Beyond the Wok with Chef Trevor Lui

Jenn: Who is the most fascinating person you’ve ever cooked for?

Trevor: I wish my grandfathers were still alive for me to cook for them, but God bless them they are both gone. But, last year, I had the honour of cooking for Albert Adria, Michelin Star Chef from Barcelona, brother of Fran Adria. He decided to come to our restaurant for dinner after a culinary congress, which was a surprise in itself because we weren’t’ prepared for it. So, I thrust myself to the local market to try and get as many ingredients as possible and we cooked and drank and chatted until the doors closed that night. That was really exciting.

Jenn: If you were not cooking, what would you do for a living?

Trevor:  I wish I was a professional soccer player. I played semi-professional soccer until the age of 17 and of course when I was younger, we didn’t have the leagues that we have today but, in a dream world, I’d love to be a paid athlete.

Jenn: What do you cook at home that you never cook at the restaurant?

Trevor: We use a lot of different ingredients. I like to do a lot of market cooking. So, whatever I find at the market, I’ll take home and do there. I have more time at home so I can experiment at lot more as well. So, I try to stay away from a lot of the food we do at the restaurant, but maybe different versions of it .. trying to take it down a healthier version because sometimes it’s a challenge to try and find a balance between healthy and flavourful.

Jenn: Besides a great knife, what’s your kitchen tool you can’t live without?

Trevor: There’s a few but if there was one, I would say my vac machine. I have to be able to vac stuff because I like to buy in bulk. Particularly in season so if it’s asparagus season, which is only 2 weeks.. If I can buy asparagus, chop them, clean them, vac them, freeze them so I can use them longer in the season, great. I do that with berries, meats. I also sous-vide a lot at home.. obviously when you have a vac machine, I don’t need to use ziplock and try to pull the air out with a straw, so a vac machine is really important in my mind. If I didn’t have one, it would be a little different.

Jenn: Why do you use canola oil in your kitchen?

Trevor: Why wouldn’t I choose canola oil in my kitchen? * laughs * There’s a couple things about it. #1: it’s a really clean fry. The neutral flavours gives us a lot of capability to ensure that the flavour of our food stays the way we want it to stay. The high smoke point, is of course the other big thing. A lot of people don’t know we also use it in our wok. The BTUs in our wok are a lot higher even than our fryer at points because we take such a high point because we can cook our dish in under 30 seconds sometimes. So canola is perfect.

Jenn: What did you have for dinner last night?

Trevor: I was at home, but take-out. You know a lot of times we eat what we either prepare or buy for our loved ones in our lives. So either my fiancee or my parents or my daughter. I stopped at my favourite noodle kanji place in China town and picked up some kanji and some Singapore noodles. Perfect meal. Soul food!

Jenn: What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Trevor: First of all, I’m not grown up yet. As a kid, growing up with not a lot of things or money other than a soccer ball, I played a lot of soccer. So I wanted to be a  soccer player. And then I realized that was never going to happen so I got into the hospitality business. Which was a good second place. That’s what my family was in our entire lives so it was something I was familiar with. In a way, I think, I got into was I was intended to and I love it.

Jenn: How did you unleash that spark?

Trevor: So my grandfather was a master wok chef in Hong Kong. When he came over here after my father came. My father was a musician/actor who never made it to Hollywood. Ended up in Toronto, married my mother. He was a waiter at Fran’s, in the late 60s early 70s which is still in existence and he was also a bellman at the Sheridan Centre. SO it was in our blood and then he opened a restaurant. When my grandfather came over, he was a master Chef there and that’s the place where I grew up, so I knew a lot about being the kitchen because I grew up running around in the kitchen as a kid, watching Leafs games and packing the take-out.

Jenn: What are you most excited about right now?

Trevor: I’m excited about the Canadian landscape when it comes to food. I think that for the longest time, Canada has .. I wouldn’t say struggled.. but searched for the recognition it deserves it terms of culinary. I think when we use the word culinary it is everything from how you do a potato to how you fry meat to how you sous-vide and how you do 5-Michelin Star food.

I don’t think this country needs Michelin stars. I think we’re talented. I think there’s a great emergence of diversity of restauranteurs and chefs. And when I say diversity there’s emergence of amazing female chefs and there’s emergence of amazing chefs of every cultural background that is a good cross-section of who we are as a country. And so we’re finally getting recognition globally. And I think we can be proud of a lot of what we’re doing right now without anyone having to tap us on our shoulders and say “great job” because I think we’re there.

Jenn: Any final thoughts?

Trevor: Yeah I mean the one thing I don’t think we do enough is think about where our food comes from. I think we need to do a much better job in reciprocating the appreciation of what we get from our farmers across this country. We take it for granted, particularly for us who live in a big city, we either go to the market or go to the grocery store and we take it for granted that the things there are always going to be there.. but we don’t take a moment to think about how much work goes into it.

Having spent time with personal friends who are farmers, they go through a heck of a lot just to give us a little bit so thank you to all of them for producing the things, the ingredients, that we get to use and put on our plates and give to customers. I think we need to do more to educate our customers and educate our fellow chefs about the importance of acknowledging the producers of all the resources that we have abundance of.


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