Growing up in Saskatchewan Growing up in Saskatchewan means a lot of things – beautiful summers, hard and cold (but fun) winters, being around great people, and having tight-knit families, with a healthy amount of tradition. For me, having friends from many different backgrounds was a big part of growing up. My best friend, Christian Didur, comes from a very proud Ukrainian family. My favourite time of year to be invited into the Didur home was Christmas. Not just to get a free meal or a double (or sometimes triple) Christmas – though that part was pretty great. It was about tasting new and exciting food that I had not been exposed to and the traditions built around that food. There was structure in the way the food was served and longstanding reasons why. Not only was it delicious and new, but being on a team to make 2000 perogies and 1000 cabbage rolls in a single day is a heck of an experience. It was one of the first times I learned how to prepare that much food, and the idea of food preparation as an assembly line. Normally we would eat enough of the fillings as we rolled and made the perogies that I could skip dinner. The next day was the big show and we would wait downstairs watching movies to be called up for dinner. Being Ukrainian Christmas, it didn’t take place on December 25th. Since I was able to eat and take part in a real Ukrainian Christmas every year, it became its own tradition in my life. I was getting the best of both worlds, and it was amazing! Christian is still my best friend to this day and the godfather to my son Ayden, so over the years his Grandma has become my adopted “baba”. She was the one to teach me her family recipes and show me the way to that classic style of cooking that we all associate with our Grandmothers. Since I have been back in Saskatchewan after almost 20 years traveling and working around the world, I get to spend lots of time (and Ukrainian Christmases) at Grandma Didur’s house and have kept up with my training regarding all things Ukrainian. I wanted to take this knowledge of classic Ukrainian food and adapt it to something new utilizing the skills I’ve developed over the course of an international career. Maybe modernize it a bit or give it a twist. Lentils are a huge help in bridging the gap between new and exciting flavours, and dedication to my home of Saskatchewan. Lentils have become one of my favourite products to use for so many reasons. Each variety of lentil has its own distinct quality that I love, and working with those unique flavours and varieties is very exciting. The nutritional value and sustainability of lentils is also a big part of the draw. Lentils are also a huge part of what Saskatchewan agriculture is all about, and an important resource for the province. I take great pride in this, and I couldn’t see a better use for them than creating a twist on some traditional dishes I have learned from my adopted grandma. I’m not sure how she will feel about it but it’s worth the risk – plus, I think at this point she might trust me a tiny bit! Cabbage rolls are a staple not only in celebratory meals but they show up on the table year round. I wanted an earthy flavour, one that would stand up with the cabbage and meat and still provide a nice bite and enhance the already great flavour of the cabbage roll. One thing I have at times not enjoyed, is when the cabbage is over sauced and over baked leaving you with soggy cabbage – and really, just rice and meat left. So I thought I would “chef it up” a bit and switch out the rice and use green lentils and bake the rolls by themselves, adding the sauce at the time of plating, which makes it all about the filling and the tender cabbage its wrapped in. I hope to keep taking time to explore all of the different lentil varieties and how I can adapt them to traditional recipes. I think this is what food and culture is all about, finding new ways to cook classic dishes utilizing unique and modern flavours. Chef Dale MacKay – Chef/Owner Ayden Kitchen & Bar Canada’s first Top Chef and multi-award winning culinary artist, Chef Dale MacKay has been a protégé to world renowned Chef Gordon Ramsay at his restaurants in Tokyo, New York, and London and was Executive Chef at Lumière in Vancouver managed by celebrated New York Chef Daniel Boulud’s Dinex Group. His own ventures have included Ensemble Restaurant and Ensemble Tap in Vancouver and he is currently Chef and Owner of Ayden Kitchen and Bar in and Little Grouse on the Prairie in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.