As an entry-level home cook, I can appreciate a Michelin-starred chef’s cookbook, but I will never ever cook from one. I may purchase it to look at the pictures, but I can guarantee that it will sit gathering dust on a shelf. I would venture to say that for (mostly unsuccessful yet) hopeful home cooks like me, the typical chef-oriented cookbook, often isn’t a good fit.
Without the knowledge and experience needed to whip up elaborate meals, these cookbooks are left aside as a nagging reminder that I will never be a chef. But take for example, Yotam Ottolenghi’s newest cookbook, with the self-explanatory title ‘Simple’, or consider ‘The Okanagan Table’ by Rod Butters, which takes influence from Butters’ popular British Columbian restaurants – they both present approachable yet enticing recipes inviting limited home cooks to get back to the stove in a friendly way.
As a millennial whose most-used apps includes Uber Eats, I can get behind these chef-inspired recipes that are adapted for someone like me. I don’t think I’m alone. These cookbooks are becoming more popular and the consumers are gobbling them up.
Aimee Wimbush-Bourque is the writer of The Simple Bites blog, and two cookbooks; ‘Brown Eggs and Jam Jars: Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites’ and ‘‘The Simple Bites Kitchen: Nourishing Whole Food Recipes for Every Day’. Aimee began her career in professional kitchens, developing her cooking skills in fine dining bistros, in every position from pastry chef to sous-chef. It’s been about 10 years since Aimee first traded in her chef’s hat for an apron and keyboard to build an impressive writing portfolio strong of a loyal readership and sizable social media following.
There’s something about Aimee’s writing and recipes that make it aspirational, yet approachable. Flipping through the pages of ‘The Simple Bites Kitchen’, you can find dishes like Cumin-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin, Harvest Corn Chowder, and Coriander-Crusted Salmon with parsnip fries, the meals don’t sound like they would be out of place at any local bistro, but there is a distinct comfort food feel. The recipes aren’t overly complicated or exhaustive, they let the ingredients take centre stage and speak for themselves. Hopeful, yet unsuccessful cooks won’t feel the daunting dread and confusion of skimming through a Michelin-starred restaurant’s cookbook.
The Simple Bites Kitchen focuses on family-friendly recipes that use local ingredients. The book is a one-stop shop, with everything from cocktails, to a kid-approved boxed lunches, to pickles and preserves, to plant-forward dinners.
The focus on local, fresh ingredients in the home comes from Aimee’s childhood, but also in part to her time as a professional chef. As a chef, Aimee appreciated spending days honing her skills, but with time lost interest on the heavy manipulation of food often required to innovate and wow consumers in full service restaurants. The idea of constantly trying to ‘master’ food, by producing the various pastes, foams, and gels, didn’t have the same hold over Aimee that it once did. She yearned to get back to basics, to instead enjoy the simple harmony of flavours coming from fresh produce gathered at its best.
Aimee decided to leave professional kitchens and began experimenting with recipe development, fermentation, and canning in her home kitchen. The interest in wholesome, family recipes that moved away from processed foods led to Aimee’s blog, ‘Simple Bites’. With a general trend towards more ‘natural food’ taking hold, Aimee’s blog resonated with an audience. Using her chef-gained skills, Aimee is able to deliver useful knowledge to her readers and at the same time, translate what could be a complex formula into something easy for the average homecook.
Aimee points out that The Simple Bites Kitchen is not a book for chefs. It isn’t a coffee table book either, but rather a book to be used daily, to get dirty, to reach for when you’re stuck as to what to cook that night.
For the average consumer, there can be a hurdle to jump over when it comes to eating plant-based, eating local, or even to cooking and eating at home on a daily basis. However, Aimee hopes that by serving up these easy-to-follow recipes that promote urban farming, readers will gain a new appreciation for eating local. One pot recipes like the Shrimp and Pea Orzo feature farm-fresh ingredients but are also super simple to put together for a busy family. As an ‘influencer’ in the food world and as someone who speaks directly to the end consumer, she believes she has a responsibility to be an advocate for better nutrition and local growers.
It’s also a collaborative cookbook and features recipes to help get kids involved in the kitchen. Aimee credits her love of food (and love of local) to growing up in the kitchen, cooking with her family. Spending time cooking with her young children, instilling in them respect for produce and farms and fostering a curiosity for where food comes from is an important mission to Aimee.
Speaking to the end consumer, young or old, not only opens up a chef to a new audience, it also allows them to become visible advocates for the issues that matter most to them and the industry. In late 2018, Aimee took home the Silver Award for her newest cookbook, ‘The Simple Bites Kitchen: Nourishing Whole Food Recipes for Every Day’ at the Taste Canada Awards, which celebrates the best in Canadian cookbooks.
Receiving this award has been wonderful feedback for Aimee. Being recognized by her peers and by her contemporaries has let Aimee know that she is making an impact in the industry to help promote local, sustainable foods. As Aimee continues to work to bridge the gap between chefs and consumers, she hopes it means that we will gain a better understanding of where our food comes from, and how we can all create a more sustainable future together.