Harvesting a Passion for Food
By Dora Burke
If you had ever met Carvel Grant Gould, you’d know she is a determined woman.
When she was 20 years old, she was so set on becoming a chef that she left the University of Georgia to pursue her dream.
But her determination – and love of cooking – was there from an early age.
“I was 6 when I started making chocolate lollipops and selling them door to door,” she recalls. “At age 11, I would visit my great-grandmother and cook beef tenderloin and boiled custard for her.”
Chef Gould thought every kid cooked, and didn’t realize how unique she was growing up.
Once she started watching cooking shows, like those hosted by Julia Child and The Galloping Gourmet, she knew she wanted to be a chef.
Unfortunately, her family was not so excited. The young Chef Gould’s mother was distraught, thinking the labor-intensive line of work was not appropriate for a young lady.
In 1991, her mom called a family friend, Aria owner Gerry Klaskala, then chef and managing partner of Buckhead Life Group’s Buckhead Diner. She asked him to scare Chef Gould so she “would not want to work in the kitchen again.”
Klaskala agreed, and put the young Chef Gould to work at the Buckhead Diner. She loved it.
“My mom [and Gerry] thought that if I worked in the line of a busy kitchen, I would see how much hard work it was and just go back to school,” she says.
But after a week on the job, the fire was lit, and Chef Gould asked Klaskala if she had a job. With no prior experience, Chef Gould was working the line at the Buckhead Diner.
“At that time, the diner was always busy, and you had complete interaction with the guests,” Chef Gould recalls. “The open kitchen allowed everyone on the line to feel the excitement from the georgia restaurant and even talk to the guests eating at the counter.”
In 1995, Klaskala left Buckhead Life and partnered with George McKerrow, Jr. and money advisor Ron San Martin to create We’re Cookin’, Inc. restaurant group. Not long after, they launched the idea for Canoe, a venture that would showcase American fusion cuisine.
During this time, Chef Gould moved to another of Buckhead Life’s establishments, 103 West. Klaskala soon called and asked Chef Gould if she would join him at Canoe. She happily obliged.
Chef Gould worked her way through the kitchen at Canoe and finally became chef de cuisine. After a brief stint helping Klaskala open another restaurant, Chef Gould returned to Canoe in 2005 as Executive Chef.
For her, it was a blessing in disguise to return “home” as the boss, and she’s served as Executive Chef ever since.
Southern Roots Run Deep
Chef Gould, a seventh-generation Atlantan and native of the city, has an authentic appreciation and a true flair for regional cuisine. Her sophisticated Southern style is a fundamental part of the Canoe experience.
“She has a very natural ability towards cooking,” Klaskala says. “A lot of folks in the industry are not naturals, but she has the skills. She loves what she does and it shows.”
Chef Gould’s diverse experience and Southern heritage combine to create her truly original culinary style.
Dishes include such offerings as BBQ pork shank with Vidalia onion, quick carrot pickle, and lavender vanilla jus and slow-roasted Carolina rabbit, with Swiss chard-applewood smoked bacon ravioli and candied garlic jus.
Such dishes have led Chef Gould and Canoe to be featured in Bon Appetit, Food and Wine, Gourmet, The Wine Spectator and The New York Times.
Harvesting A Passion For Sustainable Seafood
Aside from Chef Gould’s love of Southern cooking, she also has a passion for seafood and cares deeply about the sustainability of the industry.
“I am just as passionate about sustainable seafood as I am cooking,” she says. “I was always a big fan of the Discovery Channel’s show The Deadliest Catch, but once I started learning more about the industry I could not stop.”
Chef Gould was first introduced to fresh Alaskan seafood through her relationship with Brodie Lang, Director of Purchasing at Concentrics Restaurants and a veteran of Alaska’s renowned fisheries.
“[Lang] is very knowledgeable about the fishing industry and sustainable fishing practices,” Chef Gould says. “She introduced me to some reputable distributors who in turn introduced me to the fishermen. They brought me king crab that had never been frozen. I was amazed – having never been a fan of crab in the past, this tasted like nothing else. I was hooked.”
