Carl Recolaso is the sous chef at Ayden Kitchen and Bar.
Crispy noodles with beef and egg made by Carl Recolaso, sous chef at Ayden Kitchen and Bar.
For chef Carl Recolaso, becoming a chef began with a pair of white wooden clogs.
When he was a little boy, he would run around the house in these clogs that belonged to his father, who was a chef. He loved them, and the sound they made on the floors as he dreamt of one day owning his own pair.
Carl, the sous chef at Ayden Kitchen and Bar, always knew he wanted to become a chef. As a child in the Philippines, he would ask his mom to bring home certain ingredients from the grocery store so he could get creative in the kitchen.
Food is a big part of his culture, and for as long as he can remember his family has enjoyed cooking and eating together. Carl’s eyes light up as he chats about how every Filipino household has a rice cooker, and this staple starch is the base for the rest of the meal, which for Carl contains plenty of meat. Carl has a big smile on his face when he exclaims that a plate of rice or noodles is like a warm hug to him.
Carl moved with his family from the Philippines to Estevan, Sask. when he was 16 years old. After graduating from high school he wanted to pursue his dream of becoming a chef, so he entered the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts in Vancouver.
Two years later, he found himself working at Ayden Kitchen and Bar, one of the premier restaurants in Saskatoon. Carl, who wears his own chef clogs now, also teaches cooking classes at The Local Kitchen, which he says is a good fit because he loves connecting with people and sharing his culinary knowledge.
When asked what he loves best about cooking, he laughs and says “eating.”
Carl also admits that cooking is a strong way of expressing himself and his personality. He loves the challenges of a fast-paced, high-pressure cooking environment, and knows that these skills he’s learning are making him a stronger person and a better chef. Eventually he would love to have his own travel show, as he thinks this would be a great way of connecting with people, following in the footstep of one of his idols, Anthony Bourdain.
On Carl’s day off, he likes to cook food that reminds him of home, drawing from his Filipino heritage. As he gets older, he is more drawn to food he can connect with down to his core. He says he’s often inspired by his parents, who are fantastic cooks, as well as his grandma.
Filipino food has strong Spanish and Chinese influences, due to colonization, and Carl loves playing around with these flavours. How fortunate for me that I had a front-row seat to watch Carl work his magic. There were little dishes of ginger, garlic, red chilies, onions, star anise, cinnamon sticks, soy sauce, hoisin, and sesame oil arranged on the counter, ready to get thrown into a hot pan along with slices of beef.
The day we visited, he preparing for us crispy noodles with stir fried beef, topped with a poached egg — a dish his mom would cook for him back in the Philippines. One small frying pan already contained thin egg noodles pressed into a thin layer as they slowly browned in a little bit of oil, like a crispy noodle pancake. Carl said the trickiest part of this dish is to not burn the noodles.
While he carefully tended to the noodles and added yummy things to the hot skillet, Carl and I chatted a little about this and that.
Q: What is your favourite Saskatchewan ingredient to cook with?
A: Eggs. I love their versatility. They could be a main dish, or a component of a dish, sweet or savoury.
Q: If you have only 15 minutes to eat, what are you making for yourself?
A: I eat a lot of meat, with noodles or rice. I would stir fry the meat, very quick and easy. I might put a little bit of vegetable in there, but mainly just meat.
Q: If you could cook for anyone famous, who would it be?
A: Anthony Bourdain, for sure. And then I would ask him if I could take over his travel show.
Q: What’s your grocery store guilty pleasure item?
A: A tub of Haagen Daz ice cream. I have at least three to four different kinds in my freezer. I love the coffee one, the matcha, the salted caramel, and the caramel cone explosion.
Q: What inspired you to become a professional chef?
A: I’ve always known, ever since I was a kid. It was either that or something in fashion. Something artsy for sure. I don’t think I’ll ever find someone that’s as badass, feminine and passionate as I am with cooking. So I’ll take that.
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