Chef spotlight: David Gunawan

David Gunawan, chef and co-owner of Vancouver’s famed farm-to-table resto, Farmer’s Apprentice, shares his best cooking tips

Chef spotlight: David Gunawan

Source: Best Health magazine, May 2015

Despite having a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, Singapore-raised Gunawan fell into the food biz when he moved to Chicago, working at renowned Les Nomades, where the idea of cooking as a profession flourished. Eventually Gunawan made his way through some of the top kitchens in Belgium, Denmark, France and beyond, before settling back in Vancouver to serve as head chef for the opening of the widely praised Wildebeest. His newest venture, Farmer’s Apprentice ‘ currently lauded to be one of the country’s best new restaurants ‘ is totally ingredient-driven: the local farmers dictate the daily-changing menu. A philosophy of supporting young agrarians, and nurturing creativity in up-and-coming cooks, is the foundation of Farmer’s Apprentice and something that personally resonates with Gunawan. Someday he hopes to take the farm-to-table approach to the extreme and operate a restaurant within a farm.

Best food memory

Right now, it’s Japan, since I’m here travelling. Ankyu in Kyoto has transformed my life; the heavy tradition coupled with the earnestness of the dishes made this experience invaluable. The intimate six-seat, kappo-style [where the chef prepares the meal in front of the diners] restaurant boasts two Michelin stars. There are three staff members: the chef, his apprentice and his wife who serves and attends to the guests’ needs. Their reverence to the craft and food is very admirable.

Best no-fail dish

I find roast chicken is the most comforting thing to eat. First brine the chicken in a simple salt and sugar mixture for a few hours, then put a couple slices of lemon and thyme beneath the skin. Let it dry overnight in the fridge. Before roasting, brush the bird with olive oil, and cook until the liquid from the cavity runs clear. I’m fond of the aroma of two things fresh out of the oven: roast chicken, and bread.

Best kitchen tip

Never use your knife to scrape food from your cutting board because it dulls the blade.

Best go-to kitchen tool

The Vitamix is a good tool to have. It can blend soup and make pesto or smoothies.

Best way to celebrate a special occasion

Gathering around the table and celebrating the end/start of the week has always been a Sunday ritual for my family. We are losing family time and it’s important to re-prioritize our agendas.