In the world of restaurants, the chef is the boss. You may not always see them—they tend to stay in the back – but they’re there, calling all of the shots and keeping the restaurant running smoothly from the kitchen. If you look back at the origins of the word, it basically means leader. Chefs are known for having all the answers and keeping it all together, their ‘mise en place’, if you will.
But that’s at work, what happens at home? To find out, we raided chef Peggy Chan’s kitchen and discovered that for her – it’s a little different.
Chan is the chef-owner of health-food-favourite Grassroots Pantry, one of the city’s leading plant-based restaurants. Their philosophy is to create food that nourishes and heals, using fresh, sustainable ingredients.
Read on to find out how she organises her fridge, what she can’t live without out, and her a few tricks for keeping her produce crisp.
Is your fridge super organised, or more of a free for all?
Free for all! I don’t use it that often.
Do you have any strategy in there?
Items like fresh vegetables, cooked foods, non-dairy / dairy items are always separated in different compartments.
What five staples can we always find in your fridge?
Almond butter, nut cheese, coconut yogurt, berries and lemon.
What’s inside your fridge right now?
Leftover food from Grassroots Pantry, MOON and Miyoko’s nut cheese, miso, Blissful kombucha, chili paste and chutney from Borough market.
Where do you do your grocery shopping?
Just Green and Green Common for packaged items and vegetables from our farmers (I will put in my purchases along with the orders for the restaurant). For back-up organic vegetables, I’ll go to TASTE supermarket.
What are some of the most interesting ingredients you use, things that are a bit out of the ordinary Park & Shop list?
We always have some form of fermented cabbage or pickles in the fridge. They add depth to any noodle soups or stir-fries and are an excellent source of probiotics. They help improve digestion and keep the immune system strong.
Any tricks for keeping your produce fresh longer?
Wrap it in damp tissue paper or brown paper and refresh that daily. Wash leafy greens and berries only when you’re ready to use them and keep root vegetables and tomatoes in room temp to maximize flavour (if you’re going to eat them within 3 days).
Do you meal plan for the week ahead, or do you get enough of that at Grassroots Pantry?
Sadly, I don’t have time to spend thinking about what meals to make at home, so when I do happen to find time for a grocery shop, I’ll just grab what strikes me.
What are some of your go-to meals when you’re home?
I always make something simple like noodle soups and congee. I like wheat or rice noodles with pickled bamboo and sautéed leafy greens, or miso soup with buckwheat noodles/ramen and gyoza.
Can’t forget the condiments – which ones do you always have on hand?
Chinese Chili oil (the kind we use for wontons), Chili sauce (yu kwan yik), and pickles.
As a vegetarian, what are your favourite sources of protein?
Chia seeds, hemp seeds, edamame, teff, dal (lentils), scrambled tofu, brown rice, and dark leafy greens or kale.
Do you have a favourite indulgence or snack?
Sahale Snacks trail mix, Scoops of almond butter, Teff crisps and “Good health” potato chips cooked in avocado oil.
What in-season ingredients are you loving right now?
French beans, heirloom carrots, rainbow radishes and sweet potatoes!
This interview has been modified for length and clarity. Images by Keefe Tiu.