Chef Doug McNish began cooking at the age of 15 and immediately fell in love with the kitchen, which he describes as an environment like no other in the world. At the age of 21 he had ballooned up to 270 pounds and needed to make a change in his life. After watching a video of how animals are treated in slaughter houses and learning to understand health and nutrition, he became a vegetarian and 6 months later a vegan. He lost almost 100 pounds and completely changed the direction of his career. He went from working the grill at The Air Canada Centre to tossing salads in Kensington Market, which he considers to be the best choice he ever made. He is now the Executive Chef of Raw Aura (94 Lakeshore Road East, Mississauga).
What inspired you to become a chef?
I fell in love with cooking because of the honest hard work, creativity, teamwork and the ability to make people happy by feeding them. I knew I would never be out if a job, because everyone has to eat right?
What is your favourite dish at the restaurant where you cook and why?
I am currently the Executive Chef of a raw organic vegan restaurant. Nothing on the menu is heated past 105 degrees to ensure all enzymes and nutrients remain intact. Our raw pizza is my favourite dish, as it as close to the real thing that anyone can expect. The sauce, cashew cheese and even crust can fool the most sophisticated palate into believing it is the real deal.
Three ingredients you couldn’t live without and why?
I could not live without nutritional yeast, miso or hemp seeds. The nutritional yeast adds a body of flavour as well as richness and a full range of b vitamins not found in vegetarian food. Miso I often use for saltiness in a dish while giving the body amino acids and healthy bacteria because of the fermentation. Hemp seeds are my go to in the kitchen when looking for an added dose of protein or omega fatty acids. I use them for texture, emulsification or to create a cream sauce.
On your day off – what are you cooking at home? If you’re eating out, where do you go?
I always believe that one can eat healthiest when at home. I like to keep it simple by steaming a big pot of vegetables, making sweet potato mash, quinoa and some red lentil dhal. When eating out I like to go to a wonderful little place called Hibiscus Cafe (236 Augusta Avenue); simple, healthy and delicious.
What is your favourite thing about the food scene in Toronto?
We live in a multicultural city and it’s reflected in our food. I love the fact that on my day off in a 2 mile radius I can enjoy Ethiopian, falafel, pad Thai or head over to Chinatown and get a steaming bowl of noodles with freshly pressed tofu. We are truly blessed to have an amazing food scene here.
What’s coming up?
I am currently teaching classes at the restaurant and have an upcoming article in The Toronto Star as a featured chef. In March I will be going to Hawaii to give talks and demonstrations in both Honolulu and Maui, please check out my website for more info on upcoming events or Raw Aura’s website for new menus.