Ontario Food Hero – Chef

Here we will profile people in this province who help shape the way we eat, cook and think about food.

photo by Jo-Ann McCarthur

Doug McNish, chef

This young chef used to weigh 250 lbs. before changing his diet and going vegan. Now he heads up the kitchen at Raw Aura where his entire menu is completely raw.

Where did you start out in the food world?

My first job was at a British pub when I was 16 years  old.  I really learned how to move fast and  cook basic foods like curry, gravy and sandwiches.  It was here that I fell in love with the kitchen, the teamwork involved to make sure things run properly and the utter and complete controlled craziness of a professional cooking environment.

What changes have you seen over the years in how the people you meet feel about local farmers and food?

This is such an important issue.  Now more than ever I am finding people want to learn and understand where their food comes from.  They are seeing that spinach in a big plastic bag from California with a Frito Lay label on the back is not necessarily the best thing to put in their bodies. Documentaries like “Food Inc.” and others coming out now are showing the world that our food supply is in terrible shape and we need to do something about it now!  We tend to forget that farmers have fed people for centuries. Becasue of the advent of big corporations wanting to make more money we have sacrificed not only nutrition but families that rely on us to purchase their crops to survive.

what is your favourite vegetable?

This is a two parter.  In the winter it would have to be celery root.  It is rich, aromatic and can be made into anything from a soup, salad, puree etc.  In the warmer months I would have to say black kale.  It is loaded with the good stuff we need and can be made to taste delicious with various seasonings or just steamed with a little sea salt.

grain?

Hands down quinoa.  Being vegan and lifting weights I am always looking for healthy forms of protein.  Quinoa is a complete protein, it cooks easily and quickly and can be substituted for rice in almost any recipe.

fruit?

I love apples. Being a Canadian boy its one of the only fruits that I can always find locally grown.  They are versatile in the kitchen and have great flavour and texture.

season?

Being a chef I find the most abundance in local produce would have to be September and October for vegetables like squash, turnip, celery root and radishes.

where are some of your favourite places in Ontario for food and drink?

For a cold beer in the summer nothing beats the Black Bull for its people watching patio on Queen street.  I also love C’est What on front street.  I used to work at Jump and we would frequent that bar for its local micro breweries and the occasional Absinthe.  For food there is a little cafe in Kensington Market called Hibiscus.  They serve homemade, dairy free ice creams, gluten free crepes and the best quinoa salad in the city.  You can always find me there on my day off sipping green tea and working on recipes.

the vegan chef's before shot

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