A month ago I was on vacation in Ontario and had dinner with a friend of mine at del Dente, a restaurant that’s part of the Charcoal Group of Restaurants in Kitchener. We had a lovely meal, great service from the wait staff, and the ambience in the restaurant itself hit a great note. Part of what I liked about my experience there (aside from the fact that it was a night out without my toddler!) was the fantastic wild mushroom risotto I ate. It was so delicious I thought about it a few times after that night, and I decided to email the restaurant after I got back to Victoria to see if they would share their recipe.
Only a day or two later I received an email back from del Dente’s Chef de Cuisine, J.D. Jacobsen. Amazingly, he said that he thought the best way to explain the recipe would be to do it over the phone. In fact he actually said, “I’ll give you a call and teach you how to make some wild mushroom risotto you’ll never forget!” Nice! We arranged for a time for him to call me a few days later, taking into consideration the time change between my province and his (three hours). And on that day, Chef called me exactly when he said.
I furiously scribbled two pages of the most chicken scratch notes I’ve ever taken while Chef passionately told me everything I needed to know about making risotto. I was so glad that I knew cooking words like “sweat” (onions) and “deglaze” (wine) and of course “al dente” (risotto). But I got a little scared when he mentioned morels and chanterelles. (I have no idea why, I know they’re just mushrooms, but I’ve never cooked with them before.) And I have to admit that I started almost drooling when he reminded me about the balsamic reduction and roasted cherry tomatoes at the end. Ah, the memories!
In all, J.D. spent a good twenty minutes with me on the phone and that’s all the time I needed to know that this guy loves his food. But I also realized this guy loves teaching and people too. I mean what chef takes time out of his day before a busy night of service to call someone that visited his restaurant once to tell them how to make a dish? To me, that’s a great chef – someone that cares about food, people and making a good impression. Even if it means calling halfway across Canada to do it and talking to someone that clearly doesn’t know as much about food as he does.
My thanks to Chef J.D for taking the time to make sure a customer of his got what she wanted. I hope I can do him proud when I make my wild mushroom risotto. And I can’t wait to go back to del Dente next time I’m in Kitchener!