Sadly, to many people outside of the country, Calgary's claim to fame is the Calgary Stampede. Well, move over cowboys, because some of Cowtown's leading ladies in the culinary industry are in New York City for Women Chefs and Restaurateurs. There, together with some of the best females chefs in Calgary--Alison Bieber of Black Pig Bistro, Connie DeSousa of CHARCUT Roast House, Nicole Gomes of Nicole Gourmet, Wanda Ly of WinSport Canada, and Karine Moulin of Hotel Arts Group--Liana Robberecht of Calgary Petroleum Club will be showing off their chops in the Women of the Wild West collaboration dinner at The Beard House this Wednesday.
We chatted with Robberecht about how the food scene has changed over the years, nurturing new chefs and the first place in NYC she'll be going to after the dinner.
You’ve been in the industry for so many years. To you, how has the food scene evolved in Canada in general over the decades?
The food scene has evolved in leaps and bounds. I remember back in the day, steakhouses held the title of the “go-to fancy night out” in dining. Then, slowly, the sushi wave started. It's amazing to see so many cultural influences in cuisine happening in our city, from Latin to modern Korean. It's an exciting time.
Bringing Canadian talent to NYC for a major food event is a big deal. How did you and your fellow collab chefs prepare for the dinner?
All of us gathered and had a sound boarding session, bouncing off ideas on what to make and the foods from Alberta we thought was important to showcase. We also wanted to choose dishes that reflect ourselves. We have sent a zillion texts and emails back and forth leading up to our departure. It’s really fun stuff and they’re such amazing women.
How are you personally going to showcase Canadian food at the dinner?
I do shoulder responsibility in choosing the best reflection of food and personality. I am showcasing barley, trout, rye whiskey and carrots. My vision is to execute in an artful way, exposing my passion for art through culinary with a little painting on the plates.
Everyone in the Calgary food scene would attest to the fact that you have a very nurturing nature and help to cultivate talent. How do you grow your team and apprentices?
That's very flattering to hear! Thank you.
Education and mentorship is the core of my personal and professional philosophy. I work to inspire and provide the tools for each person and to help them realize their own potential. Learning and understanding leads to having confidence and feeling anything is possible.
What's the biggest difference between being a woman in a professional kitchen today and being a woman in a kitchen 20 years ago?
The opportunity to find and have your voice. Twenty years ago, women had less of a presence in the industry.
What do you think many Americans don't realize or understand about Canadian food culture?
From my observations, Americans are very good at creating the brand "celebrity ". Creating and promoting this sensation takes a lot of time. I think perhaps there is not enough time to look outside that box to what we Canadians are creating.
What are you most excited about in the collaboration with these talented female chefs?
It's so cool. To work and spend time in the kitchen with these women is the highlight to begin with. They are funny, smart, crazy talented and some our my closest friends. Now, add New York City to it. Cooking together at the James Beard foundation--I feel like I just won the lotto jackpot! It's inspiring. This will have a huge impact on me, for sure.
Once all the prep is done, and dinner is served, where is the first place you are going to go to eat and drink?
There are so many places to try. I just learned of this ramen noodle place and I'm interested! My vote is to have drinks at Smalls, the jazz bar. I love it there.
You've been cooking for a long time. What keeps you motivated?
Food , ingredients and art keep me motivated. I've never not been motivated, that's how I know I'm in the right profession. Creating is a gift; having the ability to share with others is pure magic.
Which female chefs have inspired you?
Sal Howell. She's not a chef, but she's such an innovator in our industry. She has inspred and still does inspire me. She is the definition of amazing.