Nova Scotia·Artist Profile

How a Nova Scotia chef turns land and sea into works of art

Chef Stephanie Ogilvie sees her work as art. Every item on the plate plays a role on the palette.

Stephanie Ogilvie’s meals go from ‘mind, to paper, to plate’

Halifax chef Stephanie Ogilvie says everything on her plates have a purpose. (Dave Culligan and Gavin Hatheway for CBC)

Stephanie Ogilvie's meals are works of art, in more ways than one.

The Halifax chef brainstorms combinations of ingredients before putting pen to paper.

Halifax chef Stephanie Ogilvie shares her creative process. (Video by Dave Culligan and Gavin Hatheway for CBC) 2:37

"I'll usually start by drawing a dish," she says.

This artwork is just the beginning of the sensory experience.

"You're mixing things. You're touching things. You're tasting things. You're smelling things."

Getaway beef tartare, pickled fiddleheads, chanterelles and garlic scapes, juniper smoked yolk, Yorkshires. (Stephanie Ogilvie/Instagram)

Ogilvie's grandmother played a special role in her love for cooking.

As a child, Ogilvie's family moved from Petitcodiac, N.B., to Toronto. 

But during holidays she would be back around her grandmother's table. 

"It would be biscuits in the morning with molasses and then like the full spread at lunchtime," Ogilvie said, "with different mustard pickles and preserves and like cold cuts and whatever else — baked bread and lots of baked goods."

Today, Ogilvie offers up a different kind of palette.

'Strawberry Shortcake': Burnt honey cake, buttermilk panna cotta, caramelized white chocolate and rose crumble. (Stephanie Ogilvie/Instagram)

She works at Black Sheep Restaurant, and runs Hop Scotch Dinner Club from her home.

"Hop Scotch is a unique, casual, fine dining experience," says on Instagram post. "With extreme focus and inspiration being taken from the bounty of Nova Scotia's land and waters, we'll share with you our exploration of these beautiful ingredients with a multi-course tasting menu, full of surprises."

Ogilvie takes pride in this creative process.

"It's about creating some flavours that are comfortable for people, that they recognize, but then presenting it in a different way."

Strawberry and rhubarb cured foie gras torchon, spruce tip curd, poached rhubarb, pickled green strawberries. (Stephanie Ogilvie/Instagram)

She and her partner forage for some items. 

That could mean finding rose petals, sea asparagus — "pure saline and crunch" — and Wintergreen berries — "you have to get to them before the deer do."

Everything that lands on the palette has a purpose.

"There shouldn't be any garnish that is just there for aesthetic. It has to have a texture and a flavour that coincides with the dish."  

Chicken liver mousse, elderflower poached apricots, hazelnuts, black pepper rosemary madelines. (Stephanie Ogilvie/Instagram)

While being a chef can be a demanding job with long hours, passion goes a long way.

"If you love what you do, you just kind of keep plugging away at it," she said.

And for Ogilvie, plugging means pushing to create something new. Always.

Milk poached salsify, white chocolate budino, candied buckwheat and cocoa nibs, date molasses, warm cocoa nib tea. (Stephanie Ogilvie/Instagram)

With files from Natalie Dobbin, Dave Culligan and Gavin Hatheway for CBC

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