In 1995, Absolut collaborated with some of Canada’s most influential, up-and-coming chefs to create a series of unique Absolut-inspired dishes. Featuring the likes of Michael Bonacini, Paul Boehmer, Brad Long, Mark McEwan, Rob Feenie, Susur Lee, Christopher McDonald, Arpi Magyar and others, Absolut hand-selected culinary visionaries who have continued to shape the country’s food scene.
Twenty years later, they’re recreating the series by bringing their “alumni” chefs to select the next generation of up-and-comers who they believe will lead the country’s restaurant landscape in the years and decades to come.
Our very own Darby Piquette, Chef de Cuisine at One Restaurant in The Hazelton Hotel in Toronto was nominated for the Absolut Elyx Chef Series by his boss and mentor, Chef Mark McEwan. Absolut sat down with Darby to ask a few questions.
Absolut: Tell us about the dish and cocktail pairing you created for the Absolut Elyx Chef Series. What was your inspiration?
Darby: I used a dish currently on the menu at One Restaurant, and switched it up a bit for the shoot. For the original Chef Series 20 years ago, Chef McEwan made an Ahi Tuna dish and I wanted to follow in his footsteps.
My dish is seared yellowfin tuna belly with sweet pea falafel, Israeli couscous salad, mint, pomegranate yogurt, cumin vinaigrette and citrus butter sauce. It eats very light and healthy, and is a great summer option for our busy patio.
Absolut: How would you describe a successful approach to food and cocktail pairing?
Darby: I had ideas in mind about the cocktail pairing, and the direction in which I wanted to go, but I won’t lie, my knowledge of cocktails (other than opening a can of cider for myself) is limited. I focus on what’s happening in the kitchen and rely on our bar team to create cocktail pairings for the dishes.
For this shoot, I left the creation of the cocktail accompaniment in the hands of our talented bartender, Reuben Barkow of One Restaurant. Reuben knows the dish well, and came up with the Absolut Elyx Pom Fizz as a complement. The mixture of pomegranate, mint and lime with both the cocktail and tuna are a great mix and the acidity of lime juice and fizz of prosecco match very well with the fatty yellowfin ‘Toro’. Balance is important.
Absolut: How would you describe your overall cooking style or philosophy?
Darby: My overall cooking style is Continental. I love researching different cuisines, and learning how to incorporate their preparation methods and ingredients into my own dishes. My philosophy toward food is quite simple: Always have fun. Make food that makes people happy and let the ingredients shine. The simpler the better; it’s just food and drink, baby!
Absolut: What’s next for you? Do you have specific goals set for five, 10, or 20 years from now?
Darby: I’m not totally sure what’s next for me. I have always lived life second by second, never really planning too much into the future. I am too busy at the restaurant to carve out a fantasy life in front of me to work towards. I plan on working at the hotel and learning for as long as I can, and meeting as many people as I can before carrying out the thought of running away to the Caribbean to open a fried chicken and doughnut shop with my girlfriend!
Absolut: Chef Mark McEwan tells us why he nominated Darby for the Elyx Chef Series:
There is no harder working young man who loves food and his customers the way he does. ~ Chef Mark McEwan
ABSOLUT ELYX POM FIZZ
1 ½ oz. Absolut Elyx
2 oz. Prosecco
1 oz. Lime juice
1 oz. Simple syrup
2 oz. Pomegranate juice
Fresh Mint leaves for muddle and garnish
Fresh Pomegranate seeds
Muddle fresh mint, Absolut Elyx, lime and simple syrup. Add ice and pomegranate juice. Top with prosecco, fresh mint leaves and pomegranate juice. Serve in Collins glass.
Inspired by his mentor, Chef Mark McEwan’s original dish, Chef de Cuisine Darby Piquette opted to work with this seared yellowfin tuna belly. Absolut Darby features the tuna as the star, with sweet pea falafel, Israeli couscous salad, mint, pomegranate yogurt, cumin vinaigrette and citrus butter sauce. The lime juice and prosecco in an Absolut Elyx Pom Fizz cocktail provide a nice balance to the fatty yellowfin in Chef’s dish.
Read more about the Absolut Elyx Chef Series here.
Image credits: Absolut