Recently returned from a trip to Thailand, Robin Kort was abuzz with new culinary inspiration when we caught up with the Swallow Tail Secret Supper Chef, Sommelier, Foraging Guide and Educator. Since keeping up with Kort is something to aspire to, a good place to start is probably with one of her upcoming spring foraging day trips, which begin in May. Read on for more on the fast-paced yet coffee-free life of this talented, busy Vancouverite.
Where did you grow up? Born and bred on the mean streets of Vancouver’s West End.
What is your current neighbourhood and what makes it home? Mount Pleasant. I love how quiet it gets on my street when really it’s quite close to some fine city action between Main and Fraser eateries and watering holes.
Your neighbourhood haunt? Los Cuervos’ happy hour with its damn fine margarita and taco combo is definitely high on the hit list.
Drink of choice? Sours of all kinds. I love a good Boston sour with just a perfect amount of foam, peated scotch and a brandied cherry…I want one right now. Actually, the The Cascade Room makes the best one in town.
Coffee or tea? Tea all the way. Coffee gives me the shakes.
For me, it’s all about creating dishes using only a few, really fresh ingredients and keeping it simple, which is why I lean to Japanese or Italian cuisine.
Cats or dogs? I’m one of those weak allergic persons, but I love dogs.
A hidden talent? I never sweat.
Your favourite curse word? “Poop stain!”
Your least favourite word? “Awesome”.
Your “cry” song? The Pogues, “Fairytale of New York”.
Your go-to dish when you’re cooking dinner for yourself at home? My nickname is ‘Burger’.
Your go-to dish when you want to impress others? I’ve just returned from a cooking-focused trip to Thailand, so any friend that comes over gets to take part in my experiments to try and recreate any of my favourite Lanna (Northern Thai) dishes. Abb Pla is one of my favourites: a turmeric-based yellow curry paste and fresh kaffir lime leaves on snapper wrapped in banana leaves and grilled on charcoal.
A “hidden gem” restaurant in Vancouver? Rehanah’s Roti in Port Moody. The goat roti is to die for. The handmade roti is so soft it’s like you’re eating clouds.
Your three favourite dishes in Vancouver? Whole crab baked in garlic, halibut seared in butter with lime and uni fresh from the sea.
The Vancouver restaurant you’re dying to try? Chinatown BBQ sounds yummy.
A guilty pleasure? Ripple chips with dill yogurt dip eaten by the handful.
The indulgence you won’t hesitate to invest in? Travel, especially to Spanish-speaking countries.
Something of no monetary value that you cherish? The tea cozy that my grandma knit for me.
The song you currently have on repeat? “Dust” by the Parquet Courts, ’cause we’re doing a bathroom reno.
The last show you went to? Parquet Courts at the Imperial. I love that venue.
Shoe of choice? I love weird looking shoes. My pair of plaid loafer Clarks that have lasted me 15+ years are my fastest friends.
The one tool you can’t live without? My boyfriend.
The scariest animal? Thai ticks! They’re microscopic in size, so they’re hard to find on your clothes and they carry Lyme Disease.
The last thing that made you laugh out loud? ‘Just for Laughs’ on the plane. It’s something about being at altitude and watching stupid, physical comedy that makes me cry laughing. It’s really embarrassing.
The last movie you saw in a theatre? “Lucky” at the film fest, so amazing. It was with Harry Dean Stanton playing a 90 year old atheist on a spiritual journey.
Your favourite Vancouver building? The Hastings Mill Store Museum near Jericho. It’s the oldest building in Vancouver and has all these old relics to wander through, and no one knows it’s there.
Your favourite view? The local mountains with fresh snow on a bright sunny day.
Where do you go to escape? Galiano, where we’re building my glamping paradise on the cheap.
Your favourite rainy day activity? Going for a swim in a still lake. They tend to steam and the water is always warmer. Magic.
Your favourite thing about Vancouver? Polar bear swims.
Something that you’d like to see change about Vancouver? The boring architecture.
Something you’d like to see change about the Vancouver restaurant scene? All the beach concession stands turned into seafood shacks.
Your biggest pet peeve? The very few affordable, fresh seafood restaurants in Vancouver. You’d think we lived in the prairies.
How do you stay inspired? It’s easy, my brain is like a cat on a hot tin roof. I travel and surround myself with people more creative than myself.
An underrated ingredient? Green onions. They are the king of the onion family.
An unusual flavour combination you’d like to try? A friend asked me to make them some Kaffir lime and chocolate chip ice cream, sort of like a spin on mint chocolate chip. Why they want ice cream in winter is anyone’s guess!
An elusive ingredient you’d like to use? I’ve been playing with a lot of Thai ingredients and their small bitter eggplants are an interesting one to play with.
Your biggest culinary “flop”? Which one?! I set my barbecue on fire while searing about 40 duck breasts…that was pretty bad.
The ingredient you most look forward to coming into season? Fresh peas. I’ve been craving gnocchi with pancetta, fresh peas and blue cheese.
Your least favourite food? Anything over sauced and too rich…like bad French food.
Your favourite smell? The sea on a windy, cold day, like today.
The greatest length you’ve ever gone to for the sake of a dish/ingredient? To Tombstone Park in the Yukon to hunt for obscure mushrooms like the woodland Agaricus. Fried in butter over a fire it has a crispy, steaky vibe that’s so delicious.
A skill that you wish you possessed? Japanese seaweed harvesting and preservation techniques, so that I can apply that knowledge to some BC delicacies.
Define your cooking ethos in one sentence. For me, it’s all about creating dishes using only a few, really fresh ingredients and keeping it simple, which is why I lean to Japanese or Italian cuisine.
Another career path that you could’ve taken? Robotics. I was accepted into a program in BC, but then went into videogames instead.
The weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten? Deep-fried scorpion on a stick. It was really hard to chew.
A current food trend that you’d like to see die? Kale everything.
Why Secret Suppers? Because it lets the chef cook whatever they are most passionate about, just once. It’s a flash in the pan and you’ll never see the menu again.
The biggest misconception about wine? That really good wine is only for rich people.
A famous person you’d like to share a drink with? Frank Gehry.
If you could cook for anyone, living or dead, who would it be? Robin Williams, because he would be good company.
Vancouverites that need to be interviewed? 1) Chef Erin Vickars – one of the most passionate chefs in Vancouver. She works on yachts going up the coast of BC and makes beautiful food from what she finds along the coast. 2) Photographer Angela Fama – just a very pure soul with an amazingly creative mind. 3) Shannon Mendes – one of the most interesting personalities in the city, photographer turned master gardener. She will save the planet if anyone can.
Why forage? Because it’s fun and free. I’m excited that we’re coming into spring foraging season soon, so if people are interested about learning more about what they can eat in the forests, check our day trips out here.
The most beautiful place in the world? I’m a little enamoured by Galiano right now with orcas cruising by in the crystal clear winter sea.
A place in the world that you want to visit? Chile.
Your favourite plant? Yerba buena grows wild in BC and is so tasty in tea.
What do you hope to accomplish in 2018? To finish building my hunter’s tent on Galiano.
Your ideal last meal? At Narisawa in Tokyo, please! 14 delicious courses paired with the best French wines.