Conestoga grad Paul Gauthier blends work ethic and creativity when he cooks

Conestoga grad Paul Gauthier blends work ethic and creativity when he cooks

For Paul Gauthier, cooking is a blend of science and ratios and letting the free-spirit of culinary invention roam. It’s a combination the Conestoga College culinary grad has worked on mastering while in the kitchens of a number of high-profile restaurants in Waterloo Region and southwestern Ontario.

Gauthier, 28, runs the kitchen at Cascata Bistro in Carlisle, Ontario, about 20 minutes from Cambridge. He graduated from Conestoga’s Culinary Skills — Chef Training program in 2013.

“Being at Conestoga was great,” Gauthier says. “It put me in a pretty great spot to build my career.”

Currently, that puts him at Cascata Bistro, located at a four-way stop on Carlisle Road, a few minutes’ drive east of Highway 6 South. Dotted sparingly with a few buildings and businesses, it seems an unlikely place to find a flat-iron steak, a boar burger, something called a Euro Cobb salad, cioppino and even a touch of gastronomic sleight-of-hand. But that’s all in a days work for Gauthier.
 
Langdon Hall: “an amazing learning experience”
A Cambridge, Ontario, resident, even though he had done some cooking before he attended Conestoga, the school environment was a significant resource for Gauthier. “It showed me what the opportunities could be in the industry. When you go from restaurant to restaurant, it’s limited what you can see. The school was a chance to see cooking at a retirement home or medical setting. You can see fine dining, you can see casual, or hotels and catering. It provided a lot of different outlooks that I didn’t even know existed before I went to school.” 

Gauthier co-owns a food truck based in St. Jacobs and has partnered with Block Three Brewing. Given his pedigree, he’s obviously comfortable cooking a menu that straddles elements of Nonna’s repertoire and a bistro or gastropub. As for the molecular gastronomy, when it comes to the calamari fritti at Cascata, the dish is usually a processed disaster of rubberized and improperly cooked seafood too heavily breaded. Gauthier’s, however, maintains a surprising tenderness with a light crisp batter, a lemon-dill mayo and micro-green pea sprouts for garnish. “We add wheat dextrin to the dredge,” Gauthier says. “It crisps the calamari and holds that crisp longer.”

It provided a lot of different outlooks that I didn’t even know existed before I went to school.”
                                                                           –Paul Gauthier

Right out of Conestoga, he did a stint at Langdon Hall. “It was way more than I ever expected. I’d been cooking for a while, but nothing like that. It was a style of cooking and a kitchen that I didn’t know existed. It was quite a jump from what I had been doing before and was intense, but it was an amazing learning environment,” says Gauthier.

Show a drive to learn
He was sous chef at Cambridge’s short-lived but very good Fistro Bistro with colleague and fellow Langdon-alum Darnell Gregg. At Cascata Bistro, he runs the kitchen and says he thinks about what his perspective was when he was a learning. “I have a lot of apprentice- and entry-level cooks, and I know from experience that the most important thing is teaching them how to cook and new techniques and letting them practice their skills. I think people are motivated to work if you have something to teach them and they can keep momentum and progress going.” The transition, he says, from being a student and learning to becoming a teacher in a kitchen that you oversee is a difficult one. “You’ve got to teach, but you also have a kitchen to run and money to make for the restaurant. I love it though and remember when I was in their position.” 

To students entering culinary and hospitality training, Gauthier says work ethic is crucial. “When you go into a restaurant or food operation and show a drive to learn, that’s very important,” he says as an example of what he looks for in his kitchen.

“If someone came to me and didn’t know a lot about cooking but that is really what they wanted to do and they’re dedicated to learning, then I consider them seriously.” he adds. “Being hardworking, that you’re excited to learn and want to go further as a chef, that attitude is pretty important.” 

 

Paul Gauthier: On where he has worked
On Cedar Barn, St. Jacobs: “I learned a lot about speed and volume there.” 
 
On Mohawk Chop House, Campbellville: “I was chef de cuisine and learned a lot.” 
 
On Langdon Hall, Cambridge: “That was just an amazing experience for learning.” 
 
On Fistro Bistro, Cambridge: “It was great to be sous chef with former Langdon Hall cook Darnell Gregg, who hired me.” 
 

