Mental Morsels: Words of Wisdom Gleamed from my Interview with Chef Greg Willis

When I interviewed Chef Greg Willis a while back at his home in St. Catharines, delectable insights rolled from his tongue, like the drool rolling from mine, as he described his renowned roast lavender lamb. This week, Retirement News Weekly – Niagara takes the opportunity to share with you some of the morsels that didn’t make the cut in the profile piece.

  • “Food nourishes in three ways, I found out. It nourishes when you’re thinking about it and preparing it in your mind; then, when you actually mechanically put it together; and then, when you sit down to consume it. It nourishes in three ways. And it transcends most anything else when those three things are glued together.”
  • “It was the long cooking processes, coaxing all the flavours out – not really making a pretty plate, but making a very satisfying meal. That’s always been the vision of my kitchen philosophy.”
  • “If you have a great cuisine in your home, everything else is just diversion… except for sex, of course. The two kind of go hand in glove.”
  • “Food being the king and wine being the consort, it’s nice to know them both.”
  • “All I need is a pot, a heat source, and storage facilities, and I can cook for the world.”
  • “People’s tastes are conservative. Period. People say, ‘Oh, I like to experiment.’ Bull shit. They don’t like to experiment. They want things that are familiar to them. You can push it on occasion. It’s a very conservative industry.”
  • On experimenting with food: “I dug up some white grubs one day. And I thought, ‘They look like shrimp. And I bet they’re all protein. No shell, that’s odd.’ I had a book called, Unmentionable Cuisine and it described how to prepare them. I fried them with garlic and butter. They were good.”
  • “Eggs have to be my favourite ingredient to use.”
  • “Sugar, like a good sauce, masks a thousand sins.”
  • “I like the fact that the region produces simple wines, because that gives us more opportunity to produce better foods. The more complex the food, the simpler the wine should be.”
  • On educating: “As opposed to going in there and showing folks how to make pretty plates, I’m going in and really giving them an understanding of how to look at recipes. Instead of reading it like a scientific experiment where you try and reproduce it, look at it as what goes over here and what goes over there and how do you blend them. The different cooking methods you use.”
  • “What I tell the kids I teach [is] ‘Try it. The first thing out of your mouth shouldn’t be ‘mmmm’ or ‘yuck’. Understand how it tastes: the body, the flavours. And then you throw in the emotional element. Then you go ‘mmmm’ or ‘yuck’.’”
  • “I’d recommend those with a fascination with food to go and work in a kitchen for a couple of years like they would join the army. [It’s] life skill that everybody should have. Even if you make $250 in billable hours peeling and cutting up a carrot… it’s worth it… the watermelon never tasted so sweet.”
  • “I’ve worked in these $80,000 kitchens with granite countertops, but they’re rarely used and they look like they came out of a magazine. They’re just cold and sterile. And I go into other kitchens and it’s clear that they’ve been used and worked hard, and they have soul and character. That’s what I like to see.
  • “The kitchen is the hearth or heart of the house. It affects every room in that house. When the kitchen’s running well, it affects ever other room. Gets your heart pumping.”
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