Lifestyle

Chef Kim Canteenwalla From Las Vegas to Beirut and Everywhere in Between!

Chef Kim Canteenwalla From Las Vegas to Beirut and Everywhere in Between!

Kim Canteenwalla, renowned Canadian chef and winner of the Food Network's 2005 Iron Chef America series, knows good food!  With a culinary career that spans over 25 years, Canteenwalla has established quite a name for himself in the hospitality industry by creating tantalizing dishes and mouthwatering spins on old favorites while using nothing short of the best and freshest ingredients.  Canteenwalla has worked at several prestigious hotels and restaurants.  His career has taken him around the world on a culinary journey from Switzerland and Cambodia to Austria and, most recently, to our neck of the woods where he joined forces with Le Vendôme Beirut for a unique culinary experience.  Throughout the week-long event, Sydney’s restaurant was bustling as he reinvented old American favorites with his own special twist, from the addictive mac and cheese bites with truffle dipping sauce to the plump club sandwich.  His enticing dishes and mouthwatering creations had patrons of Sydney’s wanting more.  
Canteenwalla, who currently serves as executive chef and partner of Society Café at Encore at Wynn resort Las Vegas, took time from his busy schedule to sit down with Today’s Outlook to discuss his passion for food, how it all began, and where in the world it has taken him!

Tell us about your beginnings; have you always been passionate about food and cooking?
My father was very passionate about food. Growing-up, he would cook for the family on the weekends and get me involved – basically, he had me helping him in the kitchen wherever I could.  Cooking was always fun for my father; it was never a chore. He also frequently took our family out to dinner, which I believe was pivotal in igniting my passion for food. As a young child, I wanted to be a hockey or baseball player, but in my teen years, I realized that this was not my path in life.  At that point, I became interested in travel and I believed that cooking would help me discover the world. Fortunately, I have had the opportunity to travel to many different countries all because of my chosen field of being a chef.

Where did you receive your culinary training?
At the Institute of St. Denis in Montreal, Canada.

Do you fuse different cultural specialties in your cooking?
I use accents of different cultures, mainly from the Asian, Mediterranean and U.S. regions, but I would not call it fusion.

Where does your inspiration for new dishes stem from?
First and foremost, I would have to say that my inspiration is seasonal. I also get inspiration from traveling, engaging in new products, and sharing ideas with other chefs.

What do you typically cook on a night in with the family?
At home, the menu is usually built around my seven-year-old son, Cole, and my wife Elizabeth. It often involves grilling on the BBQ.

What brings you to Beirut? How did you come to partner with Le Vendôme Beirut for this special week-long event?
Fredy Pascal brings me to Beirut. I have worked twice with Fredy and his team in Shanghai for the Grand Prix Formula One and ATP Rolex. I was also lucky enough to have Executive Chef Georges Mansour from Le Vendôme Beirut spend a week with me in my restaurant Society in Las Vegas.

How did you revamp the menu at Sydney’s?
My intention was to showcase the great products of the region using the freshest produce and seafood and to do it with my spin. I hoped to provide an American feel to the menu and I also added several signature items.  

What do you think of Lebanese cuisine?
I previously worked in Dubai where we catered to a lot of Lebanese so I am familiar with, as well as very fond of, Lebanese cuisine.

You have worked in many prestigious hotels and restaurants; what attracted you to Society Café?
Society Café is part of Encore Wynn. My wife and I had worked with Steve Wynn previously, so it was the right fit when he invited us to be managing partners at Society.

What is your signature dish?
My signature dish changes seasonally and regionally. I have had many signature dishes over the years that I go back to.

Is there one particular country or destination that has significantly changed your perception of ‘a good meal’?
Fortunately, I have worked in many places where a lot of bold flavors dominate the cuisine, but at the same time, my home country, the USA, has also offered me much because it is so regional and so seasonal depending on what part of the country you are in. The products and different styles of cuisine always keep a chef fresh and ready for change. Currently, one of the big movements in the USA is getting back to natural and organic products and produce. The slow cooking movement has brought forward a lot of great farmer’s markets right into bustling urban communities. This movement is huge for our business.

What is one place you want to visit or one cuisine you are interested in and are yet to master?
I have yet to set foot on the continent of South America. Therefore, I would be very interested to experience the preparation of Brazilian and Peruvian cuisine and Argentinian beef. Someday soon I hope!
 

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