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Photo: Courtesy of Hawskworth Restaurant

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Vancouver Chef David Hawksworth’s Bookshelves Groaning With — What Else? — Cookbooks

The master of contemporary Canadian cuisine tells us about the book that changed his life, what he can't wait to read and which author he would like to invite to dinner / BY Shinan Govani / March 25th, 2022


David Hawksworth, a goliath on Vancouver’s culinary scene, owns enough cookbooks to open a store of his own, and one would assume his 2020 tome, Hawksworth: The Cookbook, is among them.

One of Canada’s leading culinary talents, the chef behind the eponymously named Hawksworth, as well as a more recent addition, Nightingale, needs little introduction. You may have eaten one of his signature dishes in Air Canada’s Maple Leaf lounges or on an international business class flight. In 2013, he launched the Hawksworth Young Chef Scholarship Foundation, which holds an annual national competition for professional chefs under 30, with a $10,000 prize for the winner. His style of upscale Canadiana, meshed with European savoir faire, has won no shortage of awards, and even prompted an invitation to cook at the James Beard House in New York.

When he is not slipping spatulas, he likes nothing more than flipping pages. Hawksworth recently gave us a taste of his favourite books.

What’s the best book you’ve read this year?

By far the most fascinating is Modernist Pizza by Nathan Myhrvold. It’s actually a series of three books that dive into the fundamentals, ingredients, culture and history of pizza, with more than 1,000 recipes! I had the immense pleasure of meeting Nathan at Hawksworth Restaurant and he’s a fascinating individual. The former chief technology officer at Microsoft, he decided to follow his passion for photography, cooking and food science, and co-founded Intellectual Ventures. I love his experimental and scientific approach — he’s so thorough, and works with a team of researchers, chefs and scientists. We currently serve 10 different pizzas on our Nightingale menu, and recently launched our own line of “ready-to-serve” frozen pizzas, so I’m always keen to expand my perspective and knowledge on a subject that is so close to my heart!

What book can’t you wait to dive in to?

Yearbook by Seth Rogan. He is from Vancouver, and actually grew up in the same neighbourhood where I live. I love comedy, and this is a collection of stories I can’t wait to devour. I’m sure it’s going to be funny, and I am looking forward to a light read.

What’s your favourite book of all time? 

Most of my books are cookbooks. I have a huge collection at home and at work — enough to open a small shop! Michel Roux’s book Sauces was one of my first, and one I go back to time and time again, with more than 100 classic and contemporary sauces. From the perfect hollandaise to bois boudrin, a good sauce can transform a dish, and is one of the most important fundamentals of cooking.

What book completely changed your perspective? 

Marco Pierre White’s White Heat changed my perspective and literally changed my life. It was a seminal book for many in the industry when it came out in 1990, but this book made me consider, for the first time, making a career out of cooking. It was edgy and real and raw, and there was nothing else like it. Marco was the first and youngest British chef ever to be awarded three Michelin stars, and when I first saw that book as a young cook in Vancouver, I knew I had to work for him. I wrote to him, and showed up in London a few weeks later ready to start — he put me on the fish section because I was Canadian (ha!). It was the toughest kitchen I ever worked in, but it sparked my drive and ambition and helped lead me to where I am today.

If you could have dinner with any author living or dead who would it be? 

Oh, that’s a tough one. Maybe Michael Palin. I’m fascinated by his travel documentaries and would love to go back to his Monty Python days. I think he’d be super interesting and I could see us laughing a lot, too!

Hawksworth
Photos: Myrhrvold (Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images); White (David M. Benett/Getty Images); Roux (Warton Li/South China Morning Post via Getty Images)

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