Ten Questions with Chef Dante Ramos of Wild Rice
Wild Rice has quickly become part of New Westminster’s burgeoning culinary scene. With a singular focus on fresh, local and organic, Chef Dante Ramos and owner Andrew Wong make sure to choose and serve the best in local ingredients from farm-fresh vegetables to Ocean Wise seafood and hormone-free meat.
As for Chef Dante, his culinary background comes straight from his mother, a pastry-maker who owns and operates Gelyn’s Bake Shop in Winnipeg. Though he initially moved to Vancouver to become an electrician, Dante instead wound up in kitchens and has never looked back. With years of experience and training in running kitchens and managing dining rooms across the Lower Mainland, he now calls Wild Rice home and brings with him an immense love for food from all over the world.
Here are our 10 questions with Chef Dante:
1. When did you start cooking?
I started out at a young age in our family bakery and our banquet hall back in Winnipeg.
2. Why did you choose to become a chef?
The short answer is that it’s in my blood. At first, I didn’t feel like cooking was for me. Growing up in a kitchen, I really wanted to do something else. But then when I went to college, I needed to find some work – a job – and then I happened to land in a kitchen. At that point, there was no turning back for me.
3. What was your first restaurant job? Tell us about it.
My first real professional kitchen job – not including the family business, of course – was at Carlos ‘n Buds. This is where I started to really love and appreciate spicy food. It’s also where I learned a lot of my skills working alongside the owner who was a self-taught chef. In fact, I learned a lot from him. I found my passion at that first real restaurant job, and that’s what made me want to keep doing what I was doing.
4. As a chef, what is one thing that is very important to you in your cooking?
I love spicy food. Having said that, I think it’s important to balance all the flavours so you not only have the spiciness, but you can also taste the protein, the vegetables and all the other flavours. Balance is so important… everything should have balance. After all, what is the point of having a super hot chicken wing when all you taste is the heat?
5. What do you think is the most important part about sourcing ingredients locally?
That’s a good question. In fact, I just recently visited one of our local farmers that we work with personally and it was good to see where our food comes from. The fact that he is local and organic means a great deal to us. As well, the way many BC restaurants now operate with a farm-to-table approach is a trend that I feel is important for better control of freshness and flavour.
6. What is your favourite part about cooking with BC ingredients? And why?
Cooking with BC ingredients is about knowing where your food comes from; and it’s also better for our economy as we’re actively supporting local growers and farmers. The fact is that through events like Feast on the Fraser, we’re able to showcase our chefs and products here in BC not only to locals – but also to those who live south of the border.
7. Which Fraser Valley ingredient inspires you the most?
That would have to be sockeye salmon. It’s such a very versatile fish, and I love the flavour. Sockeye is my favourite fish to cook, use and eat!
8. What’s one ingredient that you can’t live without?
Well, that would have to be garlic. Definitely garlic.
9. If you could only have one last meal, what would it be?
I would lean towards a nice pasta dish or slice of pizza.
10. Who is your favourite celebrity chef?
I would say it’s Gordon Ramsay, as he’s so accomplished. He’s opened quite a few successful restaurants around the world and has earned many, many Michelin stars along the way.
Learn how to cook with Chef Dante Tuesday September 27.