This chef couldn’t stand being away from the heat of the kitchen. After wearing an instructor’s toque for a while, he decided to take the helm of one of Vancouver’s busiest seafood restaurants.
By Don Genova
Wayne Sych thought it would be great to step back from the craziness of restaurant kitchens. After all, he had been working in restaurants since he was 15, including the Fish House at Stanley Park and The Cannery, two of Vancouver’s most respected seafood restaurants. When The Cannery closed, Sych started to teach cooking classes.
A few months later his wife said, “Wayne, get back in the kitchen.” She could tell he was missing something. He was. “I actually was missing the intensity and pressure of a restaurant kitchen. I love the speed, the pace, the bustle, the organized chaos.”
He couldn’t have picked a busier place to get back into the thick of things. Joe Fortes Seafood & Chophouse, with 70 employees in the kitchen, had been courting him for a while and he finally said yes. Two years later, he’s implemented a daily fresh sheet, elegant lobster bisque poured tableside, and a very homemade and wildly popular turkey club sandwich. “We brine, then marinate and roast the turkey, bake our own bread and make our own cranberry mayonnaise.” It’s that attention to quality and detail that keeps Joe Fortes at the top of the restaurant ladder in Vancouver.
3 questions for Chef Wayne Sych
1. How busy is a busy day at Joe Fortes?
“In the summertime we’ll feed one thousand people a day, from a very small kitchen!”
2. What’s your favourite fish?
“Halibut, but don’t overcook it, I can’t stand overcooked halibut.”
3. What’s your cooking style?
“Simple and unpretentious, not cutting edge, but without skimping on the recipe. it’s the real deal with good quality, fresh ingredients.”
Fried Oysters with Jalapeño Slaw and Homemade Tartar Sauce
16 shucked medium beach oysters, or two 8 oz (500 mL) tubs of fresh oysters, drained
2 cups (500 mL) Japanese-style breadcrumbs (panko – available in most ethnic food sections of supermarkets)
1/2 cup (125 mL) all-purpose flour, seasoned to taste with salt and pepper
¼ cup (60 mL) milk
Vegetable oil for pan-frying
1. To prepare the oysters, place the shucked oysters on absorbent towels for 20-30 minutes to remove any excess oyster liquid. 2. Place the breadcrumbs and flour in two separate bowls. 3. Mix the eggs and milk with a fork to make an egg wash for breading. 4. Dip the oysters one at a time into the flour, then into the egg wash and then into the breadcrumbs, pressing lightly to ensure oysters are well coated in the bread crumbs. 5. Continue this process until all the oysters are breaded, placing on a cookie sheet as you go along. 6. Over medium heat, place enough vegetable oil into a fry pan to cover the bottom of the pan. 7. Gently place the breaded oysters into the fry pan one at a time. Pan fry until golden brown, 2-3 minutes per side. 8. Remove from pan and place on paper towel to remove excess oil. 9. Serve with coleslaw and tartar sauce (tartar sauce and coleslaw recipes follow).
Jalapeño Cole Slaw
1 tbsp (15 mL) sugar
2 tbsp (30 mL) each: white wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar
1 tsp (5 mL) garlic powder
2 tsp (10 mL) honey
1 tbsp (15 mL) Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp (10 mL) soy sauce
2 tsp (10 mL) chopped fresh jalapeño peppers
¼ cup (60 mL) vegetable oil
4 cups (1 L) cabbage coleslaw mix (store-bought or homemade)
1. Combine all ingredients except the vegetable oil and cabbage in a blender. 2. With the blender on, add the oil in a slow steady stream until combined. 3. Toss the coleslaw with enough dressing to ensure it is well coated.
1 cup (250 mL) mayonnaise
2 tsp (10 mL) each: chopped fresh chives, chopped shallots, chopped fresh tarragon, chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp (5 mL) fresh lemon juice
2 tsp (10 mL) chopped pickles
Salt to taste
1. To make the tartar sauce, simply mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and set aside for a while to let the flavours mingle.
Make the coleslaw served with the oysters a couple of hours ahead of time. This allows the texture of the coleslaw to take on a nice “pickled texture”.