You'll remember Michelin trained and award winning chef, Doreen Prei, from the fabulous brunch pop up at Get Cooking Edmonton. Born in East Germany, Doreen spent her childhood in the kitchens of grandparents and great grandparents eating cabbage, lard, and speck, and hunting mushrooms with her family at summer's end. When the Berlin Wall came down, more interesting ingredients became readily available and Doreen's culinary world was blown wide open. After trying Indian cuisine in Portland when she was 19, and being delighted by all the spices, she began to consider cooking as a career. Beginning her apprenticeship at 25 (old by German standards - most begin their apprenticeships at 16 and 70% fail), Doreen became a chef because she is passionate about cooking. There is no place she'd rather spend 12-16 hours a day than in a kitchen, teaching and hanging out.
Soon after completing her apprenticeship (within two years), Doreen relocated to Canada. Since entering Edmonton's food scene, she has proudly watched it grow and evolve. Between Edmonton's progressive approach to food, to local farmers' plentiful offerings, Doreen loves how far Edmonton has come.
Working as both a private chef, and as a presenter at Get Cooking Edmonton, Doreen loves the variety of experiences that are a part of her weekly repertoire as well as her shared philosophy with Get Cooking Edmonton chef and owner Kathryn Joel: "going out and knowing where your food comes from." Teaching cooking is central to Doreen's experience, she teaches herself, teaches her children, teaches apprentices, and teaches home cooks. I sat down with Doreen recently to interview her for Grilling the Chef, and we had such a great time, chatting and laughing in Get Cooking's kitchen while she prepped food for that night's Kitchen Party.
GUILTY PLEASURE FOOD: "That’s a tough one… everything braised, you know, a nice piece of braised veal cheek or shortbread or oxtail with a teeny, tiny touch of mashed potato and sauce. I love that. I could die with that. It’s so, so delicious."
BEST FOOD MEMORY: "When I had my first truffle. I was blown away. I went to this Michelin star restaurant in Berlin, when I started my apprenticeship, right around my 25th birthday, and the chef came out and I was so overwhelmed. I was like 'Oh my God, I just decided to become a chef' and there comes the chef, and he’s like, 'We’re doing this and we’re doing this, and we’re doing this.' And then he comes with this truffle, and he shreds the truffle, and I was like, 'Wow!' It was so beautiful. I cried inside. It was so terrific, I didn’t even know where I was. I will never forget. This really set me up for everything else, it was all I wanted. Back to this memory, this beautiful evening, and that fresh truffle."
FAVOURITE CHILDHOOD FOOD: "Thuringian sausage (I was born in Thuringia, the sausage region of Germany), I love that. Sometimes I crave those sausages when I am here [in Canada]. It’s the first thing my mama feeds me when I come home. I get a Thuringian sausage, my favourite. My all time favourite."
DINNER PARTY GO-TO: "My favourite thing to cook for my friends for dinner is scallops and lamb rack. That’s what I love to cook for them. And a crème brûlee. I love making crème brûlee, it’s my favourite thing in the dessert realm. Because you have to master that, it has to be that perfect temperature when you put the crème brûlee in, everything has to be perfect, you know. It needs that absolute, perfect creaminess inside, it needs to set perfectly, and it has to have the perfect flavour. Everything has to come together. It’s easy, but tricky, to meet these expectations of a crème brûlee. It’s very simple too, to make, but everything has to be exact."
WINE OR BEER? "Wine."
WHAT WOULD YOU BRING TO A POTLUCK? "Cheese and a perfect baguette."
BIGGEST ROOKIE MISTAKE: "Having too many questions, I guess. It’s not well seen in the German food community, in a kitchen. Chefs get really annoyed with that, having too many questions. They think you’re questioning them. When I was learning, you always had a supervisor close to you. But I was terrified of hurting something, of making a mistake just by peeling a potato because it was so much pressure. I learned in a Michelin all star kitchen. Everything had to be so, so perfect. Even when I was peeling flageolet grapes, for a flageolet soufflé. I had to peel grapes every week, every day, for like 10 hours, and I was terrified of not getting the grape off the vine and putting too much vine in it. I wanted it to be the perfect grape, over and over, but after 10 hours of doing this, you get a little mental. I was terrified. Those tiny things, 'Did I peel this carrot the right way? Did I seal this lamb shank in the oven the right way?' All these questions in a high pressure environment. But it really sets your mind in the right direction."
ADVICE FOR HOME COOKS: "Go with the flow. Don’t overcomplicate it. Everything is overrated. I like to say, 'Everything is over rated.' Just feel it out, you know. Just cook with your heart and don’t use a recipe too much."
WOULD YOU RATHER COOK OR BE THE GUEST? "Cook! Always the one stirring."
COOKBOOK OR GOOGLE? "Neither. Just my heart."
RECIPE OR FROM SCRATCH? "Scratch."
WORST CUSTOMER STORY: "I think the worst is when you read about it later, when nobody tells you about it. I got, sometimes, really crazy at the Fairmont because I checked on every single guest, every single night. I went to everybody, and then in the morning when I read a complaint by email from the head chef, it would hurt my mind. It really, really hurt me."