wide variety of specialties. His dream is to have a proper food truck and he and Jeannie have saved enough money for the truck. They want to do this right, however, and they now need to raise enough money to give the truck a full wrap and custom sign. Madadi says that they also budgeted for a generator that would cover their needs but found out that it was very noisy and so, they wish to upgrade the generator to a quieter model. To do this they have instituted a crowd funding campaign and raised about one third of the money. If you would like to help Salar and Jeannie realize their dreams, or to find out more about the crowd-funding process you can click on this link
I’m going to leave you with one of Madadi’s recipes from our Go Cooking session. These candied almonds were sprinkled on the salad, but they would also be a great snack for holiday parties.
from Salar Madadi
2 cups raw almonds
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp smoked black pepper with lavender (Weir’s Lane)
non-stick cooking spray
1) Combine sugar, cayenne, paprika and water in non-stick pan and boil over medium heat.
2) Add almonds and stir until all liquid is gone and almonds appear dry and covered with powdery sugar — about5 – 10 minutes.
3) Continue to stir almonds for another 15 -20 minutes — eventually sugar will melt and turn into a dark syrup.
4) Stir until all sugar is melted then add black pepper and mix.
5) Pour almonds onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and non-stick cooking spray. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then use 2 spoons to separate almonds. Cool for another 10 minutes.