Chef Dale MacKay’s best cooking tips

Dale MacKay, former Top Chef Canada winner, shares his best cooking tips and kitchen hacks

Chef Dale MacKay's best cooking tips

Source: Best Health magazine, January/February 2015

Dale MacKay made his first rise through the ranks in the cut-throat kitchen at Gordon Ramsay’s London flagship, then at the celebrity chef’s Tokyo and New York outlets. Returning to Vancouver, he helmed Lumière for Rob Feenie and, later, Daniel Boulud. Then, with Top Chef Canada in 2011, MacKay ‘ already a reputed force in culinary circles ‘ became a household name. He’s the current proprietor of Ayden Kitchen & Bar in Saskatoon, a contemporary bistro named after his 12-year-old son.

His homecoming with Ayden has been met with great enthusiasm. In a bright, open kitchen that allows guests to catch the staff in their mid-service ballet, MacKay steps away from high-level food and serves cuisine that’s not fussy but refined rustic with globally inspired flavours, like handmade pappardelle tossed with rich elk ragu. Here MacKay and co-chef and butcher Nathan Guggenheimer strike just the right balance, making great food accessible to everyone who sits down at their tables.

Best no-frill dish

Probably chicken wings. [Ed note: Ayden’s Thai wings are a signature item.] People love them. I could say something more exciting, but it’s one of those dishes that I’ll have on the menu and never tweak or change.

Best vegetable to cook with

Brussels sprouts. I love them in salads, roasted, raw, everything. But I love cranberries, too ‘ whether they’re with turkey, on their own or in desserts.

Best kitchen hack

Poaching eggs. Rather than cracking eggs right into water, I take little cups and I pour a tiny bit of vinegar in them and then I crack my eggs into those cups. The vinegar almost seals in the outsides with the whites, so it helps the eggs keep their form when you’re putting them in the simmering water.  It always works for me.

Best food memory

I never went to culinary school, so when someone showed me how to make veal stock, it was the first time I had heard of someone taking animal bones, roasting them, cooking them with vegetables for 24 hours and reducing it down to make stock. That was one of those things that got me so excited about cooking. I love the process of cooking and the understanding that comes with it.

Best kitchen tool

I have this spoon that I’ve had for 14 years, since I lived in London. I found it at a thrift store and have carried it with me for my entire career. It has a good weight and shape. I retired it when I opened Ayden. I don’t want to put it in circulation. It’s in a picture frame at home now.