September 12, 2010
John Bishop is a beloved Vancouver icon. Famed Chef & restauranteur, bestselling author, and now first-ever recipient of the Governor General's Award for the Nations Table, an honour given to those who promote the health and nutrition of Canada. Gosh, with all that acclaim, you’d think he wouldn’t take a call from little ol’ us, but not so. He also has a passion for family meals and his local community. Here we chat about one of his most popular books, Cooking at My House, and learn the behind-the-scenes secrets of his culinary life at home.
BT: What’s your cooking style at home?
JB: Well, many people think a chef must have a swanky kitchen, kids spoiled with caviar, all the luxuries of a commercial kitchen. But actually, we have an older home [kitchen not totally modernized] and our focus has simply been putting meals on the table for the family. I’ve been the one at home during the days, so I’m the one who has had the luxury of making family meals (before going to cook at the restaurant later!) My cooking style in this book- and at my home- is simple: Basic meals that are accessible for the average family and really tasty.
BT: What motivated you to write a book about your home cooking style?
JB: I wanted to help families put dinner on the table and offer ideas that are simple, easy to prepare and easy to cook. The idea is to keep it basic for people who are cooking many meals per week. Yet special. There are lots of things families can do to make meals special at home. Like plating can make meals look extremely appetizing.
BT: What’s your philosophy on food as it relates to kids?
JB: I find anything that is shaped and can be picked up, appeals to kids. Make it pickupable! When my kids were younger, I would lay things out on the kitchen counter, in bowls and in the pots the food was cooked in, like a little buffet so the kids could help themselves. I’ve actually collected a nice assortment of bowls for this. In the warmer months, I love to BBQ and find eating outside on picnic tables and sharing food- again in nice bowls of food on the table- is really nice for kids and adults.
BT: How have you included your kids in preparing meals?
JB: Getting kids involved in the planning and shopping is good. Go to the farms or local markets together, get them shelling peas, show them how to roll out the dough for pies or pasta, ask them to set the table. I also like to get the kids to write up place names for the table. It's nice to get a little silver pen and write the guests names on pieces of paper or bay leaves from the garden.
BT: What’s your advice for parents on remaining enthusiastic to cook meals every night?
JB: If you make it hard work, it will be. The trick is to plan ahead. Sit down on Sunday night and roughly plan a menu for the week. I.e. Monday: pasta, Tuesday: chicken, Wednesday: BBQ. just a rough plan so you can follow that. If you’re making things like tomato sauce or chicken stew, make double and stick half in the freezer.
For myself, I get inspired by ingredients. I’ll go to the store and see what is there to get inspired. I’m most inspired by local, seasonal food. Just like at my restaurant- you can tell what’s in season by looking at the menu! For example, in the summer, berries or fresh fruit, or pies, are inspiring. Or Ling Cod, lightly breaded and pan-fried with a nice sizzle or salmon on the BBQ.
Here, John leaves us with one of the most popular recipes from Cooking at My House, Baked Manicotti (Side note: This dish has gotten rave reviews. Manicotti shells actually sold out in his Kits neighborhood the week the book was launched!
Baked Manicotti, on page 69 in the book, can be found in our recipe archives here.
Thanks John. We can’t wait to try this recipe! What’s next on John’s horizon? He says he is working on a new book that showcases one month of meals, cooking for youth. Very adventurous. We’ll be watching for it! This week, you guessed it, we’re giving away a copy of John’s book, Cooking at My House. Join our conversation here for a chance to win.