Thursday, October 19, 2017

An Interview With The Caf’s Executive Chef

Up close, personal, and hungry

Hello, Ravens! It’s me, Carleigh. Your campus Food Ambassador, resident food blogger, Instagram enthusiast, etc. reporting to you live about the only thing that matters: lunch.

Did you know that The Caf recycles its fryer oil by sending it away to be turned into biofuel? Did you know that if you accidentally throw out a fork, you shouldn’t fret because the garbage lids are magnetic? I think many students would agree that The Caf does some pretty amazing and innovative things, but there is a lot that students don’t get to see. So much goes on behind the scenes to feed thousands of Ravens every day. To see how it’s done, and get to know the guy behind the food magic, I sat down with The Caf’s Executive Chef, Daniel Poulin.

Carleigh: Where did you work before coming to Carleton and what made you choose Carleton?

Chef Daniel: I was in Montreal for the past fourteen years and I was in Japan for about twelve years. Right before Carleton, I worked at Concordia University. And what made me choose Carleton? We had an event last year. Three Aramark chefs came to present a dish in a kind of chef cook-off. Though I’ve known about Carleton since I joined Aramark eight years ago. I liked it, I was offered to come here, and I accepted with no hesitations. So I moved here and I’m very happy about it.

Carleigh: What’s the biggest difference between working in a restaurant and working in a University cafeteria?

Chef Daniel: It’s the volume and also the variety of the food you can prepare. Nowadays in Universities, there is so much to offer; so many stations. Also in residence, students live here. So it’s a clientele that’s harder to please. In a restaurant, they will come once and if they don’t like it, they won’t come back. In residence, they have to come here.

Carleigh: What is your favourite thing to eat on campus?

Chef Daniel: In The Caf? This is a difficult question. Depends on my mood really. This time of year I really like a soup and a good grilled cheese. That makes my day.

Carleigh: Where is your favourite place to eat in Ottawa?

Chef Daniel: In Ottawa, I like the Asian restaurants. There’s a small Vietnamese place that I probably go to the most right now. It’s called New Mee Fung and it’s on Booth Street. It’s very authentic and family-run.

Carleigh: Is there anything students do that annoys you?

Chef Daniel: Honestly it’s very rare to come across a student that we’re not going to like. I haven’t seen anything so far this year. They’re good people.

Carleigh: What’s the best way for Carleton students to give The Caf feedback?

Chef Daniel: Every university has their ways of communicating with students and ways of letting students share their voices. I think Napkin Talk at Carleton is one of the best. Students can just grab a napkin and they can say something nice or complain and quickly write it down. We see it right away. It’s hard to miss. They don’t have to go to a website and fill out a form.  And then we put a post-it note on it to respond.

Carleigh: What’s one thing all aspiring chefs should know?

Chef Daniel: Be creative. The industry moves so fast. When I was in school not many people were going in the direction of cooking. But nowadays everybody wants to be a chef. There are foodies and food shows.  You have got to be creative because there are so many people.

Carleigh: What are three dishes that every student should know how to make?

Chef Daniel: They should know how to make a good pasta sauce. It’s easy to prepare when you’re in a small apartment and noodles are easy to make too… A good bowl of oatmeal in the morning… Be able to boil and fry eggs.

Carleigh: What’s a fun fact about you that you want to share with students?

Chef Daniel: I speak four languages fluently: English, French, Japanese, and Italian. I speak Spanish a little less. So maybe four and a half.

Carleigh: What is your favourite food trend right now?

Chef Daniel: Its sandwiches: anything that you can put between two pieces of bread. The opportunities and combinations are endless. There are so many flavours and cuisines. You can have Asian style sandwiches. I had an Asian dog: a hot dog topped with noodles. You can have fried chicken between two southern style waffles and that counts too. And the bread itself! I’m very fascinated with bread. I like making bread and I like making the dough.

Carleigh: Does pineapple belong on pizza?

Chef Daniel: If we were in Italy, they’d say no. Though I think anything can go anywhere as long as it is prepared well and paired properly. If it’s done right, why not? It goes back to sandwiches. The dough is the vehicle and you can put anything on it.

Carleigh: What did you want to be when you were little? Did you always want to be a chef?

Chef Daniel: When I was in middle school I started theatre. I wanted to do something with acting but I got discouraged really quickly. I don’t know why. I’m good at imitating people and I speak many languages so I can imitate someone’s voice really quickly. Many people tell me, ‘Oh you’re so funny, you should have been an actor’ and I still think about it. I don’t regret being a chef but I would have loved acting.

Carleigh: What’s the best thing about your job?

Chef Daniel: I get to meet a lot of great people. Also preparing something and then seeing the student’s reactions when they eat my food. That makes my day. I asked myself last week, if I won the lottery would I stop working? And I thought I probably wouldn’t. I would come here just to have fun. It’s not about the money. It’s about liking what you do.

Feeling enlightened? Or just hungry? Feel free to connect with me to share your thoughts or to just follow my food journey on Instagram. Want to connect with Dining Services directly? Reach out to them through their website or Twitter.

Munch on, Ravens!

Thursday, October 19, 2017 in
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