Maverick Chef Bonus – Luke Wood
Next month will mark the 8th annual Maverick Chefsedition. That’s eight great years searching out Canada’s best culinary talent! It’s a tough job – conversing, eating…. Luckily, the staff at Tidings are pumped and primed for the task.
Tidings‘ editors typically narrow down the long list of awesome Canadian chefs to four – and a difficult task it is! But, somehow we manage. (I can tell you that a steady stream of snacks is a must.) Make sure you check out Tidings‘ October issue to find out who made it this time.
Like last year, we decided to offer you a little treat, a sneak peak, if you will, to keep you until you can get your hands on next month’s issue (out any day now!). I had the pleasure recently of speaking with Chef Luke Wood of Yellowknife’s Thornton’s Wine and Tapas Room. I really love when we find a super talented chef plying his or her trade in places that many people have never gone. It’s a good reminder that great food and inspiring culinary imagination is happening every day in every corner of this great land. So, without further ado … Luke Wood.
Luke Wood moved to Yellowknife as a child with his family in 1974 because his father had become the chef at the Explorer Hotel. “It was kind of a frontier town; a great place to grow up,” he explains. That experience inspired an innate appreciation for the unique beauty and challenges of that northern environment. Luke is nothing if not passionate about his home. In fact, when he flew to Toronto to compete in Grapes For Humanity’s RAW! The Great Toronto Tartare-Off fundraiser, he brought some northern elegance along with him. His offering that night featured muskox, beef, smoked paprika, wasabi powder, shallots, capers, cilantro and parsley.
Yellowknife is in many ways a cultural mecca. People from all over the world have brought their culinary know-how. Luke found his calling in the midst of all that good food. When he opened his first catering company, he relied rather heavily on his father’s expertise, calling him often to seek advice like “I need to make Caribou Stew for tomorrow for 400. How many pounds of carrots do you think I’ll need?” Today at Thornton’s Wine and Tapas Room, he has gathered around him a group of professionals who, like him, possess a passion for local, fresh and handmade products. Luke may not have needed his father’s help in later years, but he never forgot the food he enjoyed growing up. He is a huge proponent of nose-to-tail cuisine. “I was definitely the only kid in grade three with beef tongue and ginger beer in my lunch bag,” he explains. Luke’s wife, originally from Mexico where there is a deeply rooted tradition of using the entire animal, also influences his cooking style. “It’s exciting when we get something in we can braise or confit,” he says. Luke opened Thornton’s in 2008 with the intention of becoming the go-to fine dining experience for both parents and their children. With his customers constantly returning for more of his tasty crowd pleasers, like Spicy BBQ Back Ribs in Cotton Candy, there’s no doubt he’s succeeded.
Thornton’s is closed during the summer while everyone soaks up the nearly 24 hours of sunshine. But, that doesn’t mean Luke is putting his feet up. This summer, you can find him letting his culinary imagination loose at Yellowknife’s Wildcat Café. In this historic cabin managed by the city and located in the old town of Yellowknife, Luke will tantalize summer visitors with local, fresh and approachable fine cuisine, “serving everything on camp ware and great wines served in mason jars. It’ll be a lot of fun!”