Personal Space: Joan Cross’s Dream Kitchen
June 19, 2012
Photo credit: Lucas Finlay
Recipe tester and cookbook author Joan Cross is a legend among those who've dined at the Point Grey waterfront home that she and husband Sid have shared for nearly four decades.
1. Joan Cross is not only a thoroughbred beauty; in her custom kitchen, warm with oak cupboards, burnished copper stove hood, and hand-painted Portuguese tiles, she's a formidable cook. So experienced and capable, in fact, that she's Rob Feenie's official recipe tester for his upcoming cookbook, Rob Feenie's Casual Classics, launching in September.
2. In the 1970s Cross's father-in-law designed and built bespoke countertops and cupboards to match the polished oak floor. The old cream Aga was replaced with a six-burner Viking Ultra-Line gas cooktop and double convection ovens. Cabinets are loaded with fine stemware, china, porcelain, and pottery for every imaginable use, much of it carted back from annual trips to Europe.
3. Her saucepan collection is eclectic (Cross doesn't believe in matched sets); heavy-gauge French copper, deBayer stainless steel, Paderno, and well-seasoned cast iron all hang from the high ceiling. A favourite is a shapely oval copper sauté pan, perfect for a pair of trout fillets or duck breasts, bought ages ago from the estate of chef Louis Stervinou (of 1970s-era local room Ondine's).
4. Anchoring the galley-style kitchen is a stately Michigan maple butcher's block. A gift from her husband Sid, the golden block, crafted in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, has grown over the years, acquiring wheels, hinged shelves, and a resurfaced top. Here, she sips lattes, kneads dough, rolls pasta, scales recipes for chef Feenie, French-trims chops, dices mirepoix, and plans yet another dinner party.
5. In her weighty maple knife block is Cross's first chef's knife, a French Sabatier of glinting carbon steel. Decades of sharpening (she hones before every use) makes it more like a dagger than a curved chef's blade, but it is still the trustiest of tools. Entirely self-taught, Cross cooked family meals from the age of 10 and started collecting recipes and cookbooks soon after; Julia Child and Jacques Pépin editions started what is now a 500-book library. She reads new acquisitions cover to cover, flagging recipes and techniques of interest.