Sitting out on Aimée Wimbush-Bourque’s patio, gazing off into her lush vegetable garden, it’s not difficult to see where she gets her inspiration from. Her latest book, Simple Bites Kitchen, epitomizes her philosophy, not just towards food, but life in general. The book, as she puts it, is the truest extension of her home, her kitchen. The recipes are simple and seasonal, with an emphasis on fresh produce and flavours. Whether you’re starting your day off with her blushing apple, beet, and cherry smoothie (she was never able to get on board the green smoothie trend, but this recipe is her way of compromising, and yes, it actually tastes good), or cleaning out the fridge with a cheesy frittata, it’s food that you actually want to eat. In an age where over-the-top Instagram creations are the norm, it’s refreshing to see someone return to the basics of what makes a delicious meal.
What has the lead-up to Simple Bites Kitchen been like?
It has been incredible, really. It was a good space between the two books and people are starting to get excited. They know the recipes work: they won’t be overly complicated but they won’t be boring either. Family food can have this reputation of being all chicken fingers and pizza. I do actually have chicken fingers in my new book. We have adult friends who like it more than the kids. They’re marinated in buttermilk and cayenne. This family we know tested the recipe for us and they just couldn’t stop eating it.
How was the process of writing your second cookbook compared to your first?
It was great. I said a lot in my first book so I felt like the second book is a lot more recipe driven. It doesn’t have quite that same lifestyle crossover. I’m excited for that, and for that fact that we delivered a photo for every recipe. It’s maybe less “Sit down and read stories,” but instead it’s, “Get in the kitchen and cook.” The process – I had a lot more confidence and it was much more streamlined. I knew what parameters I needed to set for myself to make progress. I don’t just go off to a beautiful study, I have to work it in around my busy lifestyle and raising family, which is a huge gift, I love that I can incorporate it. The cookbook also follows how we eat every day so that was very streamlined.
How does being in an environment like this (i.e., an urban homestead) influence what you do?
It really inspires the recipes because it’s hard to ignore the seasons when you see them changing in front of your eyes. My kids will run out after dinner and my daughter will be picking raspberries. Those recipes will end up being so vibrant, the ones that are seasonally inspired, rather than just being like, “What are we having for dinner tonight?” Step outside and see what’s around! I know [not everyone can] do that but you can work with what comes in your CSA box, or what’s at the market. We’re very fortunate in Quebec. It’s very produce driven and market driven here.
What are you most proud of with Simple Bites Kitchen?
I’m really proud that it feels like such a beautiful extension of what I’ve been doing for the past 10 years. The title is very personal. It’s the heart of the home. Even just having that broad of a title felt a bit daunting, but as the chapters came together, it made so much sense. How I eat now is a combination of my homesteading background and days as a professional chef, and my most challenging years, which are feeding family. In this book, I’m proud that I’ve merged those three main influences in my life. I’m also really proud that we shot everything in my home, either inside or outside, with all the dishes we use everyday. It feels genuine. I styled every piece of food and then we’d sit down and eat after we shot it. You’re not going to get a more authentic version of what my cooking is. It feels very true.
Is there ever an aspect of opening your home up to people in this way that feels daunting or vulnerable?
Not at this point. You’re vulnerable setting a lunch menu as a chef at a restaurant. I feel like I’ve always been opening myself up to critique, whether as a personal chef or working in fine dining. I worked at Toqué for three years and you couldn't have an arugula leaf out of place. That helped give me structure and discipline in my own life. Now, it has flip flopped a bit back the other direction. Now, I tell people it’s OK and it doesn’t have to be perfect. Slapping big pots of stuff and heaping bread on the table – as long as it tastes good.
You are quite active in posting about your kids [in the kitchen] on social media. Do you go about filtering what gets published or not, and if so, what’s the criteria?
I’ve never regretted posting anything. I don’t think I’ve ever deleted a photo. As my kids have gotten older, I’ve been becoming more aware [of what is being posted about them]. I feel like as long as my kids are inspiring other kids or other parents to teach their kids about food, that’s more important. It’s going to do a lot more good than bad. I always ask my kids; they know exactly what’s going on. The benefits far outweigh the privacy aspect. When I strip it all away, my bottom line is to get more families making food together. Kids are the future and they will really surprise you if you just give them the chance.
Do you ever see yourself going back to professional kitchens?
No, I’ve looked at it from all angles but the only thing I could see myself doing outside the home would be some sort of cooking classes for kids. I’d want to do it on some sort of community basis, like after school classes. I want to get more kids cooking, like Jamie Oliver style. That’s a big passion of mine.