Tales from York: A Q&A with Chef Cori

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Tales from York is a blog series focused on the people and places that make York's Greenbelt great. The series will cover everything from local businesses, to seasonal events, to life on York farms. Look out for our upcoming posts to stay up-to-date and informed on exciting going-ons in York's Greenbelt. 

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If you’re on your way to the cottage or near the south shore of Lake Simcoe in Georgina at the northern end of the Greenbelt, you can find a great opportunity to experience local seasonal dishes expertly prepared at Cori’s Café.

The rustic cottage exterior hides a chic modern intimate café where chef Cori works her magic. She endeavours to use organic, local, seasonal foods as much as possible.

The cafe has won many awards since opening in 2013. It won the Small Business award in Excellence for Georgina and The Advocates Reader’s Choice for Best Salad and Best Deserts for both 2013 and 2014.  And, this year, Cori’s Café is the winner for York Region Excellence in Business for The Best Small Business in York Region!

Prior to her culinary fame, Cori always had a passion for cooking, working in a number of restaurants to pay her way through university. Following graduation, she was a successful film and television post production producer and executive producer. But it wasn’t until she moved up to Georgina with her family for her maternity leave that Cori permanently traded in film stock for soup stock. One day, Cori gave a jar of soup as a thank-you gift to her daughter's schoolteacher and the rest is history.

Her broadcasting background still shines through during her local TV show, “Cooking with Cori” where she doesn’t teach you what to cook but how to cook and explores local food and promotes the importance of healthy meals.  She is passionate about preserving and permanently protecting the Greenbelt and local agricultural lands. 

With such a strong online following and glowing online reviews I had to travel to the edge of the Greenbelt to interview her and taste what everyone is talking about.  

We talked over a sampling of soups and salads, and Chef Cori proudly showed off her trove of local produce.Cgef_cori_soup_updated.jpg

Two of Chef Cori's Creations. (L) Cream of Tomato and Basil Soup - velevety smooth creamy tomato soup with a touch of basil. (R) Spicy Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato - Spicy (but not too spicy) and full of flavour.  

MELISSA CORIA: Why did you choose to become a chef?

CHEF CORI DOERN: I express myself through food. I want to feed the world! I like it when people say “MMMMMM” after they’ve just tasted something I cooked. 

How has living in the Greenbelt influenced your menu?

I take pride in working with many local farms. When you understand where something is grown, you know what to do with it. My dishes are seasonal. My menu is inspired by what is local and available in season, so my menu reflects all the nutrition that the Greenbelt offers.  I work to maintain the richness and nutrition of Greenbelt produce. I roast or I braise, nothing is fried! I also create soups, dressings and marinades in small batches so that nothing is wasted. I hate food waste! But this doesn’t mean that I am limited. It is possible to have lots of variety from local farmers.

I believe in the artistic manipulation of tastes. Cultural diversity gives you appreciation for food. There are thousands of ways to cook local ingredients.

What is your favourite Greenbelt ingredient to cook with?

I love them all! If I had to choose, tomatoes would be my favourite. They are versatile, you can make so many different things that taste nothing alike! Playing around with ingredients is a delight in fusion cooking.  I’m also crazy about mixed greens; they complete any meal. They’re beautiful, you have to see my mixed greens! 

(Chef Cori was so excited about her beautiful mixed greens that she ran into the kitchen and unpacked just delivered farm fresh organic greens.)

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Pear, Blue Cheese & Candied Pecan - Cori’s Café's most popular salad. The salad is served with organic greens, homemade candied pecans, pears, red onion and homemade dressing.

Give me an example of a springtime menu you would prepare?

Seasons are not seasons anymore! It really depends on what is available to harvest at the time.   

Asparagus is beautiful in spring! I would wrap up asparagus in herbed cheese and prosciutto alongside a mixture of greens and bok choy.

What do you do to stay educated about new trends?

I pay attention to what is available and fresh, and I get creative! I get constant newsletters from farmers', the Greenbelt and the Food Network.

Describe your experience with cooking for the Georgina Harvest Dinner?

(Chef Cori has been cooking for the Georgina Harvest Dinner for 3 years. The Georgina Harvest Dinner, which will be held this year in Pefferlaw on Oct 3rd, 2015, brings the community together to celebrate and support local farmers and businesses.)

This year will be my third year cooking with the Georgina Harvest Dinner - I love it. Each year is has new surprises. It allows me to work closely with farmers and other chefs of the community. The dinner brings people together- it is not just about the food. The dinner is a kitchen party, everyone’s company is enjoyed!

How can people get your soup?
 
They can go to my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/CorisCafe/ and or my website and order online. 

Can you give us any lifestyle tips for fresh and healthy living?

Make the change to buy local quality! We live on the best quality soil!  If you can, buy your produce when you need it. Don’t hold onto it for too long. 

What do you love to do in the Greenbelt and why?

I enjoy LIVING here because of the greenspace, and I want it to stay green! 

By the end of our interview, I was already planning a return trip to sample Cori’s culinary creations with friends and family.

It was a great opportunity to meet someone who lives, works and eats in the Greenbelt! Stay tuned for more stories about the people of the Greenbelt and the Georgina Harvest Dinner.

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MELISSA CORIA
--Communications Assistant, York Region

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