Cooking with
Danya Smith

COMMUNITY PROFILE

We are so excited for you to meet Danya! She owns a catering company, Lulu’s Apron, on Salt Spring Island. Her warm personality and delicious food make cooking & eating with her a pleasure. Keep reading to learn what food she considers perfect, and what she always keeps stocked in her pantry.

Please start by telling us a bit about yourself, and your business.

Originally from Jamaica (land of oxtail), I now own a catering business on Salt Spring Island. I’ve been cooking since the age of eight, always finding ways to express my biggest love language. Three years into studying geography at UVic, I made the leap to join the culinary program at SAIT in Calgary. Interning with Nicole Gomes and graduating with honors gave me the confidence to open Lulu’s Apron in February of 2018. Named after my late grandma Lulu, a true boss woman- I bring her spirit of tenacity, love and fun as I cook for people and was lucky enough to have my opening launch in her home back in Jamaica.

What do you most look forward to cooking, and why?

Two days ago I made pork and kimchi wontons, and I was really excited to make those. I get the most excited when I get ingredients from Duck Creek Farm on Salt Spring Island, because they are so nice to work with. These days, it’s about simple food, like tomato, prosciutto, & burrata salad. I also really like beach BBQ’s.   

How do you reduce food waste in your kitchen?

Sauces. Whenever I have leftover herbs, I make a bomb-ass chimichurri sauce. Also, I just like to use all of the parts of the food I am cooking. For example, when I am peeling spot prawns, I’ll make spot prawn bisque with the peeled shell. Or, I’ll make soup stock out of vegetable stems. Another tip: if you ever splurge on lobster, use a rolling pin to get all of the meat out of the legs. 

What advice would you have for someone looking to reduce food waste? Are there any resources you would recommend about learning how to use all the parts of food, or learning how to improvise recipes to use what you have?

Don’t buy more than you can eat, and get creative. Make pastas, or salads, or soups, where you can throw in everything. Use the whole plant, and make sauces, like: fennel top pesto, carrot top pesto, or arugula pesto. You can eat broccoli stalks, sauté radish tops, roast tomatoes that are about to go bad, and if you have greens that you aren’t going to use, just blend with seasoning, olive oil, and lemon juice. Or, you can add herbs to ice cube trays for a flavour bomb to toss into whatever you are cooking. With meat and fish, make soup stocks from the bones. Consider dehydrating fruit and veggies. 

If you want advice, email me! 

Books: “Bread is Gold” by Massimo Bottura 

What food do you think is most underrated?

 Parsnips; they are so good! Parsnip puree is honestly so good. Oxtail.

Is there a recipe or dish that changed you? 

 Oxtail. 

The whole meal at Massimo Bottura’s restaurant, Osteria Francescana, was incredible. 

Are there cookbooks or books about food you are currently enamored with and/or often revisit? What are they, and why do you love them?

My favourite books are, “The Flavor Bible” and, “Ratio.” If you were an intuitive cook, you would love them. I have this bad habit of buying a thousand cookbooks, and looking at the pictures but never actually cooking step-by-step. But, the nice thing about “Ratio” and the “Flavor Bible,” is that you can use them to be creative. “Ratio” is about the basic ratios of things, like the ratio to make a shortbread cookie, or crème brûlée. “Flavor Bible,” will give you a list of each ingredient, and what other ingredients will pair well. So, you could look at the ratio for crème brûlée, and then make a cinnamon & star anise or a savoury crème brûlée. It is nice because it inspires you to be more creative. 

What is your comfort food?

Oxtail and pho.

What is your least favourite food/ingredient?

 Celery. 

What is your earliest food memory?

More than anything, I remember always sitting at the dining table with my parents, grandma, and my brother, Nathan. I also feel like I was introduced to interesting food at a young age, because my parents were part of a dinner club and were always having themed dinner parties. But, it is probably just the memories of sitting at the dining table.

What is your fondest food memory?

One of my fondest food memories was when I started to cook when I was young. I would always make Sunday dinner, and I came up with a recipe for tomato sauce, and I still use this recipe, it is the best. I used to put mussels in it. Also, I did a cooking lesson in Florence, with my mom, and we learned how to make tiramisu and tortellini. Also, eating Parmesan cheese where it comes from stands out.

When you cook, you are ________.

If I am cooking for work, I’m focused. If I am cooking to experiment, or for friends, that’s when I feel the love.

Who would you most want in your kitchen? Are they cooking for you, are you cooking together, or are you cooking for them?

My grandma, and I would be cooking for her, or we would be cooking Christmas cake together. I think she would be really proud of how far I’ve come.

What is your staple dish for a potluck? What do you love about it?

Oxtail. It’s life. It’s so rich; it’s sticky, and savory. The mouth feel is perfect. I know they say there is no such thing as perfect, but oxtail is perfection.

What is on your grocery list?

  • Not kale
  • Seafood, but only the good stuff
  • Good olive oil
  • Kosher salt or Maldon salt (I don’t like table salt or sea salt)
  • Prosciutto

What do you feel like eating for dinner tonight?

Soup or sushi, but realistically it is going to be chicken thighs.

What is your most memorable meal? Why?

Massimo’s meal, which was the 14 course tasting menu at Osteria Francescana.

Where do you love to eat in Victoria? 

What are some things you always have in your fridge/pantry?

  • Miso paste
  • Scotch bonnet sauce
  • Mirin
  • White wine vinegar
  • Garlic
  • Aged balsamic vinegar

Who are you inspired by right now?  

Nicole Gomes, and Yotam Ottolenghi. Rachel Ray was my very first inspiration.

Top places to shop in Victoria. 

 

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