CBC News

Q&A: Chef Michael Smith

By Tara Kimura, CBCNews.ca

We chatted with Chef Michael Smith, host of Chef Abroad and Chef at Home, on Friday and covered a range of issues including the local food movement, P.E.I.'s Fall Flavours festival, and how to stock your pantry. We also asked Smith a few of your questions (thanks readers for submitting excellent questions!). Here is an edited transcript of our conversation.

CBC.ca: Your new show features you visiting some exotic and far-flung places – how has travelling to these different places in the world changed your approach in the kitchen?


Michael Smith: I have to say that the best part of travelling is quite simply coming home. I've enjoyed some amazing adventures over the last two years and I've been to almost 30 countries now – we've been around the world four times. I've been to places like Thailand and Morocco and the Amazon – places that I've always wanted to go. I've learned many things, I've met fascinating people, I've tasted things I never even knew existed. But having said all of that I firmly believe that I would much rather be at home cooking on Prince Edward Island, hanging out with my friends and my family and showing off the local ingredients. So if anything I guess I've just learned to love even more what I have here, to understand just how blessed we are in Canada and here on Prince Edward Island.

CBC.ca: Can you tell us a bit about what people can expect at the Fall Flavours?

Michael Smith: Fall Flavours is a festival that we started last year and it was such a success, such an amazing blow-out success that it's extended to 10 days. And this year we have over 150 culinary events that will be a part of Fall Flavours. Fall Flavours takes place the end of September into the beginning of October so right in the middle of our harvest season here on Prince Edward Island.

We have programming that is loosely grouped into two different types. We have over 150 different things happening during those 10 days. During the day you can go and you can experience food and by that I mean, not just taste it or see it or hear about it but get your hands dirty. We'll take you out on the ocean and you can pull out lobster traps, you can see what it takes to land oysters and mussels, you can get right in and get dirty doing it.

You can spend the day on a farm digging potatoes and then sit down at the kitchen table with the farmer and his family for dinner. Those are the sorts of things we're doing during the day because we know that people really like to experience things now and not just see them or hear about them. During the evening, we have a whole roster of what we call "signature events" and these are events that feature our thriving community of chefs here on Prince Edward Island as well as the farmers and fishermen that largely define what foods all about here.

CBC.ca: Here's a question from one of our readers. Kerri asks, "I am growing eggplant in the garden this year for the first time. Any suggestions on how to use it besides the usual eggplant parmesan?"

Michael Smith: My all-time favourite way to eat eggplant is to grill it. There is a texture hidden in egglplant that some of us never get to experience and one of the best ways to get at is on the grill. You can simply cut eggplant either into very thick rounds or into long thin slices, brush it with a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper and grill it. As you know, eggplant when it's raw is a bit spongy and as it cooks there will come a point when it goes from opaque to translucent and it takes on this amazing, creamy texture – this delicious, luscious texture that you will never forget.

CBC.ca: Ariel in Kitchener says, "I really like watching you go into the pantry and pull together a bunch of ingredients for a great meal. But what's your advice for the rest of us who don't have such a well-stocked fridge and pantry? How could we grocery shop to buy ingredients that can go together while still giving us the room to cook spontaneously without a recipe?"

Michael Smith: The first approach is to come at the art of cooking, free-styling mindset. In other words, perhaps the thing to do first is to get the ingredients and then come up with the ideas for how you want to put them together. You don't have to have the pantry as well stocked as mine, the one that you see on Chef at Home, but you do need to have that open-minded, free-styling approach to how you're cooking and a willingness to try new things and to try stirring your own personality in.

Secondly, I think that one of the things that I've learned as a parent certainly is … that 99 per cent of the decisions I make are decisions at the grocery store, not in the kitchen. If you're not bringing home processed food, if you're not bringing home junk, then your kids can't eat junk. Take the time to fill your cart up with lots of fruits and vegetables, lots of whole grains, lots of real dairy and things like that and you'll do just fine when you get home.

