Next up on "Knives in the Wild" is friend of the shop Chef Jordan Dennis. Jordan was one of the first customers to come into the shop to say hi when I opened in November, 2015. His love for Japanese steel, cooking and foraging instantly made us friends.
Recently, Jordan came in to say hi and scope out some new toys. Afterwards we hung out in the park with knives....that's normal, right?
Here's our very informal conversation:
Adam: "Alright Jordan, where are you from?"
Jordan: "North River, PEI. I guess it's called Cornwall now."
Adam: "Are you formally trained in the culinary arts?"
Jordan: "Yes, at the Culinary Institute of Canada '05-'07"
Adam:"How many years have you been cooking?"
Jordan:"Well I guess I would have started just before I started school, so 12 years."
Adam:"Why did you start cooking?"
Jordan:"Oh sh*t, haha, I don't know if it was that I found cooking or cooking found me. I was going to university and realized it wasn't for me. So I applied to the CIC, fell in love with it and I've been cooking ever since."
Adam:"What is your current position?"
Jordan:"Head Chef with Sobeys."
Jordan:"Which is usually followed up by, so what exactly do you do?"
Adam:"Yeah, yeah...so exactly what do you do?"
Jordan:"A lot of it is teaching classes. We have two registered dieticians on staff, so I work with them a lot for the classes. We also develop recipes for people with diabetes, high blood pressure, celiac disease and other specific dietary needs."
Adam:"Cool, so you deal with a lot of people's individual needs?"
Jordan:"Yeah, and some of what the dieticians and I do is multi-week program."
Adam:"Wow, so that is definitely a good challenge isn't it?"
Jordan:"Yeah, before I worked for Sobeys, like at the restaurant, you get someone that is a vegan or celiac and you kinda go "well, what am I going to cook for them?" Now I get to step back and look at it from their perspective. Different options, different ingredients and substitutions that you can use that you probably wouldn't normally."
Adam: "So, do you find that keeps the job interesting and keeps you on your toes?"
Jordan: "Yeah, we've got a whole natural section in the store with different grains, flours, and tons of substitution options. I mean, I have a pantry with like thirty thousand ingredients, so I can't complain."
Adam: "Yeah, so that's my next question actually. I was asking people what their favourite dish is to cook right now, but i'm going to ask you what is your favourite ingredient to cook with at the moment?"
Jordan:"My favourite ingredient?"
Adam:"Yeah, doesn't have to be of all time, how about favourite of the week?"
Jordan:"Haha, hoisin sauce!"
Adam:"Hoisin, yeah? Cool. So just taking it and using it in other sauces to elevate them?"
Jordan:"Yeah, using it in other sauces. Especially for like 10 minute ramen noodles at home."
Adam:"Oh yeah, it's great in ramen or PHO broth for sure!"
Adam:"You guys have that at Sobeys?!"
Jordan:"No this is something I foraged." (Jordan actually brought me some into the shop, what a guy!)
Adam:"Sick, is this from the island?"
Jordan:"Yeah, so those grow on yellow and white birch trees, usually ones that are sick or dead."
Adam:"Wow, did Sylvain show you that?"
Jordan:"No, actually it was another friend who showed me. Usually we see them when we are walking our dogs in the woods. It's got a crazy amount of nutritional benefits, 10 times the amount of antioxidants that blueberries have."
Adam:"That's awesome, I had no idea. So you like to do a lot of foraging eh?"
Jordan:"I do, yeah! Mushroom and berry picking and all that kind of stuff, usually when I'm out in the woods with my dogs."
Adam:"So what are you eating at home right now?"
Jordan:"A lot of quick and easy ramen dishes. The time of year really dictates what goes in it. Right now it would be a lot of roasted veg, mushrooms and that kinda stuff."
Adam:"So when did you buy your first Japanese knife?"
Jordan:"I bought this Miyabi around 2009."
Adam:"What is your go-to knife?"
Jordan:"I really like my Tanaka knives, but if I'm doing workhorse jobs I like the funayuki that you re-handled for me."
Adam:"So how do you like the Tojiro DP honesuki for butchering?"
Jordan:"Yeah I do, especially for breaking down chicken and duck. Anytime I get a whole duck for confit and prosciutto I love using it, definitely my go-to!"
Adam:"So why do you like Japanese knives?"
Jordan:"A good analogy would be, if you're a chef and you want to make a great dish, you use the best ingredients right? So if you want to make an awesome knife, you use top quality ingredients, or materials in this case. Basically, they use better steel so the knives perform better, look badass, stay sharp and stand up to heavy workloads because of the hardness of the steel."
Adam:"Cool, right on! So how any Japanese blades do you own?"
Jordan:"These guys here, plus I'm waiting on a custom knife, so 8."
Adam:"Right on Jordan, thanks for stopping by the shop!"