Editor’s note: Calgary-based culinary wizard Pierre Lamielle recently hopped a plane to Maui, Hawaii on a chef exchange. Our writer Valerie Berenyi caught up with Pierre in the South Pacific. For what, exactly? Oh, just a conversation about what the heck one of Canada’s best-loved foodies packs in his bag when he hits the road. Thanks for the post Val, and as for Pierre, great to have you on our pages old friend!
Pierre Lamielle wears many hats but he’s more likely to be found sporting a ball cap emblazoned with the word “bacon” than a chef’s toque.
The irrepressible Calgarian is a cookbook author and illustrator, co-owner of the foodie T-shirt company Food on Your Shirt , a magazine columnist, a cook trained at the French Culinary Institute in New York and a contestant on Top Chef Canada and Chopped Canada. Although he doesn’t work in a restaurant, food regularly takes him on the road to cooking demonstrations and competitions.
Toque & Canoe caught up with Pierre in Maui in April, where he participated in a five-day culinary exchange with three other Calgary chefs: Charcut Roast House co-chefs Connie DeSousa and John Jackson, and Jessica Pelland, event chef at Charcut and executive chef of Charbar.
We were hungry to know how a travelling chef wrangles sharp knives through airport security.
Q: Tell us about your favourite suitcase.
A: It’s hard-sided, pretty banged up and bruised. It’s got lots of Food on Your Shirt stickers all over it. It’s black, Air Canada brand and it reminds me every time that I should be flying on WestJet.
Q: Describe your travel essentials.
A: My knives always have to go in my suitcase. You can’t carry on knives (laughs). I have experimented with what you can and cannot carry on. So far, I’ve been able to carry on my circulator, which circulates water at a perfect temperature. It’s long, has metal coils inside and a timer on the outside and is the one kitchen thing that looks a lot like a bomb. [Security] had no problem with that. They didn’t let my sharpening stone through, though. It looks like a brick and they said it was a blunt force trauma weapon. I haven’t yet experimented with a pressure cooker, but I would like to travel with that. It’s great for competing when you have to cook meat or grains, fast.
Q: Which knives do you bring?
A: If I’m travelling very light, I can get away with two: a Fujiwara santoku—that’s my basic knife that can get everything done—and a Fujiwara nakiri for vegetables. I also have a paring knife, a zester, pastry cutters, plating tongs and fish tweezers. Chefs love to see your knives when you take them out. All my knives are from Knifewear and they’re awesome. People always check out each other’s knives. Always. It’s a way of sizing someone up, before they start cooking.
Q: What do you never pack?
A: I don’t bring my own salt. As far as I’m concerned, all salt is good. It all tastes like salt.
Q: Any more must-have gear?
A: I try to pack as many of my two cookbooks—Alice Eats: A Wonderland and Kitchen Scraps: A Humourous Illustrated Cookbook—as I can in my backpack because they don’t weigh carry-on bags. Chefs are very hospitable and if they know you’re a chef they welcome you at their table. It’s like you’re at their house, and they feed you. They try to make you as comfortable and happy as possible. I give my cookbooks as gifts. I also like to bring Brassica Mustard from Calgary to give away because it’s a great, unique product to Alberta. It can be used anywhere in the world in any type of cuisine.
Q: Is there anything you forgot to pack on this trip?
A: “Swass” is a common condition that chefs have to face, where you have increased sweat in the, um, back area…. So, it’s sweat plus ass. I wished I had brought some baby powder for this trip, for the chafing.
Q: Are there any foodie souvenirs you typically like to bring home?
A: I’m a cookbook collector, so if there’s an interesting local cookbook that might not be available at Chapters or online, that’s cool to get. One that tells a story of where you are, reminds you of the trip or the ingredients there.
Q: What does your packing style say about you?
A: Very casual. I always bring Food On Your Shirt shirts, with a pig or something on it that says “food.” I always have a hat, because they’re handy in the kitchen. And I like to wear kitchen clogs when I’m travelling because they let your feet expand and breathe. I never worry about wearing formal attire. I just don’t think that I have to, ever. If you’re in a chef’s restaurant, and they know you’re a chef, you’re not expected to wear fussy clothes. I have an iron deficiency; I don’t like to iron things.
For more on Pierre’s chef exchange in Maui, be sure to check out Val’s Calgary Herald story.