I think too that a simple approach works best – sometimes we strive for creativity for creativity's sake when really what we are looking for is something that's simple and tasty and flavourful. You don't have to feel the need or the stress of throwing 90 different things into the pan, usually the best flavour groups are just two or three ingredients working together.

Another thing that you can find quite inspiring is the local connection… I'm thrilled to note that one of the fastest growing trends in the world of food all over North America is our return to local. I'm also thrilled to note that we never really lost that connection on Prince Edward Island, it's one of the things that makes it such a gourmet mecca or a chef's paradise if you will. I'm also very pleased that we're all supporting CSAs – and CSAs are of course Community Supported Agriculture. What that is an opportunity for you to forge a connection locally with somebody in your local community…I strongly believe that when you have that local food connection, it influences your approach to the cooking of the food because you're all of the sudden not just dealing with a commodity, you're dealing with something that's very, very personal and that allows you to treat it simply and respect that simplicity and not feel the stress of having to come up with some outrageous, exotic idea that you may have seen me do in my crazy pantry.

CBC.ca: We have a question from Kari who says, I joined a Community Supported Agriculture for the first time this year. Right now am getting a lot of Asian greens … Any suggestions on how to cook these?

Michael Smith: My wife and her best friend are partners in a market garden, in a CSA. They together are Fortune Organics and this year are now delivering to 75 families in my community. And they include recipes for everything in their box. So, first I would suggest that you reach out to your farmer and ask them if they're going to include an ingredient that is perhaps unfamiliar to you to also include a recipe to go with it.

My favourite way to eat greens is simply to steam them - this goes for all greens, this goes for spinach, this could be any Asian green, this could be beet greens, any green at all. Simply toss them with a sesame dressing – Rachel invented this one, at least in our family. She'll take some tahini (which is sesame paste) and she'll toss that with a little bit of sesame oil (just a few drops – roasted sesame oil is very strong), and she'll squeeze a lemon into it. We're basically making a warm salad here, maybe a splash of olive oil and then toss that quick dressing together with the steamed greens and also toss in some sesame seeds so you get greens with three different sesames.

Think of it as a warm salad, and come up with a great dressing that you like that works for you with other salads and toss it with the greens and no doubt you'll be happy.

CBCNews.ca: Thank you again for taking some time to speak with us.

Michael Smith: It's my pleasure, we hope to see you on Prince Edward Island. We're all excited here, our strawberries are coming into season, the corn will be along soon enough, the lobster is still in season. We've got all kinds of great chefs cooking up a storm. It's the time to come and eat on P.E.I. so come on out and visit.

Summer recipes inspired by Prince Edward Island – brought to you by Chef Michael Smith, host of Food Network’s Chef at Home and Chef Abroad

Prince Edward Island Smoked Salmon with Pasta and Simple Lemon Dill Cream Cheese Sauce

This is one of the most popular dishes on my table. Our friends love its bright, familiar flavours and we love how easy it is to make. You can toss steaming, wet, just cooked pasta with melting cream cheese to form an incredibly smooth luxurious sauce. The smoked salmon adds extravagance balanced by other familiar flavours: dill, lemon, onion, mustard and capers. A five star dish for sharing!

Serves four

1 lb penne or your favourite shaped pasta like bowties, long pastas like spaghetti don’t work as well
1 cup room temperature cream cheese
1 bunch of fresh dill, chopped
4 green onions, sliced
1 lemon, juiced and zested
1 heaping spoonful of Dijon mustard
1/4 cup capers
8 ounces smoked salmon, or more
sprinkled sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Season it liberally with salt until tastes like a day at the beach on Prince Edward Island. As the pasta cooks it will absorb the salted water and become properly seasoned. Cook al dente, until the pasta is cooked through but still pleasantly chewy.

