With over 14 years of experience in the foodservice industry, chef Tara Lee opened a restaurant of her own in 2017. At the Eastbound Brewing Company, she focuses on the best ingredients she can find and uses what she learned while working with chef Mark Cutrara of Cowbell and Bar Hop Brewco.
From growing up in Thunder Bay to her time studying in Niagara’s wine country, Tara developed a strong respect and love for fresh local produce and the farms they come from. Add to this a mild addiction to pickles and you have the essence of her cooking style. Her creativity seems without limits and we are still dreaming about her pickled beef heart with pickled egg aioli, which earned her 1st place for professional pickled proteins during the pickle battle of 86’d Mondays at the Drake.
Get to know her better through this fast and fun interview:
DO YOU HAVE A LUCKY CHARM IN THE KITCHEN?
Probably my beaten-up Moleskine notebook full of tried and true recipes.
I’d rather have my wallet stolen than that book.
WHAT’S THE LAST THING YOU BURNED?
My elbow. The convection oven is right behind me on the line…
YOUR FAVOURITE SPICE?
WHAT MAKES YOU “KITCHEN ANGRY”?
Laziness. Assuming your time is more important than someone else’s makes me crazy.
LATEST FLAVOUR COMBINATION YOU DISCOVERED?
Charred citrus and escarole – sweet, caramelized and bitter.
WHAT’S YOUR MOST EXTRAVAGANT PURCHASE?
Does my small addiction to running shoes count?
FAVOURITE SONG IN THE KITCHEN?
Anything by Hall and Oates.
WHAT’S YOUR COMFORT FOOD?
WHAT’S YOUR MOST ESSENTIAL TOOL?
A cake tester! Great for so many applications.
IF YOU COULD CHANGE ANYTHING IN THE FOOD INDUSTRY, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
There seems to be a new generation of people coming out of school, etc., who want to skip ahead so fast. They only want you to teach them things that you took years to learn and experience, and then they’re off to the next thing.
FAVOURITE SMELL IN THE KITCHEN?
I love the smell of burnt sugar on creme brûlée.
Also, our kitchen and brewery here are very open and the smell of a beer getting dry-hopped makes my mouth water!
WHAT’S YOUR BAD HABIT?
Drinking too much coffee.
WHAT DO YOU ADMIRE IN OTHER CHEFS?
Their sense of curiosity. I feel like you have truly become a chef when you realize that there is no end to the amount of things you can learn through experience.
WHAT OR WHO IS YOUR GREATEST INSPIRATION?
I run with the Foodrunners. It’s a group of hospitality people that meet on Wednesdays and run. I’ve watched people who are all exhausted and overworked come, get stronger and achieve some pretty amazing goals.
THE DISH YOU ARE THE PROUDEST OF?
I love our chicken-fried calamari with green goddess dressing. It satisfies so many cravings with flavours I love!
WHAT’S YOUR END OF THE WORLD MENU?
Oysters, pickled things and lots of cheese.
YOUR FAVOURITE ADVICE OR QUOTE?
“Alice laughed: ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said; ‘one can’t believe impossible things.’ ‘I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast’.”