‘Eat with your head’
Hi I’m Ester. I am not a trained chef, I just love everything about food, travel and culture: exploring, tasting, cooking, fresh and unusual ingredients, finding busy markets and good restaurants worth visiting more than once without regrets. My greatest passion: Sharing what I have learned and enjoyed.
- I confess that I am a food nut.
- I have loved playing in my kitchen for decades.
- I read a lot, mainly about food and cooking.
- Influenced by German and French culture.
- I travel with markets, food shops and restaurants setting the route.
- I entertain and sometimes scare my family and friends with experiments on my stove top.
- Proud owner of Fresh a-Fare Restaurants
- Proud owner of Fresh Mix Ltd
I was born in Germany (on the French border) and grew up in a family where food frequently took center stage. My grandma cooked for the family the way she had learned it from her parents and grandparents, and I can tell you that her food was yummy… most of the time: Basic, simple, and loaded with greens, herbs and little delicacies from her garden.
Helping her seeding, weeding and pulling little gems out of the soil in the summer and fall got me hooked on the taste of a sharp little radish, a small carrot, kohlrabi, strawberries warm from the sun and so many other honest flavours. To this day I keep expanding the “dirty area” in my backyard with small patches of yet another vegetable to never lose the sensation of genuine tasting raw food right from the ground.
There was a somewhat flexible routine:
- Sundays: Roast
- Mondays: Left-overs
- Tuesdays: An egg dish
- Wednesdays: Some concoction with potatoes, dumplings and sometimes bacon
- Thursdays: German meatballs, mashed potatoes, spinach
- Fridays: Fish and potato salad or homefries
- Saturdays: Soup with potato pancakes or Crepes
- … And so on, in variations depending on the season.
I still believe it was a good routine. We loved her meals.
My mother liked to entertain with special dinners, elaborate dishes and great wines while my dad, with his incredible sense of humour, had everybody laughing, often to tears.
Growing up, I believed that I was meant to be a teacher and took French and Art as my majors, only to find out a few years later, that teaching was not at all for me.
While in school, I worked the summers in the kitchens of my French relative’s restaurants, in Lorraine, France: Au Vieux Chaudron and Le Relais Compagnard. Working the bar in the early evenings, but of course my main duty was peeling potatoes, setting tables with crisp white linens and heavy silverware, and doing dishes. Many dishes and then some. The exposure to the true French culinary world was fascinating to me from the start. Maybe that’s when I realized that one can turn fresh ingredients into thrilling dishes that make your taste buds dance.
One of my grandpa’s brothers was awarded two Michelin Stars for his restaurant in Metz, Lorraine. La Marne was the place to be for family celebrations, 6-,7-,8-course meals stretching for hours and hours and seriously tormenting me as a child. Good manners required the little ones to sit through those endless meals with a smile. In return, we were allowed to have a sip of wine diluted with water. Oh I wish I could go back and be tormented one more time. The food there was beyond words.
And … by the way: Good manners – not just at the table – may just be one of the best lessons learned in my childhood. I truly believe that life is better and happier when good manners surround us. Sorry! Couldn’t help it 😉
I met my partner in the late 70’s and we –both bored with our jobs- got involved in the world of fresh food processing. An interesting business, perishable product determines the pace of your life 24/7 … and I loved it from the start.
A few years later a visit in Canada triggered a move across the ocean, totally in love with Ontario, where the same business was built again and is still active now after almost 30 years. So much for my day job.
In 2011 the idea of a genuinely “fresh” restaurant concept resulted in two locations in Barrie. Fresh a-fare hit the spot: Freshly prepared comfort food, house-made meats, house-made breads, soups from scratch. Breads right from the oven. And salad greens galore, with house-made fresh dressings.
Some recipes we use go back to my grandma’s cooking, some are very contemporary and always with a flavourful twist. Thanks to a few dedicated and talented individuals working with us, the menu does not turn stale; new ideas frequently add fun and delight to thrill a loyal customer base.
For a few years now, I have been asked to cater events, and I have yet to say no. I get a kick out of creating menus that fit the occasion, plan the logistics and deliver what makes a party a hit.
Entertaining friends at home works the same way. My perfect weekend is having people over to taste some newly found ingredients, a brand new combination of components, an unusual preparation or an unconventional way of finishing a dish. Or simply sitting together devouring simple comfort foods, just the way they have been prepared for decades.
My most exciting inspirations come from traveling in Europe, seeing, smelling, touching, tasting local market goods and the endless variety of produce, meats, seafood, breads …. France, Italy and Germany being my absolute favourites. I leave with a half empty suitcase only to fill it up with treasures of spices, ingredients, cook books, kitchen tools, pots and pans and plans to cook up a storm with newly found ideas. I am proud to say that my cook book collection approaches the one thousand mark, and yes, I have read or at least looked through all of them over the past three decades with joy.
Since I am being asked for recipes and cooking tips often, this website may just be the right vehicle to communicate with other food lovers. Looking very much forward to this new little venture and hope to hear from you with comments, questions, suggestions.
Maybe you’ll even join me on my Kitchen Show on Rogers TV.