West Coast Wild Harvest Issue 1 Spring/Summer 2016 | Page 32

CHEF’S TABLE H iro Takeda once fed his sister live ants. It wasn’t a prank; they were a garnish on a dessert he made: a cheesecake with baked meringue, Douglas fir kombucha, and seasonal berries, to be precise. “They have a very citrusy flavour to them,” Takeda explains. “A very soft lemon flavour. A lot of people use ingredients like that just for wow factor… but ants is one of those ingredients where it has a very distinct and really delicious flavour.” Takeda foraged the ants near Hope, BC, where he is chef and owner at 293 Wallace Street restaurant. The collection process is simple: “You put a piece of parchment paper on top of the hill, and you take the ants off of the parchment paper…When it’s really nice and sunny out they’re a lot more active, so that’s when you want to get them.” His ant dessert was inspired by dishes served at Noma, a prestigious restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark. “They were using the ants whole to put on raw langoustines. Citrus and seafood go very well together, so that was a play on that.” Last year, Takeda was one of 120–130 chefs selected for an internship at the award-winning restaurant. Close to 5,000 people applied. Rene Redzepi, the head chef of Noma, is known for his commitment to showcasing northern ingredients. “He did a lot of foraging,” Takeda explains. “His menu represents everything Nordic. Coming from a landscape and a region where the growing season is very short, and there’s not a lot there, he’s transformed some of the humble ingredients into stars of the plate.” The approach seems to be working: “They do a maximum of 45 guests in their restaurant for lunch and dinner, five days a week, and they charge I think just a little bit less than $300 a person. They’re booked three months in advance, full every day, and they have people who come from all over the world to eat there. Some make special trips just to eat there, and they’ll leave the next day.” Before leaving for the internship, Takeda needed to fundraise for the trip. He held a fundraising dinner, and in the spirit of Noma, he decided to use foraged ingredients in his menu. He connected with local forager Justin Brown, one of the owners of Wild Forest 32 WEST COAST WILD HARVEST HIRO TAKEDA Collecting ants for a unique culinary experience A cheesecake with baked meringue, Douglas fir kombucha, seasonal berries, and wild ants HIRO TAKEDA