Welcome back to the Chef Spotlight Series. Today, we’re getting to know chef Daniel Shipley who, together with his brother Michael, owns and operates Farm’s Gate Foods & Catering. Based in Duncan, the catering business travels across Vancouver Island, and the food truck is a staple at the Thursday night Esquimalt Market where you can find farm-fresh offerings. Truly an advocate of the Farm to Table movement, Shipley uses local ingredients to create an ever-changing seasonal menu. Get to know Shipley in his own words, and check out his recipe for Winter Squash Fritters, perfect for the season.
Who or what inspired you to become a chef?
I was fortunate to spend my high school years on Salt Spring Island where the school had a really good food program led at the time by chef Al Irving. I was always interested in cooking but I didn’t think of it as something that I would pursue professionally until I actually started learning from a passionate chef.
What inspires your menus? Is there a dish you frequently make?
I’m all about sourcing close to home, so seasonality plays a huge part in determining what my menus look like. We cater a lot of weddings and my favourite side dish that really exemplifies my style is described simply as ‘Marinated Seasonal Vegetables.’ It sounds generic but will typically have anywhere between five to 10 different vegetables sourced from different farms in the Cowichan Valley, marinated in local garlic and sweet onions, herbs from our garden, vinegar from Salt Spring Vinegar, spices, and olive oil.
What is your go-to meal for yourself after a long day?
Breakfast for dinner, for sure.
If you could dine at any restaurant in the world, where would it be?
Blue Hill at Stone Barns in upstate New York. I went to the Culinary Institute of America about an hour away and regret not going when I was so close.
How do you see your business, Farm’s Gate, evolving in 2022?
In 2021 we went from working out of an eight by 10-foot food trailer to working out of a 1,000-square-foot production kitchen, and we are beginning to explore some new ways of utilizing our space so that our customers can access our food in different formats. Events are busier than ever and we are looking forward to growing our team this year.
Were there any obstacles that you had to overcome to become a chef or open your business?
I think any chef who has lasted in the industry has probably had some pretty real challenges to finding success. It’s well documented how hard the industry can be on our mental health. I have been challenged by that at different points in my time in the industry, most recently during the first year of COVID. I struggled with some imposter syndrome after going from catering large events and organizing long table dinners to slinging frozen food. Focusing on the producers, their ingredients, and the need within our community that we have been able to fill helped me through that.
Who or what has had the biggest influence on your direction within the industry?
I’ve been fortunate to work with really talented chefs in different capacities throughout my career so of course, you take as much as you can from those experiences. My time in agriculture, however, probably had the biggest impact on my philosophies as a chef and on the direction for Farm’s Gate. Learning how much goes into food production and how devoted producers are to what they do really changed my perspective on the ingredients that I am able to work with.
What is your favourite thing to do on your day off?
Slow mornings, a stroll in the woods, and board games with friends.
What’s your current favourite local restaurant to eat at?
Unsworth Restaurant in Cowichan is probably my current favourite. There are a lot of restaurants in Victoria I have been eager to try. I really enjoyed my experiences at Chorizo and Co. and Nowhere * A Restaurant recently.
If you could cook with one Chef, who would it be?
If Fernand Point was still kicking it, it would be him.
Recipe Roasted Winter Squash Fritters
• 3 pounds roughly whole kabocha squash
• Olive oil
• 2 medium onions, diced
• 3 cloves garlic, pureed
• 1 teaspoon chipotle or chili powder
• 1/4 cup maple syrup
• 1 1/4 cup chickpea powder
• Salt and pepper
• Oil to fry
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Halve and deseed the squash. Season flesh and drizzle with olive oil. Turn cut side down onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, and roast for 30-40 minutes or until very tender. Let cool.
- While squash is roasting, saute onions over medium heat until lightly browned and softened. About 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for one minute. Add chipotle powder and cook until aromatic. Add maple syrup and reduce it by half. Remove from heat and let cool.
- Remove the flesh from the skin of the squash and put it into a mixing bowl, scraping the skin if needed. Add in your onion mixture and chickpea flour. Mix until flour is incorporated and season to taste.
- Heat enough oil in the bottom of a saute pan to generously cover the bottom, over medium heat. Spoon batter into the pan and gently press to flatten out. Cook until fairly brown, flip, and brown the other side. Alternatively, you can deep fry the batter.