Q+A with Chef Taryn Casey, Rose and Sons Swan

creativity food Q+A

Photography by Kayla Chobotiuk

A chef at Toronto’s Rose and Sons Swan restaurant, headed by Anthony Rose (“the Judd Apatow of the city’s restaurant scene”), Taryn Casey always knew she wanted to be a chef. After completing a culinary management degree at George Brown, she traveled the world in search of semifreddo and pan di spagna (thanks to Italy, amongst many other countries) and then journeyed home to cater (literally) to Toronto’s restaurant scene. Her current post at Swan sees her as the mastermind behind the restaurant’s menu staple Taryn’s Daily Bakes, where she creates a new and innovative baked dessert to satisfy the patrons’ collective sweet tooth. We spent the morning with Taryn as she put the finishing touches on a honey buttermilk spice cake with cream cheese frosting (yes, we’re drooling too). Taryn-Casey-1 Where do you find your inspiration? We’re exposed to so much media these days (cookbooks, Bon Appétit Magazine, Saveur, Instagram), I’m not even sure exactly where my ideas come from. I went traveling to Europe last year to find inspiration and learn classic cooking techniques, which was the most amazing experience of my life. Inspiration over there just comes from their fresh, local ingredients, and what their grandmothers cooked for them—from tradition, which I love. It comes so naturally to the chefs there. They don’t complicate dishes, and it’s just simple and delicious. So I try to put that in my cooking. I mostly just make things that I always wanted to eat as a kid. Things that you’d look at or think of and be like, “How does that even come to be?” I have the biggest appetite, and growing up I’d always be in the kitchen trying to bake things I’d crave, just by just throwing random ingredients in a bowl and calling them “made up cakes.” My poor mom had to try all these creations of mine. They weren’t so good. I’ve improved since! TarynCasey-bakedgoods What does your workspace look like? We work in a tight space. It’s a small kitchen and can have up to six cooks—we are literally working on top of each other sometimes. It’s important to keep things clean as a chef. One of the first things they’ll teach you in cooking school is that a messy station is a big no-no. Cooking is about being organized and having all your “mise en place” (a cooking term that means “everything in its place”) ready to go. You’ve got to be ready for anything! Brunch is a crazy time–it’s nonstop for almost seven hours, so you really have to be prepared. Working in such a small space forces you to be clean and organized, so I am grateful for that. TarynCasey-4 How do you stay creative? Cooking is so cool—there are endless possibilities of combinations and recipes, so you can never get bored. Every day I like to find something that I’ve never made before. You get to constantly test yourself, and teach yourself. A lot of the time a recipe won’t turn out exactly how you expected it to, but this is great because when you do it again, you know what to change or add. Failing is an important part of cooking, this is when you learn the most and what gets your creative juices really flowing. It’s frustrating but necessary in order to grow as a chef. TarynCasey-foodphotog What’s your advice for people looking to become a chef? Get as much experience as you can in the kitchen. You don’t have to go to school to become a chef—you’ll learn a lot more working in a kitchen, even starting as a dishwasher. If you really want it, you have to be patient, and know that your successes will not happen overnight. This is a profession that you will be honing for your entire career—you have to be disciplined. Also, traveling is an absolute must! Go everywhere and eat everything. Food is so different around the world, and such a big part of a country’s culture. So much pride is taken in the way food is prepared and what a country’s ancestors ate, unlike in North America, where our food culture is a melting pot of other countries' culinary tastes. It’s important to get firsthand experience and form a basic “food foundation” that you’ll continue to add to for years to come. What more could you want than seeing the world through food? TarynCasey-Smiling

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