Alumni Feature: Mike Booth, SCS Instructor, The Prune (Class of 2006) - Stratford Chefs School

Alumni Feature: Mike Booth, SCS Instructor, The Prune (Class of 2006)

Meet Mike Booth, SCS Senior Cookery and Theory Instructor, Purchasing Agent, Sous Chef at The Prune Restaurant, and SCS Grad (2006).

 

I was born in the Okanagan, and moved to Ontario at a fairly young age. I have great memories of my grandpa standing behind the grill on a hot summer day, surrounded by orchards and mountains. His favourite meal was a mixed grill – steak, lamb and sausage – with various salads like potato, coleslaw, and so on. Vegetables were grown in the garden, and picked/pulled every afternoon for dinner that night. For dessert we would take turns churning vanilla ice cream using a hand-crank in the yard. I’d then go into the orchard and pick whatever fruit caught my eye – cherries, peaches, apricots, plums. Freshly churned ice cream and fruit still warm from the sun is a pretty good thing.

 

What is your favourite restaurant?

This one depends on my mood. A year or so ago I ate at Toqué! in Montreal. The food was amazing, and the service was exceptional. Unbelievable attention to detail. Today I will go with Vincenzo’s in K-W. Not really a restaurant, I know, but they make a killer sandwich. My go-to is soppressata on a panini bun with provolone, artichoke caponata, The Bomb, lettuce, green olives, hot peppers, mustard and mayo. Super messy.

 

What is your favourite cookbook?

It’s a toss up between Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn, and Eleven Madison Park by Daniel Humm and Will Guidara. The first is a go-to resource for ratios in patés, terrines and sausages. The latter is a beautiful book. Interesting food, great photography and, well, the recipes all work. It’s difficult to find a cookbook where all of the recipes work.

 

What is your guilty pleasure food?

Hmmmm…. I don’t really feel guilty about eating convenience foods, which is what I think is being asked here. I get a feeling of guilt when I think about fish and shellfish. I sometimes wonder how many shrimp are pulled from the water each day to end up at a Red Lobster or Las Vegas buffet. It actually hurts my head when I think about it. Update: The US imported roughly 1.4 BILLION pounds of shrimp in 2017. That is 4 MILLION pounds a day.

Oh, and Hawkins Cheezies for the win.

 

What food did you think was over-rated until you tried it?

I’ve always thought lobster was over-rated, and I still do. However, in 2013 we had a visiting Australian chef, Lennox Hastie, who had spent a number of years at Etxebarri in Spain. I ate this half lobster, grilled over wood fire. Holy mercy that was good.

 

Favourite knife or kitchen tool?

I love getting new kitchen tools, specifically useful ones. I have to say though that I get through most days with my chef knife, boning knife and my paring knife, Golden Thunder. There is a company called ThermoWorks that has some excellent thermometers and timers. I want to buy everything they have, but I manage to somehow reign it in.

 

What restaurant dish seemed the most intimidating, but is actually really easy to make?

Anything wrapped in puff pastry – Wellington, Coulibiac, etc.

 

Favourite ingredient you can’t get enough of right now?

Gochujang and gochugaru.

 

What is a new technique/flavour you are experimenting with currently?

We made a Ben Shewry Beef Shortrib recipe this year where they are basically given the Texas Style Barbeque treatment. If I recall correctly, we were in the 16 hour range for cook time. They were bleeping good. I’d like to play around using other cuts in this style. I’ve done a lot of smoking, but usually with cured product.

 

Are there any recipes from SCS you still use?

The bayaldi of vegetables. I think it is an Eric Ripert recipe. So simple and so delicious.

 

What is your best SCS memory?

There are actually too many to choose just one. In 2004, after living abroad for several years, I moved back to Canada to attend SCS. That’s 15 years of chefs school to choose from. I haven’t left, or seen Evil Dead 2, yet.

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