Joanna Tymkiw is a trained chef, writer and self-proclaimed "recipe rejuvenator" who earned her stripes apprenticing for several of Vancouver’s top chefs. She then worked as a food stylist on Anna and Kristina's Grocery Bags before besting the competition to score a recurring guest chef spot on The Marilyn Dennis Show.
All that, plus regular appearances on CTV Morning Live, make her one busy woman! But Joanna still found time to sit down with us and spill her secrets. She shared how she comes up with her unique recipes (like the New Kids On The Block burger!), made her predictions on food trends for 2014, and offered some advice for wannabe chefs about why you must have fun in the kitchen.
How were you first introduced to the food industry?
There was one rainy summer in particular that I spent a lot of time inside, glued to the Food Network. I was absolutely mesmerized by these celebrity chefs. I then found myself daydreaming about food and flavour combinations, and eventually started playing around in the kitchen. When I finally mustered up the courage to look into cooking schools, I couldn’t believe I actually had the option to do this for a living.
What is the story beyond the New Kids on the Block burger recipe you shared on CTV Morning last summer?
Well, first of all I LOVE New Kids. I think it stemmed from barbecuing with friends and blasting their cheesy songs. One day I thought to myself, what can I cook tonight that will make everyone smile? And voila! I used the acronym of NKOTB as inspiration for the ingredients: nectarine salsa, a ketchup and onion-laced patty, a ripe juicy tomato and thick strips of bacon.
I actually ended up making it on Vancouver’s CTV Morning Live when the New Kids were in town for a concert this last summer. Maybe they watched? One can dream!
If we snooped around your kitchen, what items are we certain to find?
I always have home-made aioli and hummus, and I try to make a batch of fruit leather every week. It’s surprisingly easy to prepare and tastes better than candy!
I make sure to keep ingredients on hand to make my favourite condiments from scratch. As well, I have an extensive collection of flavoured salts – 15 at last count! From smoked to spiced to wine-flavoured varieties, I find salts really heighten the flavours of whatever dish I’m preparing.
When you don't feel like cooking, where do you most enjoy going out to eat?
I have an insatiable craving for White Spot legendary burgers, which sadly can’t be found outside of B.C. and Alberta. So as soon as I return home to Vancouver, I have to hit the White Spot before I even attempt to do anything else. Luckily for me, there’s one right in the Vancouver Airport!
What would your last meal be?
A loud dinner with family around a table full of comforting nibbles like tortilla chips and guacamole. The main event would be a mix of cured meats, crusty bread and cheeses, served family style. And I would throw in some fish tacos for good measure! Dessert would have to be birthday cake – a mile high, lots of layers and topped with every sprinkle and icing rose I could fit on it.
How do you balance being around food all day with eating healthfully?
I try not to be hard on myself. I keep my meals colourful and full of variety so I don’t get bored, and I will grab a green juice whenever I can. During a busy day, how else can you easily get all that kale and celery into your system?
I also make it a priority to move as much as possible and give my body what it needs. Some days I’m successful, and other days I just can’t get off the couch. On those days, I just go with it and start over the following day. We’re only human after all.
What food trends do you think will be really popular in 2014?
I expect the trend of people being very curious about what they eat and where it comes from to extend that much further. I think we'll see more people making their own wine, curing their own meats and really getting down to the nitty gritty of food preparation. I like that. Being responsible for the food you eat is important and I think this will only gain momentum.
Any last words of advice for aspiring foodies?
Have fun with it! The kitchen is not the dragon’s den (unless you work for Gordon Ramsay), so don’t take it too seriously. Everyone should march to the beat of their own drum. You never know – you may just stumble upon something totally awesome.
Looks like Joanna’s cooking up a storm in 2014. On her To Do list: teaching home cooks to master recipes as the Vancouver Sun's Cooking 101 columnist, donning her chef's whites alongside Marilyn Dennis, and continuing her journey to “de-Martha” the kitchen for the everyday chef. Phew. No big deal, she’s got it covered! You can follow her escapades via @joannatymkiw.