Had it not been for a few slabs of baby-back ribs, Richard Eley may have spent his days crunching numbers as a chartered accountant.
Eley was all set for a career offering financial support until he made dinner for a group of his friends while living in Ontario.
“I was making barbecued baby-back ribs, and I still make the same ribs today sometimes, and my friend says to me, ‘This is really good. You should go to chef school.’ So I did. And I never looked back,” Eley said.
After receiving his red-seal certification, Eley moved to B.C. in 1996 and, one year later, opened the now-closed Fronds on the Beach on White Rock’s waterfront with three business partners.
After more than 10 years at Fronds, Eley left and became head chef at nearby Jimmy Flynn’s, where he was tasked with creating a Celtic-inspired menu.
The longtime chef pored over books for days, reading over the ancient cuisine – comprising seven separate nations – to come up with modern dishes with a Celtic touch.
“I never thought I would be making Celtic food, no,” he laughed. “But it’s just like everything else. There is one main difference between a cook and a chef, and that is that a cook has to follow a recipe and a chef can take a recipe and adapt it to whatever he needs it to be.
“For me, I wanted it to be authentic and use some old classics. Like the shepherd’s pie. We use lamb, but a lot of people use beef. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know many shepherds who watch cows.”
One of Eley’s additions to the menu is his seafood stew which features a pinch of rosemary and Yukon gold potatoes. The trick to making the dish is to have your ingredients prepped in advance, he said.
Celtic-style Cioppino recipe
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 red pepper, diced
- 1/2 red onion, diced
- 1 Roma tomato, diced
- 1lb sliced button mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
- Pinch of Rosemary, salt and pepper
- 3 oz chopped halibut
- 2 medium sized prawns
- 3 oz sliced chorizo
- 8 oz of fresh mussels
- 2 oz lobster tail cut in half
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 1 finely diced Yukon gold potato
Have ingredients ready to make for easier cooking.
Heat large, deep pan, add oil then add the vegetables. Sauté until the onions are translucent, then add the potatoes and garlic, sautéing for another minute or so.
Add the rest of the ingredients, cover the pot and allow the seafood to steam for about five minutes, or until the prawns and lobster are cooked through.
Serve and eat.