Chef Luca Ballard is the newest Chef at Cook Culture. He will be primarily working out of our BRAND NEW teaching kitchen on Howe Street in Vancouver (which is set to open next week!!) Last week, I had the chance to sit down with Luca and learn about his journey, what’s important to him, and how he ended up teaching at Cook Culture. Read on to learn more about Luca, and book a class with him here!
Luca grew up in Eastern Ontario. But instead of TVs and video games as a source of entertainment—he had the forest, the riverways, and the lakes. Fishing and hunting, along with the respect and knowledge of the woods shaped who he is today.
For Luca, cooking started when his Grandmother sat him on her counter to watch her create apple pies and butter tarts as if it was an orchestra, featuring Patsy Cline playing the backbeat. She would plop him down with some dough, and they would spend the morning laughing and dousing the kitchen in soft white flour. Because of this, Luca has always related cooking and food with love and joy!
At 10, Luca’s mother recognized his special talents and encouraged him to be a Chef. And at 18, with his mother’s encouragement, he dove head first into the culinary world in Toronto. Luca has worked for some of Canada’s top restaurants and learned about so many cuisines, but what he missed was the wild. So he moved back to the country, and decided to find a way to combine all of his passions into one. He took his hunter-gatherer lifestyle, plus his passion for cooking, and molded them together to find his own identity in the culinary realm. In 2016 Luca opened J. Ballard Food Co. in Muskoka, Ontario in order to create the ultimate outdoor dining experience. He cooked with what was around him—ever changing and always sustainable. Herbs from the forest, wild fish and game or locally raised meat. Raw, simple, and romantic.
Now living in Vancouver, Luca spends his days hiking the forest, foraging for wild ingredients, and paddling the rivers and oceans in search of beautiful seafood!
We welcome Luca to the Cook Culture family, and can’t wait to see what he does next!
Q: When did you know you wanted to be a chef?
A: When I saw that cooking for someone had the ability to make somebody smile
Q: What sorts of food did you grow up eating? How did it shape the chef you are today?
A: Growing up we hunted for our meat and fished for our fish and I still practice this today. My Mother also had a vegetable garden, so throughout the summer season we always had access to fresh vegetables, and come fall we would pickle and can what we could. My Grandma was always baking, so there was never a shortage of butter tarts and apple pies and now that I think of it, I was pretty lucky.
Food and the creation of food is what has definitely shaped who I am today. Whether it was canning tomatoes, in August or harvesting a deer in October food—was the foundation of my life.
Q: What is your best food memory?
A: I have so many! But if there was one I could experience time after time, it would be my early market mornings with my Mom. When I would visit, we would wake up at 5:00 am to be at the market for 5:45. we would start with a latte and then visit her friend who is a local Ontario farmer from the Niagara region. The three of us would wander the market, picking our favorite treats. My favorite was a grilled cheese from Yannies, and Mom loved a fresh baguette from the Lower Level Bakery, filled with fresh shaved prosciutto and drizzled with olive oil, she’s a little fancy! Once we had all of our treats, we’d sit down and enjoy a feast that would be suited for Kings! I live for my 5 am market days with Mom. Mwah!
Q: What’s your funniest kitchen incident?
A: ……..Sometimes our dogs eat UBER Eats…
Q: You are stranded on a deserted island, what five foods would you want with you?
A: 1000 Liters of olive oil, 100lb of salt, 50Lb dried chilies, lifetime supply of chateau de Bourgogne and 50 cases of dry red, your choice. I’ll figure the rest out.
Q: Favourite food blog or cookbook?
A: Susan Musgrave’s book “Haida Gwaii” is Brilliant! All I want to do now is show up at her front door with a bottle of red and beg to cook for her!
Q: Favourite place to eat, anywhere in the world?
A: In front of the people I love, anywhere in the world.
Q: What are your Kitchen Essentials?
Welcome Luca! We’re excited for you to be working with our team! You can check out his upcoming Howe classes here.