Introducing Executive Chef Nick Caulford
Thank you to Nick Caulford for taking some time to answer our questions and share a recipe!
Q: Can you tell us about your background and training?
A: I moved to Vancouver from Toronto when I was 20 to attend Culinary Arts/Hotel & Restaurant Management school at Dubrulle Culinary Institute. I worked in restaurants in Vancouver and Toronto before moving to London England where I worked for a restauranteur group travelling from location to location throughout Europe training staff and performing Quality Assurance programs and initiatives. When I returned to Canada I moved to Banff where I began working for Brewster Hospitality, managing Food & Beverage Operations in their hotels.
Q: What led you to Chemainus Theatre Festival’s Playbill Dining Room?
A: My wife and I had always wanted to raise our children on the Island as the majority of her family lives in the Cowichan Valley, and I was always interested in getting back to my culinary roots where my initial training was, in Pacific Northwest cuisine. We moved to Chemainus in 2016. I have to admit that I was quite fortunate to become the executive chef at The Chemainus Theatre Festival, the timing just seemed right as our previous executive chef Steve Hewson was set for retirement. I had started as the part time evening sous chef of the theatre in March of 2017 working just 2 evenings a week. The theatre had such an impressive reputation amongst the locals and through word of mouth, I was excited to apply for employment.
Q: Farm to Table is important to you. Can you tell us about some of the partnerships you have formed with local farmers?
A: To me, Farm to Table is a wonderful concept. I have had the luxury of working for a Resort in Ontario on the shores of Rice Lake that had its own farm on location (Elmhirst’s Resort) that was doing a wonderful job with the Farm to Table concept. The farm would produce annual yields of vegetables from their own gardens of around 2 tonnes. They raised ducks and chickens for egg production as well as their own Beef Cattle on property. These items produced on the farm were exclusively used in supplying our dining rooms. It’s a special accomplishment not many can say they have the ability of bringing to market. To me, I am more focused on and passionate about fresh and local ingredients from the Island and the Lower Mainland. There are so many independent and micro farms, wineries, breweries and fisheries in our community. It’s really quite an exciting place to be. The Cowichan Valley is especially growing more of a food & wine culture. I have been reaching out to many of these local businesses to begin forging relationships hopefully for many years to come. We are all part of this community and supporting our neighbours will help showcase to locals and tourists what our region can do.
Q: Audiences love to see how the show is highlighted in the menu. Any shows for 2018 inspired you in particular?
A: They all have in some way. It is really fun creating menus that theme with a particular show or region of the world. I think I am most excited for Million Dollar Quartet and Glorious! Grease should be really fun as well. It’s difficult to not get carried away and want to over-theme every dish. We always try to have a good balance of dishes available to please everyone.
Q: Fridays in the Playbill Dining Room will have a new feature, the Table D’hôte. Can you tell us what Friday night audiences can expect with this wonderful new service?
A: The New Friday Night Table D’hôte experience will be a hybrid of a buffet and a plated dinner service. The Soup and Salad Buffet will still be in existence as well as the Dessert Buffet. The concept of the Table D’hôte portion of Friday nights will be a 3 choice plated main course menu that will feature and showcase items never before offered in the Playbill Dining Room. Offerings from Prime Rib to Lobster Tails depending on which shows you attend.
Q: The Scalloped Potatoes in the ‘Cornwalls’ All-Inclusive Cancun Christmas are like something out of a dream. Could you please share your recipe if there are any patrons who would like to impress their dinner guests this season?
Thank you for the kind words. It would be my pleasure.
Potatoes Au Gratin (Scalloped Potatoes) Serves 4-6
2lbs Russet Potatoes
3 Cups Whipping Cream
1 tsp Kosher Salt
1/8 tsp Fresh Ground Pepper
Pinch of Nutmeg
2 Cloves of Garlic, Peeled & Smashed
¾ Cup Gruyere Cheese Finely Grated
½ Boursin Herb & Garlic Cheese
- Heat the oven to 400°F. Using a very sharp knife or a mandolin, carefully cut the potatoes into 1/8-inch slices (no thicker).
- Put the potatoes in a large heavy-based saucepan and add the cream, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and garlic. Cook the mixture over medium-high heat until the cream is boiling, stirring occasionally (very gently with a rubber spatula so you don’t break up the slices).
- When the cream boils, pour the mixture into a 2-1/2- or 3-qt. baking dish. Shake the dish a bit to let the slices settle and then sprinkle the surface with the cheese.
- Bake in the hot oven until the top is deep golden brown, the cream has thickened, and the potatoes are extremely tender when pierced with a knife, about 40 minutes. Don’t worry if the dish looks too liquidy at this point; it will set up as it cools a bit. Before serving, let the potatoes cool until they’re very warm but not hot (at least 15 minutes) or serve them at room temperature.
- Garnish with Fresh Parsley & Chives.