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‘The Come Up’ with Oliver Hill

Oliver Hill at Kin Kao Song | Photo by Michelle Sproule for Scout Magazine

In an effort to shine some light into the inner workings of the Vancouver restaurant scene, “The Come Up” aims to detail the big talent of tomorrow, today. Meet Oliver Hill…

Oliver is a recent graduate of Northwest Culinary Academy, who has been working in the kitchen at KinKao Song since they opened. “I’ve been lucky to have been taught by some great people in the industry, who, despite trying to talk me out of pursuing a career in this challenging field, have inspired me to do just that.”

Working in a kitchen isn’t for everyone. Now that you’ve been at it for a while, do you think you want to pursue cooking? Despite the fact that a kitchen can be overwhelming due to its fast-paced, demanding nature, or the long/late hours, I would like to continue in this field. My interest in cooking was sparked by curiosity about what we eat and how it changes from an animal or a farmer’s crop into something so complex and satisfying that it can even say something about the person who cooked it (or their culture). In addition to learning new techniques and flavours, what makes me want to stay in the kitchen is the camaraderie and that feeling when you crush a super busy service or hear that you’ve made a customer’s day with your food.

What skills are you interested in developing as you move up in the kitchen? I would like to understand better the process that food undergoes before it arrives in the kitchen, including everything from butchery to farming. Also, considering climate change and the unsustainability of the whole food industry, I’d like to learn how we can source, produce, and sustainably prepare food. I want to think about reducing food waste and how to replace the foods that might no longer be available to us. I’m very interested, for example in the idea of insects as a sustainable protein.

Oliver Hill at Kin Kao Song | Photo by Michelle Sproule for Scout Magazine

What is the most tedious task that ended up teaching you something valuable to the job you do now? Working in a kitchen has many tedious aspects- whether deep cleaning at the end of a night, peeling mountains of apples, chopping onions, or scrubbing mussels. These mundane tasks are not super fun, but I like to challenge myself to see how much I can finish in a short time. Treating it like a video game really helps me get through the prep, and once the rush comes, I feel much more calm knowing everything’s in its place.

What’s the most challenging part of your job? I don’t want to be negative because I enjoy most of the challenging aspects of my job (and because I’m still learning, most are challenging). I do find only hearing negative feedback from customers a challenge. Compliments on a meal don’t usually make it back to the kitchen, whereas when there’s an issue, of course we hear about it so we can fix the problem. I’m not saying that there are a lot of complaints but if that is all you get to hear, then it can be discouraging. This has taught me to swallow my pride and my doubts, focus on the food, taste more often, and pay more attention to my technique.

What’s one thing you wish you could change about the restaurant industry? I wish the restaurant industry were less accepting of food waste and more sustainable. Often the attitude of the kitchen is to get the job done as quickly and efficiently as possible and then move on to the next thing. I’m always so shocked by the amount of compost at the end of a shift. While I know that separating the waste into compost and landfill is already a step in the right direction, I think it would be better if cooks were encouraged to take the time to sort out and save anything that still could be used. Not only would it be more sustainable, but it would cut back on food costs as well. Meat that’s too tough or fatty to serve, vegetable scraps, animal bones, shells, and even things like garlic and onion skins can all be frozen and used for stock.

It’s exciting to see many restaurants starting to think more about menus that are centred around seasonality along with sourcing locally. Although we still have a long way to go, I think that reverting to older ways of being connected with what we eat, knowing where it came from, respectfully using the whole animal or celebrating crops when in season, would be a more reliable long-term food system.

End Goal? I don’t necessarily have an end goal yet, but in 5 years, I would like to have done some travelling and maybe even worked in a foreign country to understand and experience different cultures’ foods.

There are 3 comments

  1. Way to go Oliver. I like your reference to getting back to the old ways of
    “want not, waste not”. You are on the right track, and keep going!

  2. Good questions and great answers to get us all thinking about sustainability and seasonality. You’re going places, Oliver!

  3. Impressed by Oliver’s views on sustainability and views on the “waste” culture which is plaguing our society.
    It shows the impact of my generation’s way of life ( I am old…) on the you young and the concerns they have on climate issues.
    I like Oliver’s idea of researching new sources of food like insects, for instance. I tasted some during a trip to Africa and they were delicious.
    Best of luck, Oliver.