OpenRoad Driver Volume 15 Issue 1 - Page 28

28 » OpenRoad Driver A traditional Iranian stew, Fesenjān, features duck with walnut and pomegranate. Salimian always had a passion for food. How could he not? Not only was he surrounded by delicious creations from his mother; he was also exposed to the true definition of farm-to-table cuisine. Everything that was made in the kitchen was sourced from their own farm. Instead of receiving a free allowance, Salimian had to work for it by assisting the gardener for an hour each day. He would spend time weeding and learning how to tend to the corn, cucumbers and eggplant. He eventually oversaw the growth of a citrus farm where the first fruit didn’t appear until seven years later. However, it was well worth the wait as the bounty of sun-ripened fruit included plums, peaches, apples, cherries and blackberries. The farm-to-table philosophy did not end with fruit, vegetables and milk products. The family raised their own livestock and slaughtered lamb, sheep and cows. Beyond his own family, Salimian was influenced by his neighbour who cooked in a hot house with charcoal and wood. The local area was beautiful and lush with wild pomegranate and walnut trees. Ten minutes away by car, there were natural carbonated springs. Salimian would spend time foraging and fishing on the Caspian Sea, where a neighbour’s wife would one day encourage him to use his foraged herbs with freshly caught trout. He was heavily inspired by local products. Eventually the family moved to Turkey and then immigrated to Canada in 1989. A classic Canadian snowstorm welcomed them as they landed in Toronto. The sweeping skyscrapers dwarfed anything Salimian had seen in northern Iran. In Tehran, buildings were compact and old. This was a world apart. His family eventually settled in Peterborough where he was surprised by the small-town friendliness. He immersed himself in Canadian culture by participating in hockey and soccer. However, he maintained his love for food and participated in the obligatory berry picking in the summer. A turning point occurred when the family moved to Brampton, and Salimian began working at a local Mr. Sub and A&W. The Italian couple that owned the fast food outlets were more knowledgeable in the culinary arts than most, armed with Swiss degrees in food and beverage. Frank, the husband, would make wine and bring home-cooked food to eat at the back of the restaurant. He saw potential in Salimian and encouraged him to work at an Italian restaurant. It wasn’t until Salimian moved to Vancouver that the culinary path came to fruition. He enrolled at Vancouver Community College in the culinary arts program. Initially, his parents weren’t supportive of the decision, yet after only two weeks, his food received rave reviews as instructors packed his goat curry to take home. Suddenly, it dawned on him that maybe he could do this. Things weren’t always smooth, but Salimian always found support from the Vancouver culinary community. He was given an opportunity to stage at the Sutton Place Hotel where he also did a five-year pastry apprenticeship. Although staging is an unpaid internship, there are still risks. Training requires countless hours from a dedicated mentor, and errors during prep and the cooking process can be costly. The valuable experience led to five years at The Metropolitan Hotel as a line cook where Salimian first met