Bobby Rahman is a Canadian Cooking Master with an expertise in traditional dishes. We had the opportunity to ask him some questions on how he got to where he was today, and he delivered by sharing with us his story and what he’s learned over the years of working in a restaurant kitchen.
First of all, is this a difficult profession?
Bobby Rahman: I’m of the mind that there is no way of knowing whether a job is easy or difficult until the job is done.
Cooking, in general, varies in difficulty. There are days when things are easy. You heat up soup, watch several hot pans at once, etc. And then there are days when everything is against you, and you’re forced to prepare chicken with very strict time limits because there’s only one burner working after a tube exploded in your kitchen floor.
As an aspiring chef, you need to anticipate this discrepancy before you even consider putting your hat in the ring. Although, I personally enjoy the challenges that come with the unexpected. It certainly keeps things interesting!
What are the key qualities needed to become a chef?
Bobby Rahman: To become a Chef, the key qualities needed are creativity, persistence, and passion.
Cooking requires creativity and imagination to make everything from soup to salad seem fresh — either by providing great mix-ins or ingredients that will leave everyone feeling satisfied. When cooking for others, you also need the persistence to get it right the first time, as every dish should be perfect and not be underwhelming in taste. Lastly, passion is crucial to cooking as without it, there is no drive, and the Chef quickly becomes bored with their job.
Together, all of this sets the foundations for an excellent chef.
What do you typically cook for your family?
Bobby Rahman: At home, if there’s time to cook together as a family and experiment with new recipes, it tends to be an assortment of Chinese food and Mexican food.
When it’s just myself or my wife at home in the evening, she’ll usually make either Thai green curry or stir fry noodles with a thick tomato-based sauce — household staples for us!
How would you react if something goes wrong during service?
Bobby Rahman: The best way to react when something goes wrong during service is by keeping a calm and professional demeanor and apologizing sincerely (and promptly) to the customer. In this way, you can make the customer feel respected by keeping your composure while ensuring that you know where things went wrong and that it won’t be happening again. Of course, suffice to say, if something does go wrong, the next thing to do would be to work on making it better for the next person!
If you could only have three utensils in your kitchen, what would they be?
Bobby Rahman: A knife, a pot, and a pan. These are the three basic utensils we need to live our lives as chefs. The knife we use to chop, dice, and slice; the pot for doing things like boiling pasta or vegetables; and the pan for so many dishes: frying eggs or bacon on the stovetop (or in an easy-to-clean electric griddle).
What makes one utensil better than another? It is a personal preference. Try different ones out to see which feels best!
How does the change of seasons change your menu?
Bobby Rahman: The change of seasons changes the menu as a chef because each season has a different color palette, and therefore, there are new flavors to explore. There are also changes in what vegetables are fresh and available from local farms. But, most importantly, it tells us when we should be eating certain fruits and vegetables to promote optimal health.
Who has been your biggest influence?
Bobby Rahman: If we’re talking about direct culinary influence, my two biggest inspirations are Sukiyabashi Jiro (the world’s most famous sushi master) and Ferran Adria (Spanish Chef).
What is one thing that is bad for you — but you will never stop eating?
Bobby Rahman: A lot of us, chefs and non-chefs alike, are addicted to sugar — because it’s addictive! Of course, different people have different levels of tolerance for sugar. So, what might not cause an issue for one person can make a problem for another.
Tell us something we didn’t know about cooking?
Bobby Rahman: It takes about 3-6 months to become fully proficient at cooking anything new. I’m also a believer that any good chef should spend at least 8 hours on that dish every day during that time period before he puts it on the menu.
Any plans for 2021 or big projects?
Bobby Rahman: Well, I was too busy in 2020! But in 2021, across the country, I’ll be collaborating with chefs around the nation and sharing my pastry secrets.