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23 Questions for Paul Gauthier

Waterloo Region Eats: Best thing you’ve ever eaten?
Paul Gauthier: My grandpa’s tourtiere. Maybe it’s the nostalgia from my childhood, or maybe it’s that he’s an amazing French Canadian chef. Either way, they are ridiculous.

Other career you could have pursued?

Gauthier: My plan was actually to become an accountant. I am definitely a numbers guy. I’m lucky doing what I do, though because now I can work with numbers and keep my creative side.
 
Favourite beverage?
Gauthier: Fat Tug IPA from Driftwood Brewery out in Victoria. I was lucky enough to visit my wife’s family out west and her uncle basically took me under his wing on a two-week beer tour in BC. One of the first IPAs I had tried was Fat Tug on tap and I never turned back.
 
Chef you’d most like to meet?
Gauthier: Heston Blumenthal. I would love to thank him for influencing me to learn all that I can about science and molecular cuisine, and helping me to realize that there really is no limit to what you can do with food.
 
Best footwear (for the kitchen or otherwise)?
Gauthier: My kitchen Birkenstocks. They really do last forever as long as you replace the corks.
 
Favourite “international” food in Waterloo Region?
Gauthier: Hopefully it’s close enough, but it would have to be the Tandoori Grill in Fergus. Amazing Indian cuisine, definitely worth the drive.
 
What scares you in a kitchen?
Gauthier: Food getting cold on the pass and running out of San Pellegrino (definitely my fuel of choice).
 
Greatest failed recipe?
Gauthier: The first time I had ever made chocolate fondue I pulled a recipe from the Internet, just to get the ratios right. The ratios were very, very wrong. After scrambling to adjust the recipe right before Valentine’s Day service, I finally got the ratio right, but we ended up with about 30 litres of chocolate fondue.
 
Something that gives you great pleasure?
Gauthier: Tasting anything that is prepared and seasoned to perfection. There really is no limit to how many times that I can have my mind blown by how amazing food can be.
 
A favourite teacher you’ve had?
Gauthier: Chef Darnell Gregg. He’s a close friend of mine, and I have him to thank him for a great deal of what I know. He hired me at Langdon, when I was finishing at Conestoga, and again at Fistro Bistro in Cambridge (now closed).
 
Do you ride a bike?
Gauthier: Yes I do. I actually participate in the Great Cycle Challenge for Sick Kids every June. It’s a great cause and a great reason to stay in shape.
 
A moment in your life you’d like to have back?
Gauthier: Not trying Chef Philippe’s Ghost Pepper Sauce. I remember when I was in school that he brought the sauce to our class for us to try. After watching a few guys resort to chugging milk, I opted out. I still wonder how spicy it really was. Haha.
 
Favourite band?
Gauthier: It’s a toss up between Jack Johnson and Rise Against, depends on what kind of energy I’m looking for.
 
Who would you like to cook for?
Gauthier: Probably the guys from the show “Grill Dads”. I really love their show, and I think that they would be blown away with some of the creative comfort food that I could make for them.
 
The thing you wish for Waterloo Region?
Gauthier: For the construction to finally end! Really though, it will be outstanding when the LRT is finished and everyone in the region has better access to the amazing restaurants located in the heart of KW.
 
Go-to late-night snack?
Gauthier: Hands down it would be grilled cheese. So simple, but the possibilities are endless. You can put as much or as little time into it as you’d like, and you can make anything kicking around in your fridge into a real late-night masterpiece.
 
Best thing about being a chef?
Gauthier: Being able to just repeatedly impress myself and push the limits of my creativity. It really is amazing to test out new ideas on a daily basis, and to know that people from every walk of life can check in on what your doing and have their own unique experience with what you put on the table.
 
Dumbest purchase you’ve ever made?
Gauthier: I bought a pair of $300 white shoes…. And wore them to Phil’s.
 
Favourite city?
Gauthier: Tough question for sure. I love Hamilton and St.Jacob’s very much, but it would probably be Victoria. The food and beer culture there is pretty unreal.
 
TV chefs who annoy you?
Gauthier: Jamie Oliver for sure haha. It’s not that he’s terrible, but he just needs to realize that Gordon Ramsay might be better.
 
Would you describe yourself as sweet or savoury?

Gauthier: Definitely both. I like to be creative and mix it up, combining sweets into savoury dishes and savoury foods into desserts are something that I love to do.

[Photo/Julie Farrell]
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