COLUMN: The art of reflection
Only solitary men know the full joys of friendship. Others have their family; but to a solitary and an exile his friends are everything.
-Willa Cather, Shadows on the Rock
Alain Bosse, centre, is a chef who travels the world. When leading cooking classes at home he likes to stick with what’s produced locally.
Some chefs discover their passion for cooking in the kitchens and markets of France and Italy but for Alain Bosse the moment of discovery came at a Scout camp.
Long before becoming The Kilted Chef, being designated an Atlantic Canadian culinary ambassador or joining Saltscapes Magazine as food editor, Bosse was determined to master tin foil and campfire cooking.
“The other kids went off on some adventure but I stuck around to help the leaders getting a meal together. When they saw I was really interested they gave me lots of encouragement and freedom to experiment,” he said.
Soon he was doing survival cooking demonstrations and in charge of feeding 40 Scouts three meals a day at Scout jamborees in Sweden and Denmark.
Bosse grew up speaking French in Edmunston, N.B., in a home where cooking was more about feeding a family of seven than creative expression. He remembers an Italian grandmother who had a way with vegetables and spices but she died when he was very young. A lacklustre student, he decided to take a course in hotel and restaurant management. When he got his first job in the business his mother got down on her knees to offer a heartfelt prayer of thanks.
“I was hired as the food and beverage manager at the Wandlyn in Bridgewater before I was old enough to drink legally.” he said.
An opening at Pictou Lodge eventually lured him to the county.
“I was hired by Don Mingo as chef and general manager of the lodge. It was a great opportunity with a great view. I got to know Pictou County and its people. I was invited to get involved in the community and it became home.”
About six years ago Bosse, feeling he needed a change, started his own food consulting business. It is a wide-ranging business with restaurant and retail clients, corporate team-building workshops and a limited number of cooking classes.
“I started with some ideas and half a plan. I remember getting one great piece of advice which was not to pigeon-hole or restrict myself. I’ve definitely learned the value of being versatile.”
In need of a brand, he re-invented The Kilted Chef, having years earlier donned a kilt while hosting a fundraiser for Heatherbell Girls Pipe Band.
“I wanted to promote what Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada have to offer and a kilt gave me the memorable brand I needed. Obviously from my name, I’m not Scottish but nobody seems to mind.”
He acknowledged being named a culinary ambassador led him to opportunities he could only have imagined.
“I may be at the Right Some Good Food Festival or an event in Boston or Georgia or in Europe but I’m always reminding myself I’m just a cook who likes people. I like the limelight that goes with the work but I don’t forget who I am.”
When he is at a Canadian event he usually sports a Nova Scotia tartan kilt but for international events he often wears a red kilt with maple leaves.
“Wherever I go in Canada, the United States or Europe, at food festivals or trade shows or in restaurants or cooking schools, I’m promoting lobster, mussels, wild blueberries, apples and everything we have to offer in Atlantic Canada.”
The cooking classes at his farm are actually journeys into what Pictou County has to offer.
“I’ve been cooking local since before it was cool. I want people to know what they can access locally from the sea, from farmers’ fields and at our local markets and businesses. I might add honey from Guysborough County or chicken or turkey from Tatamagouche but I keep everything close to home.”
That means taking his students to pick up ingredients at businesses such as The Pork Shop, Ferguson’s Abattoir, Lakenman’s Farms, North Nova Seafood and Logan’s Fish Store. Frequently they stop at New Glasgow Farmer’s Market and it is not unusual to visit Mrs. MacGregor’s Tea Room in Pictou to sample the shortbread.
Once the food is gathered, the first instructions are about knives, Grohmann knives to be exact.
“Starting off with the best of ingredients and the best of knives, we create a very enjoyable meal. By the time we’re done people who may not have thought of Pictou County as a culinary centre are quite pretty impressed with what can be done with local food,” he said.
Bosse, who serves on the Ship Hector Foundation, is enthusiastic about the area’s tourism potential.
“We can’t get by on just being friendly because there are friendly people everywhere. We’ve got to promote what we have, such as the wonderful Ship Hector, and bring people here and give them something to remember.”
Bosse and Linda Duncan, executive director of the Mussel Industry Council, which promotes Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island mussels throughout North America, have joined forces in a soon to be released cookbook.
“We have a passion for mussels and we’ve got 77 different recipes for serving them. Nothing wrong with steaming in white wine and a few spices but it is just the beginning of what can be done with mussels.”
- Rosalie MacEachern is a Stellarton resident and freelance writer who seeks out people who work behind the scenes on hobbies or jobs that they love the most. If you have someone you think should she should profile in an upcoming article, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org