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One-on-One with Chef Nathan Lowey

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Chef Nathan Lowey is one of these chefs genuinely passionate about mastering kitchen arts. Originally from Regina, Nathan’s desire to learn from the best brought him to the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology where he received his Red Seal and soon found himself working in fine dining restaurants. In 2009, he moved to Vancouver to join acclaimed chef Robert Belcham’s team at Campagnolo and pursue his quest for culinary excellence.

Today, Nathan has opened his own restaurant in Vancouver named Dosanko. With his business and life partner Akiyo Lowey, the couple leverage their relationships with local farmers and their love for handcraftsmanship to create exquisite Japanese dishes. Local sourcing to feature the best of global flavours—this is Nathan’s contribution to Canadian gastronomy.

Get into Nathan’s head and kitchen through his interview with MENU. If you’re hungry after reading this, check out his menu for Food Day Canada!

Do you have a lucky charm in the kitchen?

No, this has nothing to do with luck. It is hard work, discipline and concentration.

What’s the last thing you burned?

The last things I burned were croutons. They just need two more minutes, forgot to reset the timer, bang! Charcoal!

Your favourite spice?

My favourite spice is nutmeg. It adds that subtle flavour that you can’t quite put your finger on. Good in so many applications-lightly enhances white sauce and potatoes, and deeply spiced curries and who doesn’t love heavy nutmeg in their Christmas nog?

What makes you “kitchen angry?”

Things being out of place in the kitchen makes me kitchen angry. If I need it I need it now and I don’t have time to search around. Mis en place, everything in its place, so important!

Latest flavour combination you’VE discovered?

Our caramelized white chocolate and coffee jelly parfait is a big winner.

What’s your most extravagant purchase?

My most extravagant purchase was probably the two Wagu striploins I bought for $700. Yikes!

Favourite song in the kitchen?

My head is like a jukebox I am constantly singing. And thinking about music during work. It passes the time and calms and centres me during the most stressful times.

What’s your comfort food?

That’s a tough one. I love comfort food. For all time I would say spaghetti bolognese is number one, I eat that very often and don’t get tired of it. Burgers are up there too. But lately, my go-tos have been Japanese curry at the restaurant and Bún bò Huế (spicy Vietnamese beef soup) which my wife and I are addicted to and eat every Sunday religiously. Sooo good, it is our medicine. All the beef, pork, blood, feet and chilis. Wash that down with a cold Vietnamese coffee, I feel like a new man!

What’s your most essential tool?

My most essential tools are obviously my knives. I have a special bond with my knives which I keep razor sharp. If I lost my knives I would have a very long period of mourning during which I would be inconsolable.

If you could change anything in the food industry, what would it be?

If I could change anything in the food industry it would be staffing. It seems to be more and more difficult these days to find staff who are willing to go through the hardships of the industry to learn and climb the ladder. Maybe it’s always been this way but as an owner it now hits home for me.

FavoUrite smell in the kitchen?

I couldn’t possibly narrow down my favourite smell in the kitchen. As a chef, I am led by all my senses but especially my nose. I rely on it for so much and get so much joy from all the aromas in the kitchen. From fresh bread to roasting bones, chicken stock to grilling meat, fresh herbs even weird things like pasta water and fresh yeast. Smells are a huge part of why I am a chef, I love to smell things, always have and I can’t work in a place that smells bad!!!

What’s your bad habit?

My bad habit is swearing. I really can’t help it. My four-year-old daughter is in the restaurant all the time and she calls me on my swearing every time she hears me. Which is ridiculously often. She could be in the dining room and I let out an F bomb she busts through the kitchen doors and scolds me with her serious face, PAPA!!!!

What do you admire in other chefs?

I admire creativity and discipline in other chefs. It is a long and arduous road to become a chef which many can’t or don’t want to endure. I have seen many talented cooks quit and find other more sane work. To be able to be creative with all the other pressures of the job takes patience and time which aren’t always available.

What or who is your greatest inspiration?

My greatest inspiration for cooking is people. You can learn so much about the world by learning about food. You realize we are all the same around the dinner table. If you get bored with what you are cooking, you can always find a new dish or a new culture to be inspired by. It’s a never-ending journey, and it opens the world up for you. Food brings all people together.

The dish you are the proudest of

The dish I am most proud of right now is our Japanese curry. I make it completely from scratch and it is been evolving over the years. We grind the meat and make our own curry roux from leftovers from another sauce we make, tonkatsu sauce. We strain the sauce and save the solids, re-spice, add starch, add more seasoning and use this to spice and thicken the curry. This curry uses many techniques I have learned over my career, (braising, caramelizing, flavour building) and I am very proud of it. Plus the finished dish has melted, caramelized cheese on it! And the option to add eggs, fried pork parts and or spicy jalapeño mayo (which is the way I eat it).

What’s your end of the world menu?

My end of the world menu is too big to list but highlights would include foie gras, truffles, fried chicken, burgers, French fries, aged ribeyes, BBQ duck, bacon, crispy pork belly, various cheeses, summer tomatoes, late summer corn, toro, crab, kinky, butter poached lobster, fresh sourdough bread, champagne, whiskey, white burgundy, pasta, pierogis, ripe mango, nectarines, creme brûlée, chocolate.

Your favourite advice or quote?

My favourite advice is “don’t blame the knife” by Daniel Boulud. As chefs, we have to make it happen no matter what the equipment we have to work with. We find a way to make it happen and take responsibility for our actions. Favourite quote: “I’m not your doctor, I’m not your nutritionist, I’m in the pleasure business” by Anthony Bourdain, R.I.P.

What is the one ingredient that you would never buy if it is not produced locally?

One product of many I don’t order unless it’s local is tomatoes. We are so fortunate in BC to have such amazing local produce pretty much year round that I wait all year for tomato season.  Tomatoes from Stoney Paradise Farm in Kelowna are definitely worth the wait! Milan grows heirloom and hybrid tomatoes that are some of the best I’ve tasted. He continuously has lines for his products at the farmers market and usually runs out early in the day. There is good reason he is called the tomato man. I am salivating just writing this.

What is your favourite local drink?

My favourite local drink is ice cold B.C .water! We have pristine water here. I drink gallons of it during my work week.

What is Canadian food to you?

Canadian food is being defined every day. This makes it exciting to be a chef here. Of course, you have your poutine, Nanaimo bars and Hawkins cheeses. But Canadian food has influence from many different cultures that have made their home here. Crossed with the First Nations cuisine and medicine, which have been using what grows around us to feed and heal themselves for thousands of years. This all will be combined to continue to develop what Canadian cuisine is. It’s up to chefs to form our unique cuisine and also, in turn, our culture. It is very exciting.

What makes you proud of the Canadian terroir?

We are very lucky to live in this beautiful and huge country. We have such a diverse landscape that you can find almost any terroir that exists on earth here. For example, things that grow naturally in British Columbia and what we can cultivate is truly world class. Wild edibles, cultivated fruits, vegetables, animals all full of flavour and in abundance. Our grapes and wine produced here are becoming known worldwide and are absolutely delicious. Other countries purchase Canadian products because they know our products are of high quality. They even process our products and boast they are their own–lentils, wheat and fish are good examples of this.

Why do you participate in Food Day Canada?

I participate in Food Day Canada because I am a proud Canadian! Being a chef and in an interracial marriage, I have had the opportunity to move to many different countries. But I just love Canada! It is clean, still has untouched wilderness and I was born and raised here. We are so lucky to live in a country like this. I want to learn more of what this great country has to offer and be a part of forming our Canadian cuisine using my skills as a chef and unique Canadian foods.