Q&A with “Dirty Apron Cookbook” author David Robertson
In 2009, David Robertson launched The Dirty Apron Cooking School, a recreational, state-of-the-art cooking establishment. As owner and head chef, David’s infectious enthusiasm and patient nature have made his cooking classes the most popular in the city. Now students and foodies around the country can attend a virtual class by picking up a copy of The Dirty Apron Cookbook, in stores now.We put several questions to David so we can better get to know Vancouver’s star chef and tutor!
How did you come up with the name The Dirty Apron?
During the planning months leading towards the opening of The Dirty Apron, my wife and I learned that we were expecting our first baby. After recovering from the shock that indeed we were going to be first-time parents and first-time business owners in the same year, I made the comment that the next year was going to be “the year of dirty diapers…” to which my wife responded “…and of dirty aprons…” – the rest is history.
What made you open a cooking school?
While working as chef-de-Cuisine at Chambar Restaurant, I was given numerous opportunities to do public live demonstrations and cooking lessons. After a few gigs I discovered that not only did I love cooking, but that I also had a passion for sharing my knowledge with people and empowering them to succeed in the kitchen. I realized that there was a real hunger (no pun intended) among Vancouverites to want to learn the tricks of the trade, and that our city was ready for a cooking school that demystified the fine dining industry in a way that is fun, and yet challenging at the same time.
The cookbook is dedicated to your family who are featured in the introduction. What type of food makes you think of family?
I grew up in a home where every meal was cooked from scratch, so the process of cooking is just as meaningful to me as the meal in the end. However, the food that makes me think of family is usually simple, and quick to prepare, but super tasty – like a really good pasta dish that my kids will flip out over, or a juicy rotisserie chicken from my BBQ. Our family also really enjoys beach picnics, so Portuguese buns with hummus, cold cuts, cheese, and salad are definitely family foods to me.
What is your favourite recipe to make from The Dirty Apron Cookbook and which recipe do you like to eat?
My favourite recipe to cook from The Dirty Apron Cookbook is the Pan-Roasted Halibut. I love to work with seafood, and I appreciate the care that it takes to get a beautiful golden-brown crust on it. As for the dish I most enjoy to eat, I love to eat comfort foods, especially at this time of year, so my favourite recipe to enjoy at my dinner table is the Braised Beef Shortribs with Morel & Thyme Risotto.
How do you spend your time when you’re not cooking?
I am a family man at heart, so I try to spend as much time with them as possible. Even though I like to be active and get outside during my free time, one of my favourite things to do when I am off the clock is to eat out and try out new restaurants and dishes.
What’s the one piece of advice you would give aspiring chefs?
I meet a lot of kids and teens who want to become the next celebrity chef. Thanks to the Food Network, young people are excited to get into the kitchen and get cooking, and I think that’s great. However, my advice is always the same: if you want to make cooking a career, you have to be passionate about it. It’s a labour of love, and for the first ten years, it’ll be your passion alone that will make you want to keep going – you will be worked incredibly hard, the hours are long, and the paychecks are small. So make sure that you are truly passionate about cooking food rather than about celebrity status.
You are giving part of the proceeds of the book sold through your store to charity. Can you tell us about the charity you are supporting?
Yes, The Reign Foundation is a charitable organization that was started by two friends and myself, and its purpose is to help the people of Cambodia by investing in its future, which are the children. Many families with children cannot afford to send their kids to school, and send them to work instead. The Reign Foundation presently provides financial support to 151 children, primarily between the ages of 6 to 8, living in Lvea Em District, Kandal Province of Cambodia, and provides them with access to the following essentials: School materials, uniforms, bicycles, supplies and fees, additional support for children behind on curriculum, organized study groups, and home visits to monitor the progress of students and families. Our goal is to see these children develop the education and skills needed to create a bright future for themselves, their communities and their country.