A couple of weeks ago I was invited to join a handful of other journalists to train with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police at the RCMP Academy in Regina. A once in a lifetime opportunity, this was one of the hardest 24 hours of my life. However, the pain quickly faded since our valiant efforts were rewarded with a stay at the historic Hotel Saskatchewan Radisson Plaza, one of Canada’s grand railway hotels.
My corner suite was bigger (and certainly more lavish) than my apartment at home, but the highpoint of my stay was meeting their remarkable Executive Chef, Milton Rebello, a Gold Medal Plate winner at the Canadian Culinary Championship.
I had so enjoyed every morsel of his imaginative six-course brunch (which started with an apple and bacon cinnamon bun and ended with a stunning dish of rhubarb ale braised short ribs topped by a perfectly fried quail egg) that I wanted to meet the man under the toque. Once I began interviewing this extremely talented yet humble chef, I quickly realized he exemplifies the hotel’s motto, “Life’s too short for ordinary!”
Where were you born?
I grew up in Mangalore, India, which is a Southern coastal town.
How would you describe your cooking style?
I love to cook with local ingredients, many which I find in Regina’s Farmers’ Market. I then bring the flavors to life with respect, passion and some of my ma’s secret spices.
Note: If the Farmers’ Market doesn’t have something he wants, Chef Milton will simply plant it in his family’s garden, where he, his wife Louise (also a gifted chef) and two small daughters, Skye and Livia, grow fruits, vegetables, edible flowers and herbs. A large portion of the space is devoted to a variety of mustard plants, one of his favorite ingredients.
Who or What inspired you to become a chef?
My Ma was inspiration. She is still the best chef in the family.
First thing you cooked?
A nice fluffy chorizo omelette.
If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
I was always interested in fine art. I think I would have explored that. For now, I get to use my inspiration on a plate instead of a canvas.
Most exciting ingredient or cooking trend?
Flavored vinegar …. Flash pickling is fun.
Is there an ingredient or food trend that you hate?
I stay away from any ingredient that is not sustainable or produced/ processed with ethical practices. For example, force-fed geese or foie grasor shark fin.
What is your proudest culinary moment?
Winning the Bronze medal at the Canadian Culinary championship, 2013, in Kelowna. Being the first chef from Saskatchewan to ever place in the top three of Canada.
Note: Chef Rebello’s winning dish was ~ Lamb and Goat Cheese Duo: Mustard and Pistachio Crusted Oven Roast Lamb, Green Pea and Mint Puree, Corn and Golden Heritage Potato Hash Cooked in Lamb Jus, Cherry Port Wine and Ginger Reduction; Goat Cheese Dusted with Beet Powder and Encased in Indian Inspired Vegetable and Spices, Paired with Pear Chutney and Lentil Tuile.
Famous people you’ve cooked for?
I have had the privilege to cook for His Highness Prince Charles and Camilla, Prime Minister Steven Harper, Governor General of Canada David Johnston, President Bill Clinton, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Salman Bin Abdulaziz, Princess of Pataudi Sharmila Tagore, Sir Paul McCartney and Michael Bublé.
If you were going to get a culinary tattoo, what would it be?
Culinary trends keep changing but tattoos stay. I have culinary engraved on my heart.
For your final supper you’d choose?
Fresh oyster, finest caviar and champagne. Go out in style!
If you could spend a month studying the local cuisine of a country, which one would it be?
The cuisine of Peru and Chile.
What comfort food do you make for yourself after a bad day?
I always save a big bag of salty potato chips for a rainy day.
What did your mom pack in your lunch box?
I had the best lunch box when I was growing up; spiced vegetable stuffed flat breads (Parathas) with spicy carrot pickle, rice crepes with cardamom flavored coconut and jaggery. It was a pleasant surprise every day.
What is the strangest food you’ve ever eaten?
During my travels to China, I have tried everything that my wife Louise would recommend. Of course, she will not tell me what I have tasted till I have had a big chunk of it. But I guess I will try anything for the first time.
And how did you meet your wife?
My wife was born in Chengdu, Sichuan province, China. I met Louise by sheer destiny. She was studying textile and fashion designing at University of Alberta, but in her third year of her Degree program she switched to the culinary program at NAIT (Culinary School in Edmonton). I was doing a vegetable and fruit demo there and for the first time I found a student who was blessed with better skills and attention to detail than I.
Chef Rebello graciously allowed me to share his recipe for a scrumptious, healthy breakfast cookie that so enamored President Clinton when he stayed at Hotel Saskatchewan, that the name was changed to the “Bill Clinton Cookie”.
Morning Glory Cookies aka “The Bill Clinton Cookie”
Makes approximately – 24 cookies – 1.5 oz scoop
Butter 284 gms
Brown sugar 500 gms
Salt 5 gms
Eggs 3 nos (135ml)
Vanilla 10 ml
Water 30 ml
Pastry flour 375 gm
Baking powder 15 gm
Baking soda 8 gm
Rolled oats 315 gm
Chopped pecans 75 gm
Shredded coconut 75 gm
Shredded carrots 75 gm
Raisins 75 gm
1. In a mixing bowl – cream butter to light and fluffy consistency.
2. Mix in brown sugar/ salt and whip till evenly mixed and creamy.
3. Lightly whip eggs- add to the butter sugar mixture.
4. When evenly mixed, add water and vanilla.
5. In a separate bowl, sieve flour/ baking powder and baking soda.
6. Add flour to the mixture- mix evenly.
7. Finally add all the remaining ingredients; rolled oats/chopped pecan/ coconut and raisins.
8. 1.5 oz scoop should get approximately 24 cookies.
9. Scoop on a parchment paper/ baking tray at 350 degrees F for 14 minutes.
Note: This is just the starting point. Feel free to embellish with a variety of your favorite nuts, seeds and dried fruit.
Note: photos of Cookies and Chef Rebello are courtesy of CJ Katz, author of the award-winning cookbook, TASTE: Seasonal Dishes from a Prairie Table.