In our Chef Spotlight Series, we were able to catch up with Chef Joanne (Jo) Predan of La Roux Patisserie. Jo began her cooking journey with her spare time in the kitchen and learning, at age nine, from a Hungarian chef. Her formal schooling started at the Georgian College in Barrie, Ontario, and continued at Camosun College in Victoria. She began her apprenticeship in Victoria with Chef Daniel Vokey of Patisserie Daniel and ended with mentorship from Chef Phillip Headen (formerly Wharfside Eatery). Prior to becoming Head Chef at La Roux, Jo worked at Church & State Winery, Uplands Golf Club, and the Union club in addition to many smaller cafes and bakeries around town. She has an affinity for vintage cookbooks, and recipes and believes in combining the tried and true recipes with more modern ingredients.
If there are three ingredients that you couldn’t live without, what would they be?
Three ingredients I cannot live without are: butter, extra virgin olive oil, and kosher salt.
What’s your favourite local restaurant to eat at?
My all-time favourite local restaurant to eat at is Ferris’ Oyster Bar. I’ve been a loyal patron since the 90s, when it opened.
What season gets you most excited about cooking?
I absolutely adore Spring for cooking/baking. The sheer abundance of ingredients is intense and varied. I love working with our local farmers and showcasing their hard work in my products.
What would you do for a job if you weren’t a chef?
If I wasn’t a Chef, I would likely have carried on the family tradition of being a farmer. Though, I probably would have steered away (pun intended) from raising livestock.
What are your passions and interests outside of cooking?
Outside of baking, I spend my time gardening. I am striving to certify my garden as a “wildlife-friendly habitat”.
What plans do you have for the future? What are your professional goals?
My future plans are simple: to be the best version of myself I can be. My career has spanned some two and a bit decades, and I think that once I stop learning, I’ve stopped evolving. If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.
Can you share a great food memory?
My Nana and I used to bake together and listen to classical music. We would work the pastry, and hum along to whatever she’d chosen that day. She always said that pastry reacted better when it could feel the joy in the kitchen.
What is your favourite unsung ingredient that you think more people should cook with?
My favourite unsung ingredients to use are dried chillies. I will almost always have a dried or fresh chilli, in either my cooking or baking. There are so many varieties, each with its own distinct personality.
What is your most embarrassing cooking moment?
During my second year of apprenticeship, I was covering for the pastry chef and was asked to make a batch of chocolate cakes. Each batch made six 8” cakes, so I was using the large Hobart mixer. I hadn’t learned to check the speeds yet (common kitchen courtesy, to return the mixer to speed one, when finished your task). I turned the mixer on, and it whipped chocolate batter all up the wall, the ceiling, and all over me. I definitely could have benefitted from windshield wipers on my glasses, that day!
What do you love most about your community?
Our culinary community has really grown together, especially during the pandemic. The sense of competition has dulled down and become more of a camaraderie. It really feels like everyone is helping each other out, and I’m loving it.
Spicy Pot de Crème
• 2 cups of milk
• 2 arbol chilis (the best ones are from our fantastic neighbour at Maiiz)
• 240 grams of bitter chocolate
• 1 cup of sugar
• 2 tsp of vanilla paste
• 2 Tbsp of coffee liqueur
• 8 egg yolks
1. On the stove, bring milk to a simmer with chilis
2. Whisk together egg yolks, sugar, vanilla paste & coffee liqueur
3. Strain milk
4. Temper yolks with hot milk, pour into pot and add chocolate
5. Over low heat, cook until slightly thickened
6. Pour through a chinois strainer into a jug
7. Divide among 6 ramekins in a rectangular pan with a warm water bath and cover with two layers of saran wrap
8. Cook in the oven at 325 in 10-minute increments.
Pot de Crème will be finished when the centre is slightly jiggly
9. Cool at least 6 hour
10. Garnish with crème fraiche
Is there a chef in town you would like to see in this series? Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org