Scoop out some of the starchy cooking water. Drain the pasta but not quite all the way. Leave it a bit wet. Toss the pasta back into the pot along with a splash or two of the reserved water, perhaps a half-cup or so in total then immediately add the rest of the ingredients. While the pasta is still steaming hot it will easily melt the cream cheese and form a rich creamy sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Simply Steamed Island Blue Mussels with Three Different Flavours
Mussels are super simple to cook and travel with their own built-in sauce base. They’re easy to steam and when you do, they release a flavourful broth that many connoisseurs swear is the best part. That broth can be flavoured any way you care too so mussels are also a great ingredient to free style with.

Serves four

Five to six pounds of mussels, rinsed well with lots of cold running water
Choose 1 of the following three flavouring groups:

  • A 12 ounce bottle of your favourite local beer, a sliced onion, a tablespoon of butter
  • 1 cup of orange juice, 1 tablespoon of curry powder
  • 1 cup of whatever wine you’re drinking, 1 tablespoon of mustard, 1 teaspoon of dried thyme, 1 tablespoon of butter

Wash the mussels very well and discard any that are open and wont close with a bit of gentle finger pressure.

Pour the liquid and other aromatic ingredients of your choice into a large pot with a tight fitting lid. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add the mussels and cover with the lid. Shake the pot occasionally and cook until all the mussels have opened, ten minutes or so.

Spoon out the mussels into a serving bowl. Strain the remaining liquid to remove any broken shell or lingering sand in it. Serve with the mussels and lots of bread for soaking up the flavourful juice!

Organic Prince Edward Island Field Greens with Apple Vinaigrette & Pumpkin Seeds

A simple greens salad is both healthy and tasty. When you toss it yourself with local organic greens and a homemade dressing it can also be a powerful way to support sustainable food choices.

Serves four

Four handfuls of local, organic field greens
1/2 cup of toasted pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup of canola oil
2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon of local honey
1 teaspoon of any mustard
salt and pepper to taste

In a festive salad bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, honey and mustard until they form a smooth dressing. Toss the greens in the dressing until evenly and lightly coated. Sprinkle on the pumpkin seeds and any other of your favourite locally and seasonally inspired salad garnishes!

« Previous Post | Main | Next Post »

This discussion is now Open. Submit your Comment.


Helen Borgen

I love your show. My father was a chef and he was born and raised on P.E.I. I love it there and I have only been lucky enough to go 3 times but they were great. I am not a chef but I am a cook and one day I would like to be an actual chef but due to disability in my right arm it will make it a bit more challenging for me. I have learned lots from watching your show and it is one of my favorite shows even my grandkids enjoy watching you and Gabe. Keep Cooking Micheal you rock

Posted July 14, 2009 01:07 AM

« Previous Post | Main | Next Post »

Post a Comment


Note: By submitting your comments you acknowledge that CBC has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Please note that due to the volume of e-mails we receive, not all comments will be published, and those that are published will not be edited. But all will be carefully read, considered and appreciated.

Note: Due to volume there will be a delay before your comment is processed. Your comment will go through even if you leave this page immediately afterwards.

Privacy Policy | Submissions Policy

Food Bytes »

About the blog

From trends and culture to politics and nutrition, Food Bytes serves up tasty tidbits about food and the issues surrounding it that flavour our everyday lives.

About the writers

Amber Hildebrandt Amber Hildebrandt writes for CBCNews.ca in Toronto. Growing up on a farm in Manitoba, she acquired an insatiable appetite, but it was during a stint in Japan that she developed her discerning tastebuds and "foodie" ways.

Andrea Chiu Andrea Chiu is an associate producer at CBC Radio Digital. Though she loves to eat, cook and discuss food, don't ask her to bake. It never turns out well. She tweets as @TOfoodie on Twitter and organizes food and wine events in Toronto called FoodieMeet.

