MENU Magazine is thrilled to shine a light on RC Show’s Garland Canada Culinary Competition runner-up and Sous Chef at Larry’s, Montreal, Quebec, Chef Ruby Gatt
Growing up, Chef Ruby Gatt was hard-pressed to remember a time when food didn’t play a major role in her family home. “We always had family dinner at my house. My parents would feed anyone who came over,” she says. Her earliest memories are all about being in the kitchen with her parents or grandmother. “There’s a picture of me around six years old stuffing a turkey for the holidays!” Part of a large Maltese family – her father had nine siblings – family holiday functions involved renting out community spaces so everyone could fit. “My grandma would always find a way to feed all the children. Food was always the pull to bring everyone together.” Her love of food and love of eating is what inspired her to become a chef, her passion driving her to begin working in the restaurant industry at the tender age of 14.
Having the ability to share that passion was the main reason Chef Gatt entered the 2022 Restaurant Canada Show’s Garland Canada Culinary competition. “For almost two years now I’ve had to pivot as a chef and I’ve had to be adaptable and creative during these unprecedented times. This competition brings together chefs from all over Canada with similar experiences as me and here we’re able to share, create, and most importantly support each other.”
The annual contest which cumulates in a live competition at the RC Show – Canada’s largest hospitality trade show and conference – supports Canada’s thriving and passionate culinary industry by showcasing top emerging talent. This year’s event included both a virtual and live component, with each round challenging chefs to craft a dish reflecting the theme of “Revival”, striking a balance between profitability, quality, and sustainability.
After making it through round two where the semi-finalists virtually shared a 45-minute culinary demonstration incorporating black box ingredients, Chef Gatt went head to head against three other finalists in a live timed cooking demo. Approaching the theme of revival through being conscious of where her ingredients were sourced and conscious of the waste produced, Chef Gatt made a Canadian beef tartare with pickled sea lettuce and a ginger and turmeric yogurt flatbread, which won her the runner-up position in the annual competition.
“To me sustainability in the restaurant industry means being aware that our choices today affect our tomorrow. From what we eat to where we purchase our food we need to be conscious of our decisions,” says Chef Gatt. “In our industry, we can be more sustainable by making the choice to work with local farmers and producers. We need to challenge ourselves to use what is in season and be aware of the waste that we generate.”
Chef Gatt began her career after graduating from the culinary program at Niagara College in 2015, moving to Toronto to become Chef de Partie at Crush Wine Bar and Bar Begonia and advancing to Junior Sous Chef at L’Unita. She then traveled to the United States, working as an Executive Sous Chef at West End Grill and Pub in St. Louis, Missouri, and spending a season at Sweet Basil in Vail, Colorado. Upon her return to Toronto in 2018, Chef Gatt returned to Bar Begonia, managing their seasonal restaurant, Madame Beouf. She then went on to work as a Sous Chef at Fat Pasha and later at Piano Piano once the pandemic hit. “The burnout was a real challenge which a lot of us felt. Going into the second year of lockdown I knew I needed a break from the industry,” says Chef Gatt. She took the spring and summer off from the kitchen and moved to Victoria, British Colombia where over the course of five months she learned about regenerative agriculture. “It was exactly what I needed,” she says. “To get back to the basics and get back to the earth. Playing in the dirt and watching vegetables grow, hearing chickens coo, watching flowers bloom and bees produce honey – it was actual magic.”
Once the summer ended, Chef Gatt was eager to explore a new city and moved to Montreal. She is now the Sous Chef at a restaurant called Larry’s where the focus is on buying from only local farms and suppliers. “The supply chain of food is important to keep in mind when thinking about sustainability,” she says. “Sourcing local is key!”
Based on her own experiences, Chef Gatt advises those who are thinking about getting into the restaurant industry to not be afraid to ask questions. “Take notes and keep them as you move from place to place. I still have my mini notebooks from every kitchen job I’ve had and I frequent them when I need a little inspiration.” She also advises young women entering the industry to stay true to themselves, their flavours, and their style.
“Food knows no gender. Women are just as badass as men in the kitchen!”
The dish Chef Gatt shares with us was inspired by her Maltese heritage. “My grandmother would cook rabbit in a gravy similar to this dish and serve it over egg noodles. Using local ingredients such as summer peas and cremini mushrooms, Chef Gatt makes a braised rabbit ragu served over cavatelli. “This dish reminds me so much of my childhood – rabbit was always made for special events like a birthday or Easter.”
Click here for Chef Ruby Gatt’s delicious Braised Rabbit Cavatelli with Late Summer Peas & Mushrooms recipe!
Don’t forget to tag @restaurantscanada & @ruby_gatt on Instagram to show us if you’ve tried it!
We asked Chef Ruby Gatt what the top 5 staple items everyone should always have on hand were:
- Fresh garlic – buy local!
- Good rice, my favourite is Kokuho Rose – makes an easy meal and is so versatile
- Tin fish – tuna, mackerel, cod! Sometimes work is busy and there’s no time to eat or it’s a late night with no dinner prepped. Tinned fish or rice will make the belly happy before bed. Or in a more romantic scenario, fresh bread, lemon and a tin in the park on a nice day.
- Olive oil – there are so many different flavours from different places. Try them, like a wine tasting almost. Some are good for cooking some for finishing.
- Kewpie Mayo – because that s**t is delicious!