An Interview with Rachel Hobbs – Executive Chef, Taboo Muskoka Resort & Golf
How did you get your start in the industry?
My love of food comes from my parents. As a young child, my parents were always introducing me to new foods and different styles of cooking. As a teenager, I started my career as a prep cook at a Shoeless Joe’s for a co-op when I was 14 and fell in love with cooking. I decided to attend the two-year culinary program at Georgian College where I developed a solid cooking foundation. From there I never looked back – I’ve worked solely in restaurants ever since.
How would you describe your culinary style?
Fresh, clean, small farm oriented. I grew up in the middle of nowhere (Cookstown) eating the berries, grapes, fiddleheads, sorrel and a variety of vegetables that we grew on our property. It’s these memories that play a large role in my cooking style today.
What’s your favourite dish on your current menu and why?
I can’t ever really choose a favourite dish. However, duck is probably one of my favourite proteins to work with lately. My tastes are most often influenced by the season and what’s ripe – a warm, ripe tomato off the vine in the middle of the summer is incomparable.
What is your biggest pet peeve about the restaurant industry today?
That cooking is more than a pretty Instagram photo. It wasn’t that long ago when food was considered sustenance only. But over the years, thanks to a lot of talented Chefs, food became an experience. With food culture today and the rise of self-proclaimed “foodies” it almost seems like getting a picture for social media has trumped the food and experience in the restaurant itself. I’d love to see people put their phones away during dinner and truly enjoy their meals without the distraction of their mobile phones.
What’s your go-to meal to cook at home?
Anything with bacon. Bacon mac & cheese, bacon jam, bacon and eggs. Did I mention bacon?
Can you suggest four restaurants our readers need to try before they die?
What’s one tip our readers should know to up their own game in their kitchens?
One of the biggest mistakes home cooks make is using dull knives. Not only is this more dangerous but it’s not as efficient, not as clean and not nearly as satisfying. Test – if your knife doesn’t easily cut through a tomato, your knife needs to be sharpened. Tip – buy the best stainless steel knife you can afford and make it your go-to in the kitchen. If you use it regularly sharpen it every 7-14 days. If you want to stay safe, get the job done quicker and have your food look professional, keep your knives sharp!
How do you think Muskoka’s/Canada’s culinary scene will evolve in the future?
It’s already evolving. As far as I’m concerned we are on the cutting edge of the culinary scene – not only is farm to table becoming bigger with consumers as people become more educated on the problems of large-scale industrial farming – but foraged food is really taking off as well. We have an abundance of wonderful ingredients that naturally grow in our own backyards and Ontario specifically is a hotbed for forageable items from multiple kinds of mushrooms, to lichen, berries, grapes, ferns, leeks, and herbs. We also have the unique opportunity to utilise the wildlife and fish we are lucky enough to have. I think wild game and game eating in general will have a huge impact on our farming practices and the culinary scene moving forward – which will be better for our environment.
– Rachel Hobbs was formerly the Executive Chef at Era 67 in Orillia and Painter’s Hall in Barrie, and as Chef de Partie at Taboo.
“I’m very excited to be joining the incredible Taboo Muskoka family for a second time and look forward to building an amazing culinary team. I’m humbled and very grateful for the opportunity to make Taboo Muskoka a top culinary destination once again.”