Tara Kimura Tara Kimura is the consumer life reporter for CBCNews.ca, covering a wide range of issues that range from rising food costs and the growing organic movement, to new trends in the marketplace.

Andree Lau Andree Lau is a CBC web reporter in Calgary. Her journalism career includes seven years as a CBC-TV reporter. Her own blog called "are you gonna eat that?" chronicles her eating adventures (including sampling snake and camel hoof tendon).

Jessica Wong Jessica Wong is a CBCNews.ca writer who loves to eat and cook, as well as discuss, read and watch programming about food, sometimes all at once.

Kevin Yarr Kevin Yarr, CBCNews.ca's writer in Prince Edward Island, wrote about food and beer for national and regional magazines before joining the CBC. He acquired a desire for new tastes on his first trip to Europe, and an appreciation of eating locally and in season when he finally settled down on P.E.I.

Elizabeth Bridge Elizabeth Bridge is a writer with the CBC Digital Archives in Toronto. She first ventured into the kitchen as a child to indulge a sweet tooth by baking cookies and making fudge. A student budget compelled her to be a vegetarian (for a while) and instilled in her an ongoing curiosity about food and cooking.


Food features

Recent Posts

Bon voyage, bon appetit
Monday, July 6, 2009
Q&A: Chef Michael Smith
Friday, June 26, 2009
Your Interview: Chef Michael Smith
Thursday, June 25, 2009
The spice merchant
Monday, June 22, 2009
Unconventional barbecue
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Subscribe to Food Bytes


July 2009 (1)
June 2009 (8)
May 2009 (13)
April 2009 (12)
March 2009 (10)
February 2009 (9)
January 2009 (9)
December 2008 (16)
November 2008 (13)
October 2008 (12)
September 2008 (11)
August 2008 (9)
July 2008 (12)
June 2008 (10)
May 2008 (16)


Agriculture (12)
Amber Hildebrandt (24)
Amuse-bouche (36)
Andree Lau (29)
Culture (48)
Elizabeth Bridge (11)
Health (15)
Industry (30)
Jessica Wong (31)
Kevin Yarr (19)
Leigh Felesky (3)
Politics (12)
Tara Kimura (33)
Trends (37)
[an error occurred while processing this directive]

World »

Charlotte Elizabeth Diana's name loved by royal revellers
Two days after the birth of the latest member of the Royal Family, Kensington Palace announced the royal baby's name: Charlotte Elizabeth Diana.
Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev cries at death penalty trial
Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has shown emotion for the first time in his federal death penalty trial, crying as his aunt took the stand and wiping his eyes repeatedly with a tissue.
Photos Met Gala 2015: Beyonce, Rihanna, the Clooneys hit the red carpet
Movie and television stars, socialites, athletes and the biggest names in fashion were out dazzling on the red carpet ahead of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Gala for China: Through The Looking Glass on Monday night in New York City
more »

Canada »

Alberta election: What a minority government could mean
Polls suggest Alberta could elect the first minority government in its history, which would end the 44-year streak of Progressive Conservative majorities.
Liberals win majority in P.E.I. election video
The Liberals were handed the keys to government for a third election in a row on Prince Edward Island on Monday, but were also delivered a strong message of caution from voters.
Insulting police online banned by Granby, Que., bylaw
Insulting a police officer or municipal official on the internet has been made illegal in the town of Granby, Que., after the council voted unanimously tonight in favour of beefing up an already controversial bylaw.
more »

Politics »

Liberals win majority in P.E.I. election video
The Liberals were handed the keys to government for a third election in a row on Prince Edward Island on Monday, but were also delivered a strong message of caution from voters.
Justin Trudeau plan taxes top 1% to cut taxes, boost benefits for middle class video
Justin Trudeau has unveiled the Liberal alternative to the Harper government's economic plan: hike taxes for the wealthiest one per cent to pay for more generous child benefits and an across-the-board income tax cut for the middle class. Watch Employment Minister Pierre Poilievre's reaction live.
Auditor general's Senate review finds 'a few people with big issues': sources video
Auditor General Michael Ferguson has issued final audit letters to senators, including a handful whose expense claims are being flagged for egregious patterns of behaviour, CBC News has learned. Sources tell CBC News that the RCMP are watching the results of the audits closely.
more »

Health »

Sorry - we can't find that page

Sorry, we can't find the page you requested.

