If you were putting together an all-star team of contemporary Canadian chefs, David Hawksworth would likely be in the starting lineup. At 41, the Vancouver native has already made it into the B.C. Restaurant Hall of Fame – and with good reason. After working in London at such prestigious French fine-dining establishments as L'Escargot and The Square, Mr. Hawksworth returned home to lead Vancouver's West kitchen for seven years. He then opened Hawksworth Restaurant in the retro-chic boutique inn, the Rosewood Hotel Georgia, in downtown Vancouver. The Globe spoke with Mr. Hawksworth about his love for Yorkshire pudding, his horror of processed cheese and his Pavlovian response to a certain kind of hot sauce.
What was the first dish you remember cooking by yourself? And how old were you?
Probably potato gnocchi as a teenager. That was the first time I thought to myself, 'Yeah, you could eat this in a restaurant.' It was one of those instances where I just picked out the recipe and tried it. I still have the book – I think it's called Italian Cooking. It's a really small book but it has authentic recipes from Italy. The dish worked out really well. I was quite shocked.
Who taught you how to cook?
I spent quite a bit of time with my grandparents, and they made everything from scratch. My Nan wouldn't even keep ketchup in the house. We made everything. So I naturally ended up helping out quite a bit.
Do you have a favourite meal that you used to eat with your grandparents?
Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. It was something my grandmother served on the weekend. I still make it now but I haven't had it for ages, because the weather has to be right. It's got to be kind of cold outside, but you need to be able to go out for a walk beforehand so then you can get stuck into your roast beef and Yorkies.
What do you make sure to have in your fridge at all times?
Always some good cheese, so a nice brie. Lately, I've been trying to make sure there is fruit around so I can avoid the late-night super-binge. You have to be careful because you can put on 30 pounds in a hurry. Which I did. But now it's off. (Laughs.)
Do you have a favourite post-service meal?
It used to be a place called Gyoza King on Robson, but I try not to eat late at night any more. They make great gyozas [Japanese dumplings] It's really like izakaya Japanese food. There's a lot of umami flavour – they are a little spicy, a little crunchy, a little salty.
I also always have charcuterie floating around at home. You don't want to cook anything when you've been around food all day. You just want to be able to slice something and have it.
Do you have a favourite condiment?
Sriracha [hot sauce] There's a good hit of salt in there and chili and garlic. It's funny – when I talk about sriracha, my mouth salivates. It just hits your taste buds. Sometimes I'll add it to a rice wrap or in the morning I'll put it on my scrambled eggs.
At the end of the day, chefs want something that tastes completely different from what we've been cooking all day.
What about a spice or condiment that you feel is overused?
Pepper. There is no need to throw pepper on everything.
Is there a food that you can't stand?
Any processed food I really try to avoid. It just really grosses me out. I mean, processed cheese. What is the point of that? What is wrong with normal cheese? It really is gross.
Do you have a guilty pleasure when it comes to food?
It's ramen noodles. I'm a carb maniac. I love roast potatoes. I love pho. I'm constantly buying bread from [Vancouver's]Terra Breads. They have a country bread there – that, toasted with a little bit of butter and some salt on top, it's ridiculous.
Now that the holidays are over, is there a food you're glad to see gone?
Eggnog. It's just too rich. Urgh. It just gives me the heebie-jeebies. Some rum might make it more palatable. But that straight-up processed eggnog – the viscosity of it – it doesn't do anything for me.
On to the rapid-fire round: street meat or burritos?
Where's the location? [Laughs.]Burrito.
Sparkling water or tap water?
Greasy spoon or Zagat-rated restaurant?
This interview has been condensed and edited.