Michele Genest

Michele Genest is the author of the short-listed title, The Boreal Gourmet.  Genest discovered cooking that celebrates northern ingredients at the Chocolate Claim kitchen in Whitehorse. Here, along with other transplanted cooks, she met cooks who brought their experience and travels to bear on the food that surrounded them.

She has written about food and dining for T.O.XtraenRoute and Up Here: Arctic Kitchen magazines, and is currently the food columnist for Yukon, North of Ordinary. She cooks and writes in Whitehorse.

What was the inspiration for The Boreal Gourmet?
The inspiration for writing The Boreal Gourmet was a desire to share the joy of gathering and cooking  the wild ingredients found in the boreal forest and its lakes and rivers.  For me learning about berries -- what they look like, where they grow, how to pick them and what delicious thing to cook with them -- was my first entry into the big and daunting Yukon wilderness. My hope is The Boreal Gourmet will inspire other people to get to know their own patch of the boreal forest, the aspen parkland, the ravines in the Carolinian forest, the wild places wherever they live, learn what's edible, take it home and cook it up in a way that honours the ingredient, the land and their own hard work.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in writing/publishing this title?
The biggest challenge in writing The Boreal Gourmet was getting down the first and most difficult chapter, Sourdough Bootcamp (which ended up as Chapter Six). In October 2009 I had five weeks off, my mom was visiting from Ontario, I was working out how to clearly express the step-by-step method of building a sourdough starter over 14 days, and I could not get the recipe for sourdough cinnamon buns right. Every 6 or 8 hours I'd come up from my basement office and punch down another bowl of dough or mix up another batch of filling, force-feed my mom and my  husband Hector another bite of cinnamon bun and return to the basement. Happily Mom and Hector had forbearance, and tasted sample after after sample without complaint.

What aspect of the book are you most proud?
I'm most proud of the collaborative aspect of The Boreal Gourmet. From the beginning the project was a group effort, starting with the editors of Up Here and Yukon, North of Ordinary magazines, who helped shape the columns that formed the backbone of the book, the Yukon cooks that donated recipes or gave advice, the friends and family who tasted and tested and wrote down their comments, the producers of great Yukon-grown foods and products, lovely everyone at Harbour Publishing, photographer Cathie Archbould and illustrator Laurel Parry, both of whom are dear pals, and finally the cooks, foragers, hunters and fishers in the Yukon and across Canada who responded with enthusiasm to a cookbook that mirrored what they love to do.

What do you wish you knew before starting the project?
Good question. I wish I knew when jelly has cooked enough to set. I still wish I knew that.

What advice would you give aspiring culinary authors?
Two things: the story is as important as the recipe, and when you're writing down the recipe remember to include the step you take for granted.


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