Q & A with chef Cui Kouch (Wed. Nov. 23,2005)
"grillin' the chef"
I was born in Cambodia in 1973 near the end of the Vietnam War. From the age of 8 I was cooking for my family because my parents worked. When I was 17 I left my parents to come to Canada with my aunt. I spent 2 1/2 years in a refugee camp in Vietnam while waiting for my papers. I came to Edmonton because I had family here and my Uncle helped me get a job as a dishwasher at Normand's. One night we were short staffed and my boss Normand Campbell, asked me to help in the kitchen, I watched and learned and worked my way up to executive chef eight years ago.
We are known for our wild game menu which is offered in October and November as is customary in France. We have wild Arctic muskox, Rankin Inlet caribou, elk, wild boar and fish such as Artic char. My favorite dish is braised Alberta boar shanks with roasted red peppers, honey, whiskey and black peppercorn. People are sometimes surprised to see a Vietnamese chef cooking traditional French cuisine.
I don't think I have had any.
When I became a chef. At first I didn't want the job because of the responsibility. What I enjoy the most is when I get an idea to create something new.I have also trained cooks in my kitchen who have gone on to do well.
Wife Tu and daughters Deana, seven, and Hailee, aged four months.
Usually I do 80% of the cooking at home. I like to make traditional Vietnamese and Chinese foods. Deana really likes barbecue pork. We have a rice steamer, which is my favorite piece of equipment.
I love Chinese fruits such as lychees and longan which you can buy in Chinatown.
Victorinox are good knives, easy to sharpen and to keep clean.
Once in a while I will read a cookbook for ideas but mostly I do everything from my head.
I work 12 hours a day so I don't watch much TV.
People really seem to be enjoying the wild game. It is very healthy. It's natural -not raised in a factory- and is very lean.
Kangaroo makes dinner debut
Normand's brings in meat for Australia Day
Ostrich, elk, musk ox, and caribou are regular features on the menu at Normand's bistro at 11639 - Jasper Avenue, but next week's serving of wild game is really going to have the place hopping.
For the first time in the province, kangaroo will be on bistro owner and chef Normand Campbell's menu for a special dinner on Tuesday for the Edmonton Austalian Wine Club.
He hasn't decided how he's going to prepare it.
"It's described as being close to venison," Campbell explained. "I'm going to play with it for a few days. I don't know the sauce yet. Something with berries, or a wild mushroom, something I know goes with venison, like saskatoon berries. Or lemon sorbet."
A staple of the Australian aboriginal's diet for thousands of years, kangaroo meat is high in protein, zinc and iron, but very low in fat.
It has a gamey-flavored taste, but is a delicate meat which must not be overcooked or it will dry up.
A Tasty Game To Delight All At Normand's
Normand Campbell tempts the palate with a game mixed grill of, from left, venison, wild boar, and caribou under a slice of double-smoked bacon.
I've never seen Normand Campbell with a tie. The demonstrative owner of the unassailable Normand's just isn't a tie guy.
You might expect the proprietor of a restaurant specializing in country French cuisine to fancy the odd cravate, but that's just not Normand's style. He's a roll-up-the-sleeves-and -get-elbow-deep-in-the-goose-liver-pate kind of guy.
That is to say he labours. He'll serve tables; run the kitchen; greet the guests. The end tails of his shirt are often on the verge of untucking. If I was a restauranteur, I'd want to be Normand.
If it's November (and of course it is), it's game month at Mr. Campbell's thriving Jasper Avenue venture. The kitchen moves a little less chicken and beef this time of year, as customers new and old drop by to sample the like of wild boar rack with a grainy mustard glaze, or braised rabbit with a dijon cream sauce, or musk ox shanks with a red wine sauce. The latter is braised with whiskey. It adds shall we say, a Jim Bowie element to the wild game experience.
It is apparently customary in France to populate the menu with game each November. The move by Normand to celebrate wild game this month is one of numerous wrinkles this creative businessman brings to the table throughout the year.
Mondays, for instance, is mussel night. All the mussel you can eat, served with four sauces, for something like $16.95 a head. Apparently one fellow more than got his money's worth when he managed to drain the pots of almost 200 of the little critters.
Normand has also hot the web in a big way. His internet site (www.normands.com) is loaded with menus, reviews and specials. He'll claim it's the only place in town for reserving a table online.
But mussel and webheads aside, this review is about game month. And a fine month it is.
These days, what he moves the most is caribou. Order it medium rare. It is an enormous filet that will land on your table covered in a sweet/tart saskatoon and raspberry sauce. A splashy medley of cooked-to-a-crunch vegetables on the side.
Not quite as spectacular, nor as popular, is the venison medalions marinated with sauteed wild mushrooms. The heavy game flavor here has almost a liver-like pungency. Still, quite unique and gamely priced at $19.75.
If the goose liver pate is not to your liking as a starter, consider the wild game goulash soup- thick as a stew and rich in a variety of meats.
Also on the menu to consider: pheasant breasts in a mango chutney glaze.
If you can't make up your mind and you plan only one visit this month, there is the mixed grill for $26.75. In it there is the tender mercies of caribou, venison, wild boar and double-smoked bacon in a red wine shallot demi glaze.
Normand's has been around almost forever. The place continues month after month to do big business. Service is always superb.
If you go, ties not required.
~Friday November 5, 1999~Edmonton Journal~Wayne Moriarty