  1. Please check the URL in the address bar, or ...
  2. Use the navigation links at left to explore our site, or ...
  3. Enter a term in the Quick Search box at top, or ...
  4. Visit our site map page

In a few moments, you will be taken to our site map page, which will help you find what you looking for.

more »

Arts & Entertainment»

Photos Met Gala 2015: Beyonce, Rihanna, the Clooneys hit the red carpet
Movie and television stars, socialites, athletes and the biggest names in fashion were out dazzling on the red carpet ahead of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Gala for China: Through The Looking Glass on Monday night in New York City
Joni Mitchell may soon be released from hospital, says lawyer
Folk singer Joni Mitchell may be released from the hospital soon but still cannot confer with doctors about her medical care or long-term treatment, an attorney told a judge on Monday.
Grace Lee Whitney, Star Trek actor, dead at 85
Grace Lee Whitney, who played Captain Kirk's assistant on the original Star Trek series, has died. She was 85.
more »

Technology & Science »

Urban Death Project: A case for composting your dead body audio
Traditional burials and cremation are hard on the environment. CBC's The Current explores why you might want to compost a dead body instead.
Tesla battery could power big change in electricity use
Those in the Canadian electricity business are still trying to figure out what Tesla's bold battery announcement will mean for the industry.
No feature goes unchanged in revealing digital retouching video
We all know that the images of beautiful people we see adorning glossy pages of high-fashion magazines and their online counterparts are digitally retouched – but new time-lapse videos made by an expert who works on fashion magazine images reveal just how far "retouching" goes.
more »

Money »

Baggage fees boosted U.S. airline revenue by $3.5B
The 27 U.S.-based passenger airlines collected $3.5 billion US in baggage fees and $3 billion in reservation-change fees from passengers in 2014.
Seniors in Ontario make up 30% of bankruptcies: report
Seniors and those approaching retirement are making up a growing proportion of those filing for insolvency in Ontario and have bigger debts compared to younger people, a report said Monday.
SurveyMonkey CEO Dave Goldberg died of head trauma in exercise accident
SurveyMonkey CEO David Goldberg died of severe head trauma in an exercise accident in the Mexican resort town of Punta Mita, a Mexican state official said Monday.
more »

Consumer Life »

Sorry - we can't find that page

Sorry, we can't find the page you requested.

  1. Please check the URL in the address bar, or ...
  2. Use the navigation links at left to explore our site, or ...
  3. Enter a term in the Quick Search box at top, or ...
  4. Visit our site map page

In a few moments, you will be taken to our site map page, which will help you find what you looking for.

more »

Sports »

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
NHL playoffs: 3 stories from Monday night video
The only second-round series tied 1-1 shifted to Washington for Game 3 Monday night as the Capitals battled the visiting New York Rangers. It proved to be the Rangers' 10th consecutive one-goal playoff game but the only goal belonged to the Capitals.
Top dog Jay Beagle fires 1st NHL playoff game winner
Jay Beagle is best known for his faceoff prowess, contributions to a standout Washington Capitals penalty-kill and work ethic. On Monday night, he made a difference by scoring the game-winning goal against the New York Rangers.
Recap R.A. Dickey leads Blue Jays to series-opening win over Yankees video
Pinch hitter Russell Martin drove in the go-ahead runs in the eighth inning as the Toronto Blue Jays slipped past the visiting New York Yankees 3-1 on Monday. Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey pitched eight innings for his first win of the season.
more »

Diversions »

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
more »