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Chef tips: how to cook in small spaces

Posted on February 18, 2016

News-Chef-Shelley-380Local artist John Ferrie’s live/work studio is an open-concept space that not only functions as a workspace and gallery; it’s also a place where, over the last 15 years, he has honed his cooking skills. It doesn’t matter that his kitchen is tiny. The painter is almost as passionate about what he comes up with in the kitchen as what he creates on canvas.

“My counter space is a foot and a half wide, but I love cooking and I’ve become really, really good at it,” says Ferrie, whose next show, If ONLY I Had a Helicopter, runs at the South Main Gallery (279 East 6th Avenue) in March. “I do this age-old thing: I follow a recipe. My signature dish is a roasted poblano and tomatillo chicken enchilada.”

Ferrie genuinely enjoys cooking and entertaining, but he’s motivated to eat at home in part because of the cost savings.

“Lattes and dining out: they’ll skyrocket your credit card into oblivion,” he says. “I try and make sure I always have food in the fridge. I’ll make a big Crock-Pot of chili or chicken noodle soup or taco mix so I’ve got those things as leftovers—so I’m not going ‘Oh, look, let’s just go here for a quick bite.’ I shop every day on Granville Island or at the farmers market or the little grocery store up the street.

“When I have people over for dinner at 6, I try and have everything prepped by 2,” he adds. “And dinner at my house means an appetizer, a salad, an entrée, and dessert.”

Create a mood and save cash

In a city where there are so many appealing dining options, it can be hard for Vancouverites to avoid the temptation to go to a restaurant several nights a week. It’s always nicer to have someone else do the cooking and cleaning. Dining out can be especially difficult to resist for people living in small spaces, who don’t have gourmet kitchens like you see on the Food Network.

The good news is there are plenty of things people can do to make cooking and eating at home a more pleasurable experience—while easing the strain on their cash flow.

Start by making the most of your own surroundings.

“The thing I really enjoy the most, sometimes more than the actual food, is creating the ambiance,” says Shelley Robinson, regional executive chef for Coast Hotels and chef instructor in the culinary program at Vancouver Community College. “You don’t have to spend a lot of money. I’ll go to IKEA and get nice, inexpensive dish sets and set a nice table with cool plates. Put out some place mats, light candles, put on some music, and make it relaxing. Part of why people go out is because they don’t like their space, it’s not comfortable. You can re-create that restaurant ambiance even if you have a small space. Clear the crap away, clear the clutter. Take the time to make the meal a pleasurable part of your day.”

Get rid of excess pots and pans

Having an organized kitchen will make it more likely that you’ll want to channel your inner chef.

“Minimizing is key,” says chef David Robertson of Dirty Apron Cooking School. “At the end of the day you can cook any meal anywhere in the world with two knives. Everything else is add-ons. Look at what’s in the knife drawer, and if there’s anything you haven’t used in three or four years, maybe it’s time for a garage sale or to give it to your neighbour.”


For more great tips from Chef Shelley and Chef David, see the original story in The Georgia Straight.


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