Sous Chef Cory Bildstein
Photo courtesy of Emrys Horton
Provence Vancouver is like a family, with each and every member a vital component of the team. Allow me to introduce one of our leaders, Sous Chef Cory Bildstein.
At what point in your life did you first become excited about food?
I come from a large Ukrainian family in which food has always been a focal point. Some of my fondest childhood memories involve my Grandma’s cooking. She taught me how to make borscht, and would sneak me tastes of her famous canned Okanagan peaches. She used the freshest ingredients straight out of her garden – I would run up and down the rows of blueberry bushes and gobble the ripest berries, even though I knew it was mischievous.
Describe your early career.
I got my start in a professional kitchen as a teenager when I took a summer job as a dishwasher/prep cook. The place was insanely busy and I quickly learned the value of speed and efficiency. When I was promoted to Garde Manger, the sous chef remarked that my plates were always clean, even during a hectic Friday night service. It was an offhand comment, but it was a light-bulb moment for me in terms of realizing my potential. I think my fine arts education compliments my cooking career in that I love to work with my hands and create visually appealing dishes. Art school taught me about composition and using different mediums and textures, all of which translate to the kitchen and onto the plate.
What sort of dishes do you like to cook at home?
I like to experiment with different ingredients and cooking styles, especially when using my ice cream maker. I’ve tried flavours like tomato, fennel, green pea and mint, even Guinness! When preparing a meal for friends and family, I find inspiration in a particular ingredient and build the menu around it. Any great dish has a harmony of flavour – whether it’s roasted sablefish or foie gras, I’m always seeking that balance of acidity. My girlfriend and I have a running joke: she will crave a certain meal I’ve made, but because I constantly tweak my recipes, she knows she’ll never have the same dish twice. How I cook at home is the complete opposite of how I cook at the restaurant, where consistency is paramount.
I know you travel a lot – how have your experiences abroad affected your cooking?
Traveling is the best way for me to get inspired with my cooking. I was lucky enough to travel all over France, experiencing new ingredients and flavours. The pinnacle of the trip was an eight-course dinner at L’atelier de Joel Robuchon in Paris. It was excellent on every level, from the service, to the atmosphere, to the food. After one month in France I was excited to cook again. It was a thrilling, yet humbling experience.
How did you come to work at Provence?
I overheard two of my former co-workers discussing JF in high regard, and I was immediately impressed. They described him as not only a professional mentor and talented chef, but also as a genuinely nice guy. When I learned there was an opening at Provence, I jumped at it. Here I am, five years later. JF has taught me a lot about food and the leadership necessary to run a kitchen. He’s unique in his ability to take a step back from a situation and look at every perspective, while maintaining his bottom line of quality food and service.
Any plans for the future?
The only thing I can say for certain is that I’m looking forward to continuing to improve my skills, pushing culinary boundaries, and of course, more travel! I love the idea of opening a B&B or a 30-seat restaurant. Outside the kitchen, I will continue to sketch and stay active outdoors with biking and running.