Ian Blom is the Executive Chef at The Old Firehouse Wine and Cocktail Bar in Duncan, BC. (Don Denton/Boulevard Magazine photo)

Inspired Chef Interview with Duncan’s Ian Blom

Hoping to lead the Cowichan Valley culinary scene

  • Aug. 24, 2018 10:45 a.m.

Where were you born and where did you grow up?

was born and raised in the Cowichan Valley. I always took for granted how beautiful the Cowichan region is with its endless outdoor activities. We have multiple rivers, the ocean is a short drive in almost any direction, there are unbelievable trees and forests and a plethora of amazing organic farms, wineries, distilleries and artisan producers. As a chef I would not want to be anywhere else. Chefs in the Cowichan Valley are just starting to scratch the surface of what can be done with all these amazing products at our fingertips. I hope to be on the leading edge for our future culinary scene.

Where did you train?

I attended Malaspina University in Nanaimo, straight out of high school, attempting to obtain a BA of Arts. Early on, I realized academics were not really piquing my interest. Instead of writing term papers and research projects, I was watching cooking tutorials and reading Escoffier and The French Laundry Cookbook. With encouragement from my family, I dropped out of university and enrolled in the culinary program at Vancouver Island University. I completed my two-year diploma program and wrote my red seal exam before I had actually spent a lot of time in real kitchens. My real training began when I moved to Calgary to work at River Café on Prince’s Island. River Café had just been voted best restaurant in the city and I was very excited to be learning and working with like-minded, passionate young cooks.

How long have you been at your current restaurant?

I have been working at the The Old Firehouse for three and a half years. I was hired as the Chef de Cuisine my first year, and took over in year two.

Where before that?

Most recently I worked at Unsworth Restaurant for a short time and was the executive chef at Merridale Ciderworks for a year or so. I also did a lot of training at Stage Wine Bar in Victoria’s Fernwood neighbourhood. We had a great team and great chef and it’s here that I learned the basis of how to run and operate a successful restaurant, as well as how to make charcuterie, etc.

What are you best known for as a chef?

I am still too early on my culinary story to really be known for one thing yet. I would love to be known as a chef that boosted the awareness of fine food and wine in the Cowichan Valley. Someone who has a tenacious work ethic and strives for perfection, while preparing dishes with the bounty of the Cowichan Valley in mind, and utilizing refined techniques and preparing dishes that are approachable and delicious to the average dinner. Flavour is everything to me. If it doesn’t taste great, don’t put it on the plate!

What are the 10 or so most important ingredients in your pantry?

Kosher salt, butter, ginger, shallots, garlic, sherry vinegar, fennel, chicken stock, wine, fresh herbs.

What’s your favourite dish to cook and eat on a cool winter day?

I love making comfort food for my family. Beef cheeks or some sort of braised, cheap cut of beef are always favourites in our household. I like to mix up the flavour profile each time I cook them, so as to not get bored with the same dish. Sometimes it’s Malaysian Reng Deng. Other times it’s classic French red wine braised cheeks; either way it’s delicious. Cheeks can be one of the most luxurious ingredients if done right.

What’s your go-to item when sampling other chefs’ fare?

I will always search for something that is creative. If I haven’t thought of a dish or seen a dish like it, I am definitely going to try it. House-made charcuterie is always a great option as well.

Hobbies?

Would it be odd to say cooking? I love food! Also, although I don’t get much time for it anymore (having a toddler at home limits the opportunities), golfing is probably my secondary passion. I love being on the golf course. Spending time at home cooking for my wife, Kim, and son, David, would be my current hobby.

Pecorino Gnocchi Romano

1 shallot, minced

1 Tbsp ginger, minced

4 cloves garlic, minced

250 ml chicken stock

250 ml 2% milk

250 ml semolina flour

1 Tbsp butter

250 ml grated Pecorino Romano cheese (parmesan would work as well).

Sweat shallot, ginger and garlic down in butter until translucent. Add chicken stock and milk. Season with salt and cracked pepper. Bring liquid to simmer and whisk in semolina flour.

Reduce heat to medium and stir mixture with wooden spoon for 5 to 10 minutes until it’s a thick, smooth paste. Finish gnocchi with grated cheese.

Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap and lay cooked gnocchi mixture out in a 1-inch layer. Cover with more plastic wrap and place in fridge to set for 1 to 2 hours.

Cut desired shape out of gnocchi and pan fry in a small amount of oil until both sides are golden brown and delicious.

These gnocchi are delicious on their own or serve them with classic basil pesto or salsa verde.

Salsa Verde

1 cup parsley

1 garlic, minced

1 shallot, minced

3 white anchovies, minced

2 Tbsp sherry vinegar

3 Tbsp vegetable oil

– Story by Susan Lundy/Photographs by Don Denton

Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication

Like Boulevard Magazine on Facebook and follow them on Instagram

Just Posted

Surrey man who dropped brick of cocaine in front of cops loses court appeal

Amanpreet Singh Gill, 33, was sentenced to two years less a day

‘What we’re seeing is a different kind of overdose happening’ in Lower Mainland

Fraser Health says benzodiazepine doesn’t respond to naloxone as it is not an opioid

FOCUS: Federal election campaign heating up in Surrey

Lazy days of summer interrupted by knocks on residents’ doors by incumbents, would-be MPs in pursuit of votes

VIDEO: White Rock’s Totem Park renaming motion to be reconsidered

1999 commemorative ceremony video shows ‘historic’ apology from RCMP to First Nations

South Surrey girl aims to make waves for ocean change, one ripple at a time

‘I know I can make a difference,’ says Shelby Hack

VIDEO: Bloodhounds join the search for missing Chilliwack woman with dementia

Petsearchers Canada arrive in town Monday afternoon to help out

Anglican Church to review governance structure after same-sex marriage change fails

Some say the current system to change doctrine gives too much voting power to a smaller class of bishops

B.C. adding fast-charge stations for electric highway trips

Okanagan, Vancouver Island, Kootenay stations ready for use

Worried about bats? Here’s what to do if you come across one in B.C.

Bat expert with the BC Community Bat Program urges caution around the small creatures

B.C. on right road with tougher ride-hailing driver rules, says expert

The provincial government is holding firm that ride-hailing drivers have a Class 4 licence

B.C. Ferries cancels two sailings Monday due to mechanical issues

Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay run affected in order to repair Queen of New Westminster

RCMP investigating alleged ‘sexual misconduct’ by cyclist on BCIT campus

BCIT said they were reviewing video evidence of the incident

New home cost dips in B.C.’s large urban centres

Victoria, Kelowna, Vancouver prices decline from last year

Graphic suicide scene edited out of ‘13 Reasons Why’ finale

Suicide prevention groups support the decision

Most Read