By Catherine Dunwoody
Classic French cuisine is not particularly easy to find in BC, let alone in the outlying areas of Metro Vancouver. Perhaps that’s why Langley’s Bacchus Bistro in the Chaberton Winery is such a hidden gem, authentic dishes served in a beautiful setting – with dedicated customers who return regularly. West Coast Food regular contributor Catherine Dunwoody had the opportunity to chat with Chef Ashley Chisham over classic dishes including French onion soup and duck confit, that did not disappoint.
Where were you born?
Vancouver BC, born and raised.
What was food like in your growing up household?
My mom is an excellent cook! Most everything was made from scratch and with a lot of care. Homemade pierogies and cabbage rolls were always a favourite, as well as pasta, tacos. Roasts with all the traditional sides like Yorkshire pudding etc. on special occasions. And there was almost always dessert, cakes, pies, cookies, dumplings, beignets, or some funky dessert recipe that my mom dreamed up! Basically, quite varied.
Did you cook at home during your childhood?
Yes. I have many fond memories of cooking with my mom growing up, she was my first teacher in the kitchen. Helping with the Christmas baking was always a lot of fun. As I got a bit older, I was able to have more independence in the kitchen to make pastas, tacos, and use the barbecue to cook up steaks, chicken, and salmon. Looking back, that’s where I learned the joy of spending a few hours cooking a meal and then sharing it with people that I care about.
Where did you study culinary and when?
Vancouver Community College in the late ’90s.
Most rewarding experience in your earlier days? Any mentors?
Professionally speaking, completing my apprenticeship and gaining my Culinary Red Seal was definitely my most rewarding accomplishment in my first few years of cooking professionally. My two main mentors in my early career would have to be John Kavanaugh whom I apprenticed under, and Frederic Desbiens, who I served as Sous Chef for a little over three years.
What style of cuisine do you serve at the restaurant?
The Bacchus Bistro is known as a French Bistro. All of our food here firmly has its roots in traditional French technique, but also increasingly reflects the diversity of people and the wonderful local farmers and suppliers that make up the Fraser Valley.
What are your biggest challenges as a Chef?
I would have to say my biggest challenges in being a Chef is finding balance. As a Chef you are always being pulled in different directions in the restaurant, and often at the same time in addition to cooking. It is also important for me to have a balance between the bistro and my family life.
Any advice for young people who aspire to be chefs or restaurateurs?
Focus on the basics. Cooking technique, sourcing quality ingredients, treating your co-workers with respect, and always think of the dining experience of your guests.
For more information, visit www.chabertonwinery.com