Chef Gould learned the challenges of harvesting Alaskan king crab firsthand when she traveled to Dutch Harbor in Alaska in 2007 to meet some of the fishermen, including those on The Deadliest Catch, and learned how the crab is caught.
“It is an amazingly difficult process with violent, unpredictable waters and many long days at sea,” Chef Gould says. “I saw how the crab was processed and how perishable the product really is, and it only increased my appetite and appreciation for king crab.”
Chef Gould returned again in 2008, and is planning another trip this year.
Until recently, the crabbing industry worked under a derby-style season, which encouraged fishermen to catch as much crab as possible as fast as possible, often driving them to maximize their haul at the expense of safety.
After 2005, however, the industry transitioned to a quota system in response to the dangers of having too many boats competing for crabs. This new system deals out individual fishing quotes to boats based on participating and catch history.
The most popular harvesting months are October through February, but the actual season when crabbers are allowed to catch crabs can last as little as four days or as long as one to two weeks. Once harvested, it takes approximately one week to move the Alaskan king crab from the Bering Sea to local markets.
It is only during this time that Chef Gould serves the crab in her restaurant, overnight shipping the product straight from Alaska to ensure peak freshness.
In recent years, there has been a flood of foreign caught crab, but for consumers interested in sustainability, foreign crab is caught without much regulation. (See sidebar on resources for applying sustainable practices.)
“I realized the danger of buying foreign crab, especially from Russia,” Chef Gould says, noting they don’t follow the same regulations for sustainability but yet still import back into the U.S. “Our government is doing a great job at regulating the fishing industry and has helped Alaska’s crab population grow. Unfortunately, not all governments maintain such high standards.”
Growing Toward The Future
When Chef Gould is not preparing for king crab season, she is working at making Canoe a special place. She recently created an “Edible Garden” education dinner series in the overgrown space between the restaurant and the Chattahoochee River. Tomatoes, radishes and broccoli punctuate the beds while cucumbers, squash and eggplant wind their way through V-shaped trellises throughout the 2,000 square feet of 12 raised gardening beds.
Nearby, remnants of an eastern red cedar that had fallen during a tornado on a century-old Georgia farm has been transformed into a custom table that seats 22 guests. With the Chattahoochee River lazily wandering past, it’s the perfect setting for Chef Gould’s dinner series concept.
Chef Gould’s natural talent allows her passionate sensibility to be infused into all her dishes. Her recent invitation to cook at the James Beard House proves Chef Gould has come into her own. “As I think of new dishes, I can actually taste the flavors in my head,” she says. “Finding the freshest ingredients, respecting their flavors and applying solid cooking techniques in the kitchen is how they come to life.” In 2008, Chef Gould traveled to Alaska to observe how king crabs are caught, riding on the boat with fishermen and learning the importance of sustainability within the seafood industry.
Tips on How Operators Can Practice Sustainability
By Brodie Lang, Director of Purchasing for Concentrics Restaurants
- Â Buy directly from the source when you are able. You can get great seafood directly from individual fishermen or small processors at the fishing grounds. A search on the Internet and a few phone calls can lead you to wonderful fishermen who are willing to be direct marketers.
- Â Set up accounts with FedEx or use suppliers who are known shippers on major airlines so you can get the freshest seafood just hours out of the water, skipping the middle man. It is a little more work but well worth it for the product quality – and the story you can tell about the fishermen and community who caught the fish.
- Â Be loyal to your suppliers. Build good relationships with your fishermen or processor and they will take good care of you. When you flip-flop to save pennies, they will not take care of you when you are desperate for product.
- Â If you are unsure about the sustainability of a fishery or type of fish, use resources from the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Blue Ocean Institute or the Marine Stewardship Council. The more research you do, the better able you will be to source sustainable seafood.
- Â If wild, sustainable fish is a priority for you, then get involved in the communities where your fish is caught. Go visit, if possible, share your menus with the fishermen, help them build a market for their products in your area, talk to your customers about how you source your seafood and truly try to build close relationships.