We were happy to have Niamh from eatlikeagirl.com pay us a visit during her tour of Vancouver Island. You can read about it here. Thanks Niamh!
By Ivy Knight
From Readers Digest Canada, June 2012
Qualicum Bay Scallop Burger
Fire up the barbecue and prepare for a taste explosion, because we’ve found five gourmet burgers from across the country that are sure to put your backyard grill on the map.
“There’s something about the candy-like sweetness of the scallops with the crunch of the tempura pickles and the rich tuna-belly bacon,” says Kunal Ghose, chef/co-creator of Red Fish Blue Fish in Victoria. “Combined with tangy tartar sauce and lemon-pickled onions, the Qualicum Bay Scallop Burger is my favourite on our menu.” Home chefs can try this simpler version starring scallops and double-smoked bacon. Serve on a Portuguese bun with tartar sauce and chopped pickled onions mixed in.
Click here for a step-by-step guide to preparing the Qualicum Bay Scallop Burger
16 chefs are competing for big prizes on Food Network Canada’s top-rated show
It’s not as if Red Fish Blue Fish needs the publicity, but it’s inevitable when your executive chef appears on Top Chef Canada.
The funky seaside fish shack’s co-founder Kunal Ghose is one of 16 Canadian culinary hopefuls vying for $100,000 on Food Network Canada’s top-rated show, which began its second season this week. (It airs Mondays at 7 and 10 p.m. PT.)
Within days of his appearance on the first episode, a wave of first-timers have checked out the converted steel shipping container that houses the popular harbourfront restaurant.
Although it wasn’t Ghose’s motivation, the peripheral PR bonus is history repeating itself. The same thing happened after his tiny zero-waste eatery known for its biodegradable wood cutlery and sustainable seafood dishes, notably its fish tacones, was featured on Eat St. And business boomed after the stars of NBC’s Today show raved about the tempura salmon, halibut, seared Qualicum Bay scallops and curry chips they dined on during a whirlwind visit two years ago.
“I’ve just always wanted to be on the show,” says Ghose, a longtime fan of the American show Top Chef who made the cut after unsuccessfully applying to bring some zesty West Coast flavour to the Canadian spinoff last season.
“It’s been fun and pretty amazing. I love cooking. It’s a chance for me to express myself creatively.”
Ghose, 39, is one of three competitors with Vancouver Island connections. The others are Joel Aubie, 27, an avid surfer from Bathurst, N.B., who is head chef at Tofino’s Shelter Restaurant and worked at Wickaninnish Inn, and Carl Heinrich, 26, who hails from Sooke and worked at Camille’s, among other hotspots, before becoming executive chef at Toronto’s Marben.
It’s a friendly rivalry, says Ghose, noting Aubie even invited him to participate in Tofino’s Feast! culinary festival in May.
Since Top Chef Canada premièred last April, it has become Food Network Canada’s mostwatched series. In each episode, hosted by Indo-Canadian actress Lisa Ray (Water, Bollywood Hollywood), the chefs compete in challenges to test their culinary skills in the battle to win $100,000 courtesy of Kruger Sponge Towels and a $30,000 GE Monogram Kitchen.
Toronto chef and restaurateur Mark McEwan (Bymark, ONE) presides as head judge, with colourful Los Angeles restaurateur Shereen Arazm (Terroni, Geisha House) returning as resident judge, and celebrity judges helping to grill competitors.
Ghose admits even he was surprised he finished in the top four last week when challenged to create a dish that gives the judges a sense of their hometown. (Other top dishes were served by Curtis Luk, Trista Sheen and Elizabeth Rivasplata.)
“My mom’s British and Victoria’s a very fish-and-chippy type town,” said Ghose, explaining why he opted to create an Indian take on fish and chips with a nod to his half-Indian heritage. Influenced by his Bengali father and his mother of Scottish, Greek and Chilean heritage, Ghose says food has always been an adventure for him, and the kitchen his “playpen” as a child.
“I was definitely aiming to please you,” Kunal told Ray after creating his exotic fish and chips.
“It worked,” Ray replied, smiling.
Ghose said he took some ribbing off-camera for “playing it safe” and appealing to Ray’s heritage.
The toughest challenge he faced while taping in Toronto last summer was enduring the “almost unbearable heat,” he said.
“Being away from your loved ones and your business for a long period of time was also difficult,” he added. “It was the first time I had really stepped away in five years, but it gave everyone who works with me [at Red Fish Blue Fish] a chance to shine.”
While doing Top Chef Canada was an eye-opener, he says it wasn’t as daunting as some might expect.
“I’ve been cooking for a long time,” said Ghose, who managed a 60-item salad bar at age 13 and soon became a “kitchen grunt.” His many gigs since have included being kitchen manager at Cactus Club on Robson Street in Vancouver before being hired at Vancouver’s popular Go Fish, where he created his fish tacones, a Japanese hand roll/Mexican taco hybrid, during its infancy.
“Every challenge on Top Chef Canada is totally legitimate,” adds Ghose, recalling one of his first impressions. “There’s no editing or redoing stuff, which was amazing. They really switch it up. It’s fun, but it can be nerveracking.”
The most rewarding aspects, he said, included seeing just how such a show is put together and the element of surprise.
“It’s cool. You never know for sure what’s coming,” he said. “And you’re only as good as your last meal.”
Whatever fate awaits him, his passion for Red Fish Blue Fish, where he cooks three days a week, remains undiminished.
“I’ve developed an even greater love for cooking,” says Ghose, who recently celebrated his mother’s 70th birthday by creating an eight-course meal for her – a small-plates tasting menu based on food she used to make.
What keeps him going, he says, is the sense of pride that comes from running a “feel good” operation.
“You’re making so many people happy with food every day. What could be better than that?” email@example.com