Q&A with Chef David Wong of Earls Kitchen + Bar
By: Mary Luz Mejia
Foodservice and Hospitality (F+H): Are soups getting healthier/lighter?
David Wong (DW): They are. We focus on seasonal soups, with lighter soups full of vibrant flavours for summer and warming, hearty, comforting soups for the colder months. The soups feature different weights of broth, although we primarily use a vegetable stock.
F+H: Why do you think there’s a move to the lighter or healthier side of the menu right now?
DW: Diners are more mindful of their health and the food they’re consuming. The generation of people who are eating out now — those who have disposable income — are of the mindset they want to do things that make them happy. They’re after self-satisfaction and personal fulfillment, and along with that come healthy attitudes towards eating. It’s great. For my parents’ generation, this was less of a priority; they had other things to deal with.
F+H: What kinds of vegetables and proteins do you like to feature in your soups and where do you source them?
DW: We offer a variety of fresh vegetables that we source from our own garden that grows the specific products we offer seasonally. Our farm, called Evergreen, is in Cloverdale, in southern British Columbia. Evergreen supplies our organic baby vegetables, teen vegetables and salad greens from June through late October for all our B.C. and Alberta restaurants — 30 of them. We also have a grower in Ontario, Country Herbs, with a similar program that supplies organic baby vegetables, teen vegetables and salad greens for our five restaurants in Ontario and three in Manitoba. We offer a great, antibiotic-free Canadian Angus beef from Alberta’s Spring Creek Ranch. It’s an incredible benefit for a chef to have access to this kind of product. We don’t have to guess if the product is going to be good or not; we always know what we’re going to get.
F+H: That’s a huge bonus. What kind of produce are you currently growing on these farms?
DW: We have just planted some unusual heirloom carrot varieties, torpedo onions, candy cane beets, kohlrabi, Swiss chard and peaches and cream corn, amongst other vegetables that will hopefully make it onto menus soon. In all, at Evergreen, 40 acres of vegetables are planted for Earls’ restaurants and we go through about 200,000 lbs of organic vegetables and salad greens per year in Western Canada. Evergreen is proudly biodynamic; 100 per cent of organic waste is composted and returned back to the soil and its fertilizer is 100 per cent organic. Over 90 per cent of their own packaging is recycled and environmentally friendly, with containers made 100 per cent out of corn. It’s a win-win for us and our guests.