Head Chef at Blue Plate Diner, Cean Holmes started out in the restaurant industry in a time when full sleeve tattoos were frowned up. Since he could wear whites that covered his arms, he got a job as a dishwasher at an airport restaurant in Bristol, England and throughout the years worked his way up from dishwasher to prep chef to sous chef, then owner, then head chef. All of his experience and training is hands-on in a restaurant kitchen. Cean did some self-teaching and research to pick up tips and tricks along the way, and while he doesn't live and breathe his craft, he says, "I've always been of the opinion that if you're going to do something, you might as well be good at it." Cean prides himself in working hard to create good food made well and enjoys the challenge of creating specials and features that come together just right.
GUILTY PLEASURE FOOD: “I don’t have any guilty pleasures, if I like something, I like it. But, my personal eating habits, a lot of people would probably say they’re terrible. I love Spam. I love it. It’s so versatile, you can do so much with it. Sometimes I tell people that Spam is a poor man’s foie gras. I’ve actually run a couple of specials here, John thought I was crazy, but I did a seared Alberta whitefish over Spam and Pineapple fried rice, and another time I did a beef burger topped with seared Spam with a pineapple ginger glaze. I sold a whole ton of them. Like I said, it’s not a guilty pleasure, I just love Spam.”
BEST FOOD MEMORY: “I’d have to say when I was four, I went to my grandma’s house and encountered her homemade pickled beets for the first time ever. I didn’t know what a beet was or anything, I was four, but I just loved them. As small as I was, I probably wolfed down half a jar of them, it was just incredible. That’s a fond memory.”
CHILDHOOD FAVOURITE FOOD: “Honestly, I think it was chili. My own son, his favourite childhood food was Caesar salad when he was like five, it was strange. But yes, chili, it was one of the first things I ever learned to make when I was about eight years old.”
DINNER PARTY GO TO: "I’ve never had people over for dinner or gone to a dinner party, so I don’t have an answer for that. We usually just go to a restaurant.”
WINE OR BEER? “Beer. I’m not allowed to drink wine.”
WHAT WOULD YOU BRING TO A POTLUCK? “I would make a big pot of chili.”
BIGGEST ROOKIE MISTAKE: “Oh goodness… probably the same rookie mistake that other people make, which is trying to put too much onto a plate. Too many ingredients, too many flavours. And, I don’t know if you’re familiar with The Ramones, but I tell people that Dee Dee Ramone once said something in an interview like ‘A rock and roll song should be three chords and it should be two minutes long, and it should be like three words and a chorus and those words should say everything you’ve got to say.’ I think the same thing applies to cooking and food, you’ve got a plate of food and it should be about stripping it down to what’s necessary. You don’t need extraneous stuff. I think that’s a skill that takes a while to develop as most rookies want to put everything in there.”
ADVICE TO HOME CHEFS: “Cooking at home is fun and everything, but don’t reply to restaurant ads with a cover letter that says, ‘I love cooking at home and think it would be fun to try it in a restaurant for a while.’ Because they are not the same thing."
COOK OR GUEST? “The guest.”
WORST CUSTOMER STORY: “When I used to be the co-owner in a place in Grande Prairie, it was in a casino and gamblers are the worst customers in the world to deal with. They are nasty, and rude, and miserable, and the one that stands out the most was the guy who showed up at one minute to 2:00AM just as we were closing down for the night, tried to order food and when we told him the kitchen was closed and we were just shutting down, he bought a sandwich out of the cooler, paid for it with his debit card, and then unwrapped it, threw it on the floor and said, ‘The food her is [effing crap] anyway” and walked away. That’s the one that stands out the most.”
COOKBOOK OR GOOGLE: “Google, because I am cheap, cookbooks are expensive.”
RECIPE OR FROM SCRATCH: “I do a bit of both. Generally if I want to make something, I will Google several recipes for it and I’ll read through them and then I’ll borrow elements from different ones and add my own touches so it’s kind of a hybrid.”
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