Say hi to our new Executive Chef, Dustin
With this being our first post, we thought it would be very fitting and appropriate to introduce you to our new Head Chef, Dustin Pajak. Dustin has years of experience cooking Italian cuisine and has a talent for creating unique, flavourful dishes. We decided to do a little q & a with Dustin so you could get to know him just a little bit better. Don't be fooled, he's not just a pretty face!
Who or what inspired you to become a chef?
I grew up with a vegetable garden so canning, pickling and harvesting was the norm. I grew up with my mother working around restaurants my whole life, so I was naturally working there as a teen to make some cash. I was given bursaries to go to red river college for a Computer Programming and Analyst Program, I completed the first year and did very well, but the job was too monotonous so I chose to go back to cooking.
Where did you learn your craft?
I took a lot on my self to learn cooking, I would buy text books, restaurant recipe books any literature I could get my hands on as well as following lots of online blogs. I had the advantage of experiencing lots of different restaurant concepts from big box, family ran, high end luxury food and privately owned restaurants. I would work there until I reached my ceiling and I would move into the next challenge. I also had the benefit to working for a lot of great chefs who taught me a lot.
What was your first restaurant job?
My first restaurant job was working a short order restaurant called Country Corner. Was surprisingly all made in-house. The restaurant was extremely busy, we specialized in hard serve ice cream, our huge burger platters, milkshakes and huge pizzas....I also worked at the BC fruit stand that was on the same lot. I learned a lot about fruits and Vegetables.
What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
I really am interested in the process of taking raw vegetables and turning them into pieces of art and eventually into a poetic menu. The brainstorming and steps it takes to turn out a good dish is a long road but when ingredients and techniques click it's a great feeling. Seeing a guests mind get blown when they take the first bite of a dish makes it worth the long hours.
How would you de scribe your style of cooking?
I consider my food style to be playful, interesting and hopefully delicious. I like to take flavour combinations and reinvent how they are prepared or presented. I'm very interested in any cuisine that you can eat with your hands. I find it to be the most entertaining way of eating. I try to pack big bold flavours and textures onto a small cracker or toast.
What's something few people know about you?
Very few people realize how young I am, when I talk to purveyors or other chefs via email or the phone and than when they see me in person is two different things. I don't consider it to be a disadvantage because I consider my self to be quite knowledgeable for the amount of time I have been professional cooking.
What is one great cooking tip you can share with home cooks and foodies?
Season more, cook less. Food has natural oils, juices and flavours that are only brought out with the addition of salt, don't be afraid to add an extra pinch. Not everything has to be well done, why disrespect a product by cooking it to shoe leather.
What is something you recently learned even after all your cooking experience?
Over the past year I feel that I have really grown into my style, through changes of jobs and locations I realized what is really important when creating a menu, or creating experiences with co workers and guests alike.
When you're not in the kitchen what are you doing?
I enjoy winter a lot, winter sports, I snowboard as much as I can. During summer I like to create small pop up gardens on my apartment balcony and grow micro vegetables and greens. Botany and gardening is very interesting to me. I like chill out with friends, have cookouts or relax having a beer or catch up on the much needed sleep that keeps me going.
If someone were to play you in a movie, who should it be?
I wouldn't choose an actor but another chef from the UK, Tom Aikens. I consider him to be the chef I look to the most and I look like his long lost son.
Last meal on Earth would be?
Hands down my last meal would be raw chopped beef with white anchovies and salsa verde in hot buttery toast. It is the dish I will order off any menu, and carries my values as a chef. Clean, interesting, lots of big flavours but the simplicity of a few components.