CHEF’S TABLE: Sharing crème brulee recipe, in stepmom’s memory

One of Kate Clements’ favorite dishes was crème brulee, which also fit her personality — a little hard on the outside, but sweet on the inside, says food columnist

“Life is short, and it is up to you to make it sweet.” — Sarah Louise Delany

The past couple of weeks have been bittersweet for my family. We lost our warrior my stepmother Kate.

Kate fought a courageous battle with cancer that is now over. The pain of her loss from her, while still fresh, has brought a flood of mixed emotions and memories for us. Happy times, sad times and all stories that our families share have come out as we come to terms with another empty seat at our table.

For me, Kate was one of a kind. The fiery redhead that stole my father’s heart and became his world of him.

Quick-witted and confident, she never shied away from a good zinger or one-liner. Throughout her life, she showed courage and perseverance when faced with all the challenges and obstacles that one could face. Throughout her life, she was able to meet every hardship with a stoic grace that I respected.

Of the many things that Kate, my dad and I shared was our love of food and fine dining. As a couple, they had the opportunity to travel, see and experience so many wonderful things. This is where I find most of my favorite memories of Kate have come. I’ve said it before, that food plays an important role in our lives and its times like this and the reflection that we do that makes these connections evident.

From our family dinners celebrating holidays, or dinners out at the restaurants where I was currently working, my dad and Kate were there. They shared so many milestones of my personal journey to become a chef, it’s hard to imagine them not being at my table.

Discerning tastes and an appreciation for the craft would have made Kate a great food critic. I think she would have been an excellent food columnist. Through her professional work trips and a passion for travel, she was able to eat at some top-tier places and experience culinary offerings around the world.

And of all the great tastes and dishes she was able to try, I think her favourite, above all else, was the humble crème brulee. Which, upon reflection, is kind of perfect as it matches her persona perfectly. A little hard on the outside, but sweet on the inside.

The fact that crème brulee was one of Kate’s favorite desserts really worked out well in my favour. You see, as a line cook I’ve always found my dessert repertoire a little lacking. But the crème brulee is one that I have been making since my first days as an apprentice.

For those of you that have not had the pleasure it is a creamy, pudding-like, baked custard with a brittle top of melted sugar that cracks when you gently tap it with a spoon.

As with all custards, it’s made by combining heavy cream, eggs, sugar, and vanilla. The melted sugar crust will be slightly warm or room temperature when served, but the custard below should be cold.

You use the edge of your spoon to gently crack the hard sugar surface, exposing the creamy rich custard.

Although the ingredient list is short (see attached image), this dish does require a lot of practice and skill to get it correct. The techniques involved require the cook to have a good understanding of basics of food science and cookery.

It’s these skills that we work to help our cooks develop and that is why this is one of the many recipes that we include in our culinary programs at Georgian College.

In memory of Kate, I’d like to share our Georgian recipe with you. I sincerely hope that you and your family take the opportunity to go out and make some sweet memories of your own.

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