Q & A with Chef Tara Black

“I didn’t inherit the green thumb, at all, but at least I know what to do with it!

Tara is one of those people that you love right from the get go, a little over 5ft tall and with a sparky personality, she is the epitome of the saying that great things coming in small packages! I met her in her Victoria home and we spent a morning drinking tea, chatting and canning this season’s best tomatoes. With a gardener for a mum, she is no stranger to getting her hands dirty and working with fresh, whole foods, and after speaking with her for a short while, it’s clear how passionate she is about food.

After realizing she spent all her spare time in the kitchen playing with food, it was obvious to her that the most enjoyable career would be on in food. After working in restaurants and training young cooks, she partnered with a friend to open Origin Bakery, a completely gluten free bakery based in two locations in Victoria (and hopefully soon Vancouver!). Talking to Tara about how she runs the bakery, it would have anyone dreaming of giving up the day job and going to work with her. With being the operative word. Because it’s run in a collaborative way, where everyone who works there is of equal worth, all contributing ideas and experimenting with any gluten free idea that they can imagine. In workplaces like these, it’s no longer work, but basically hanging out friends making food all day…what more could anyone want?!

Tara’s upcoming class, Canning and Preserving the Season is sure to be a hit, she is full of tips and tricks for the best and simplest canning methods, and has some great recipes for pickles and preserves you would never think of yourself. For a sneak peek, here’s the recipe for Canned Tomatoes that we made when we met. There a just a couple of spots left for tomorrows class (if you’re quick you can get in! If not, don’t fret, there’s another in July and in August too).

What sorts of food did you eat growing up?
I didn’t grow up on anything fancy, there was a lot of comfort food, casseroles, roasts, lots of potatoes. I lived in between mining towns in the Rockies. So there weren’t a lot of options in eating out. Both of my parents grew up with families that cooked from scratch. My mother was the main one to do the cooking, but after my parents split, my dad really got into cooking too. My mothers a gardener, so we always had a garden and lots of produce from that. So although our food was never fancy it was always fresh and balanced. My mom still brings me produce from the garden whenever she visits, I didn’t inherit the green thumb, at all, but at least I know what to do with it!
Tell us about your background and how you got to where you are today?
I have always been in the kitchen. I love food, my entire family loves food. Food is what we do in our free time. I always said that I would do this, work in the restaurants, while I figured out what I wanted to study. Turns out that what you do in your free time, the thing that brings you happiness will keep you fulfilled as a career. So I have spent the last 20 years training and working with talented, knowledgeable people that usually share the same passion. I really thrive on collaborations. That is why I have a business partner. I have found that if I only rely on myself to push myself forward, that is not enough (I’m actually quite lazy, when left to my own devices).
If you could pick one meal to eat over and over again, what would it be?
Hmmmm, seriously I don’t know. I really love sashimi. I really love hamburgers. I really love noodles, ALL noodles. I can eat seafood everyday and be a very happy fulfilled person. this is actually easier to answer if I had to say what I never want to eat, its a much shorter list!
What food are you most excited about this season?
The early growing season has been really thrilling, having such a huge array of fruits and veggies all at my fingertips has been awesome. I have been really enjoying the cherries, they are probably my favourite summer fruit, and having them in June! Everything about them and all the versatile ways that you can use them, Cherry clafoutis is an all time favourite of mine. They are so juicy and sweet with just enough tartness this year, that I can’t wait to preserve a bunch for during the winter 🙂
What one ingredient and kitchen tool could you not live without?
Butter . . . kinda of cliche, but I feel a bit lost if I run out. Sharp knives!
Favourite food blog or cookbook?
Saveur magazine. They do a great job of showcasing not just the current appetite, but also the hidden gems. I’m always inspired but how eclectic they keep their focus, it is a difficult balance to achieve. They also do a fabulous job of curating their recipes, I’m very rarely disappointed.
Favourite place to eat, anywhere in the world?
Hmmm, I don’t have a great memory for names, but I can say some of the best dishes that I have had, that make me want to travel back to get more. Olive oil from a grove in New Zealand. The flowering soup from Manresa, just outside of San Fransisco (along with their black sesame macaron), a ginger broth over sticky rice with a crisp skinned salmon at the Wickinannish in Tofino, Semolina cubes at Olo restaurant in Victoria, Tartine’s passionfruit and coconut cake. Gin from the Lakes District of Northern England. Islay and Speyside Scotch’s!!! I’m travelling to Japan in a month, so I’m looking forward to finding something over there to write home about.
To find out more about what Tara is up to, keep an eye out for his classes with us here, follow her bakery on Instagram for shots of all her gorgeous, tempting treats!
Photography and interview by Kateland Clarke.

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