Chef Interviews
Vaughn Perret
by Kate Zimmerman for the Weekend Post, Table Talk

Nova Scotia’s Trout Point Lodge, located in the middle of the Tobeatic Wilderness, is a cooking school and inn with an international reputation — Food & Wine magazine called it “extraordinary.” American proprietors Daniel Abel, Charles Leary and Vaughn Perret focus on foods native to the area, like local seafood and berries but also lesser-known entities such as Indian cucumber root, sea beans and flour made from bullrushes. Now the trio, which also owns the Granada Cooking School in Spain and the Tropical Creole Cooking School in the Hotel and Inn at Coyote Mountain in Costa Rica, has published The Trout Point Lodge Cookbook: Creole Cuisine from New Orleans to Nova Scotia (Random House Canada, $45). The Post asked New Orleans native Vaughn Perret to let the good times roll in this Q & A.

Where are you based?

We are itinerant. We move between Costa Rica, Nova Scotia and Europe.

At this moment, where are you?

Granada, Spain.

What did you have for breakfast?

Two cups of cappuccino. Breakfast is generally a light affair here in Spain: toast with tomato rubbed across it, then drizzled with olive oil, and coffee.

Are you a gourmet or a gourmand?

Depends on my mood!

Bullrush blinis: why?

Why not? Bullrush is one of (Nova Scotia’s) most common wild foods. It has a nice wild nutty flavor. The flavour isn't the same as buckwheat but it shares the wild nuttiness one finds in buckwheat flour.

There’s no meat in this cookbook. Are all three of you pescatarians?

No, we are, in fact, omnivores. However, we prefer fresh seafood over all other types of flesh for its flavour and quality as food ingredients as well as health.

What, and where, was your earliest food memory?

Sitting around the table for hours with my extended family one Sunday, talking and laughing while my French Creole grandparents paraded through the dining room with plate after plate of delicious Creole specialties.

Who was the best cook in your family, and why?

In my immediate family, it was my father. He had a very large repertoire of Creole dishes that he prepared. His favourite, and one of ours, was a redfish court-bouillon, We do a version of this dish at the lodge in Nova Scotia.

What was the first dish you ever cooked? Was it any good?

Eggrolls. Some exploded, those which survived were a little on the greasy side.

What would I have to do to make you eat a Kraft Single?

Shred it and mix it with well-seasoned breadcrumbs, sprinkle that on top of fresh cauliflower and bake it.

What’s your favourite recipe from the book, and why?

If I had to choose one I would say the gravlax recipe. It is simple, beautiful and perfectly complements the flavour and texture of Atlantic salmon.

Your favourite coffee – with chicory, or without?

I prefer strong coffee, period. When I can find coffee with chicory, I drink it. However, outside of New Orleans it is hard to find. Recently here in Spain coffee was blended with chicory; however, the Spanish want to forget about this and all things related to the difficult years under Franco.

What’s the difference between Creole and Cajun cooking?

Cajun is a less elaborate form of Creole. It’s a matter of country versus city cooking.

Which kitchen implement is essential to you?

It has to be a powerful blender, hard to reproduce with human time and effort. It’s critical for the making of soups, sauces, fresh juices, etc.

Your favourite cookbook?

Paula Wolfert's Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco.

Describe your perfect last meal: food and location.

I am too superstitious to answer the last question!

TROUT POINT GRAVLAX

Be sure to use only the freshest Atlantic salmon, ideally steaks one and one-half in. to two in. thick. Please note that advance planning is required: the salmon marinates for three days.

1 orange or lemon
3 tbsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp white rum, plain vodka, or grappa
one-half tsp cracked black pepper
one-half tsp crushed fennel seeds
2 pounds thick Atlantic salmon steaks, skin on
Crème fraiche, whole-grain bread to serve (optional)

  1. Squeeze the juice from the orange into a deep glass or ceramic dish, discarding the pulp. Thinly slice the orange peel; add it to the juice. Stir in the salt, sugar, olive oil, rum, pepper, and fennel, combining thoroughly.

  2. Place the salmon steaks in the dish, cover, and refrigerate.

  3. Marinate for three days, turning the fish over at least twice a day.

  4. Serve thinly sliced with crème fraiche and toasted whole-grain bread.

Serves 12.

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