Chef Rebecca Russo is one of a kind! This prodigy who grew up on a farm, surrounded by food, made sustainable cooking her life. Today as chef and manager for a sustainably-run cooperative faculty and grad lounge at York University, she shares this passion and respect for good produce with everybody she meets.
She’s Italian at heart , but will trade prosciutto for chocolate anytime! There is one thing that she will never trade – her commitment to social justice, environmental care and sustainable fair-trade food.
Get to know her better through this fast and fun interview:
DO YOU HAVE A LUCKY CHARM IN THE KITCHEN?
I always have crystals in my pocket, usually rose quartz.
Oh, and I often smudge the space with white sage.
WHAT’S THE LAST THING YOU BURNED?
When I burn things, it’s not just one thing. It’s like a whole day of burnt. The last thing was wild rice though.
YOUR FAVOURITE SPICE?
I’m a wee bit obsessed with cardamom.
WHAT MAKES YOU “KITCHEN ANGRY”?
I get seriously annoyed with mess, I cannot stand a disorganized station. Followed very closely by lack of consistency, which denotes a lack of care. It’s unacceptable to me! Love what you do, or don’t do it.
LATEST FLAVOUR COMBINATION YOU DISCOVERED?
Coconut curry soubise. It’s just amazing on roasted vegetables.
WHAT’S YOUR MOST EXTRAVAGANT PURCHASE?
At the moment it’s vanilla. It’s so expensive right now.
Also, Brad Long got me hooked on Sterling Creamery whey butter and I just can’t use anything else.
FAVOURITE SONG IN THE KITCHEN?
Mellow mood – Bob Marley, as well as really any old-school punk.
WHAT’S YOUR COMFORT FOOD?
Tomato sauce and cheese on sourdough… and chocolate too! I have a serious addiction for Brandon Olsen’s chocolates. Also…bourbon…that’s a food, right? 🙂
WHAT’S YOUR MOST ESSENTIAL TOOL?
My Wusthof Santoku.
IF YOU COULD CHANGE ANYTHING IN THE FOOD INDUSTRY, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
I’d like a more reasonable pay, as well as access to sick days and benefits not just in institutions. I’d also like to see more sustainable practices and a strong adherence to a gender-neutral respect for skills and advancements.
FAVOURITE SMELL IN THE KITCHEN?
The smell of bread baking is one of my favourite things in the world. It reminds me of my childhood.
WHAT’S YOUR BAD HABIT?
Using my apron to take pans out of the oven.
WHAT DO YOU ADMIRE IN OTHER CHEFS?
I respect passion, commitment to sustainability and local procurement, as well as social justice outreach work.
WHAT OR WHO IS YOUR GREATEST INSPIRATION?
My Nonna Maria, she taught me that love and hard work will always let you live your best life.
And also my wonderful partner John – his kind gentle way, which just lets me be myself, with all my strengths and foibles, and his support encourage me in every possible way.
THE DISH YOU ARE THE PROUDEST OF?
I am most proud of replicating my nonna’s sugo, and I also do a pretty bad-ass crueller.
WHAT’S YOUR END OF THE WORLD MENU?
Bruschetta al pomodoro, mozzarella di bufala, bucatini al’amatricianna, insalata verde, straciatella gelato and chocolate cake, espresso and Amaro.
YOUR FAVOURITE ADVICE OR QUOTE?
“And the day came where the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
– Anais Nin