Q&A with Martin Kouprie, Executive Chef and Co-owner, Pangaea Restaurant, Toronto

  • Career Path: School of hard knocks. Started as a summer student and never left.
  • Years of Experience as a Chef: 22 as an Executive Chef

What are your earliest memories of cooking?

My mother making ‘Poffertjes’ little dollar-sized Dutch pancakes that are served with sweet butter and powdered sugar. The rule is not to inhale as you eat them to prevent choking on the sugar!

Why do you think you were drawn to a culinary career?

I was hungry. No, seriously, I like making all kinds of things. I also do woodworking and I’ve recently taken a blacksmithing course.

How would you describe your restaurant(s) or foodservice operation?

At Pangaea every ingredient has a story.

If you knew you were eating your last meal, what would you have?

Whatever was in season, washed down with vintage champagne.

What is your philosophy about food?

Let the flavours speak for themselves.

Where do you go to dine out?

We love ethnic food. So honest, so much flavour! In the last month we’ve been out for Jamaican, Korean and Syrian food. There is so much access to authentic cuisine in Toronto! It’s wonderful.

What is your favourite ingredient?

Butter. But, in a pinch I’ll settle for cream.

Who were your biggest influences/inspirations for becoming a chef?

George Blanc, Michel Giraud, Alain Ducasse, Joel Robuchon, Robert Bourassa.

If you knew you were going to be exiled to a desert island, what three ingredients or food items would take with you?

Pork blood, smoked salt, candy floss.

What do you think is the most overrated food trend right now?

Just throwing all the food down on the table at once. Where have service and a progressive meal gone? I say bring back tablecloths, multiple forks and stemmed crystal glasses!

What do you think is the most underrated food trend?

It’s so underrated that it’s almost extinct but I say tableside service deserves a comeback. When’s the last time a waiter boned and served your fish or flambéed your dessert? Now that’s eater-tainment!

Is there any type of cuisine that you would like to experiment with?

I’d love to cook in a pioneer kitchen.

Which cooking technique or tool is a favourite of yours right now, and why?

I’m immersed in learning about cheese-making (Gouda, valency, cheddar, Stilton — the works) so a PH-meter is my best friend.

What is your favourite food combination right now?

It’s late summer/autumn, so I’m jonesing on pan-seared sturgeon with mushrooms and veal jus. The umami from the meat and mushrooms balances the flavour of the sturgeon perfectly.

Do you have any culinary guilty pleasures? Food treats that you couldn’t live without?

I indulge in the occasional PopTart. It’s a childhood hangover.

What are some of the most interesting or unique challenges of being a restaurateur and chef?

Balancing work, family, friends and fitness.

What advice would you have for aspiring new chefs as they enter the industry?

Really master the basics. Learn the old lessons before you start experimenting with the new ones.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *