Dale MacKay

Chef de Cuisine, Lumière

January 2, 2008

By Michael Harris

Back in the 1990s, you dropped out of high school and came to Vancouver from Saskatoon. How’d you end up in a kitchen? I got a job washing dishes at Red Robin. I was 17. Before long I was making fries and chicken fingers.

Were you dreaming of fine dining while working the fryer? Yeah. I didn’t go to cooking school, though. I just knew this was what I’d do for the rest of my life. I worked at The Creek when I was 18 and then knocked on the backdoor at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant in London. I asked them to give me one day; by the end of that day I had a job.

So next you worked at Ramsay’s New York restaurant. Is his cruel TV persona true to life? He’ll go crazy if things aren’t perfect, so it’s a good learning curve. Once you prove yourself he’s quite a nice gentleman. You just can’t kiss his ass; you get his respect by working like a dog.

Do you yell and swear as much as he does? You don’t get anywhere by kissing up to me, either, but I get the best out of my people without yelling at them. Of course, if someone does something wrong, then sure, I get mad.

After New York, what brought you back to Vancouver? I took a substantial pay cut to come here. But my five-year-old son Ayden lives here with his mom, and now I get to see him every week—that was a big thing. Coming out here was for him, as well as for Lumière.

Since you arrived, you’ve been scrutinized by the local foodies. You’re stepping into some big shoes, and you’re young. I am young. I’m 28. But I’m not young and stupid. I’m not trying to pull off weird dishes to impress myself and the rest of the foodie people. As long as the guests are happy, I don’t care what some waiter at another restaurant thinks of me. Otherwise, I’d be up all night reading blogs and worrying that someone thinks my hair is a stupid colour. A couple of times a day someone comes in and says, “Did you read this?” I just look at the dishes we’re turning out and think: would my mom be happy with this?

When you came to Lumière, how did you change the menu? I changed every dish except the butternut squash ravioli—that’s my job. As a chef, I’ve got to run my own dishes. I have to know everything about them.

What dishes do you run at home? I don’t. Right now I live with my mom in Burnaby. Her friends think she’s so lucky, but I don’t cook for her at all—I just want to land on the couch and have dinner waiting, like any kid does. She’s a good cook.

 

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