Shop with a Chef: Tobias Grignon, Senova

April 1, 2009

Growing up on Gabriola Island, Tobias Grignon was at play in the kitchen while his friends were out riding their dirt bikes. He made his first batch of croissants at 11. Since then, he’s amassed an impressive résumé, creating savoury dishes for hotels like the Fairmont Waterfront and the Empress in Victoria, as well as the Wedgewood’s Bacchus Restaurant. As head chef at Kerrisdale’s Portuguese gem, Senova (1864 W. 57th Ave., 604-266-8643), Grignon is inspired by simplicity and Mediterranean flavours: rabbit and wild-mushroom paella or seafood cataplana simmered in a tomato-and-fennel broth. He loves heirloom tomatoes, and when the farmers’ markets are closed, he relies on Yen Bros. (1988 Vernon Dr., 604-255-6522) to keep him stocked. He’ll load up on summer berries there, too, for sating his young son’s addiction to blueberry pancakes. His concern for organic food takes him to Stong’s Market (4560 Dunbar St., 604-266-1401, Stongs.com) for lamb, the “one ingredient I will always have on the menu.” At Senova it’s slow braised and served with sweet-pepper ragout, crushed new potato, and green olives from Parthenon (3080 W. Broadway, 604-733-4191), which carries “the absolute best olives in town.” His chorizo (served with steamed mussels and clams from Salt Spring Island) comes from International Sausage (1846 Gilmore Ave., 604-294-8248). Grignon also loves the Punjabi Market (49th Ave. and Main St.), where he searches for every Indian spice and ingredient imaginable: lentils, cumin, cinnamon sticks, turmeric, paneer cheese, chickpeas, and chilies. His father introduced him to Indian flavours and now he stealthily widens his own son’s palate, too, by sneaking garlic into his food: “I have the only two-year-old with garlic breath.”

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