The Tomato

The Proust Culinary Questionnaire

in 2015 March April, Culinary Proust

In the late nineteenth century, French novelist Marcel Proust participated in an exercise which could be thought of as the Facebook of its era — he answered a questionnaire about himself in a friend’s Confession Album.

Proust’s answers have been published, in one form or another, for more than a century. Many have used the questionnaire for their own devices, the most notable being Vanity Fair’s Proust Questionnaire featuring celebrities. The Tomato now gives it a culinary twist.

Nate worked at Joey’s through school, then as the chef at Sugarbowl before opening his first place in 2010, Elm Café, in an unlikely corner of an Oliver apartment building. Elm quickly became a neigbourhood favourite. In 2014 his District Coffee Co. moved into a moribund coffee shop space in the government centre area, which was followed by Burrow, Edmonton’s first retail space in the LRT. Little Brick, a combined cafe and retail space in the Riverdale home of JB Little (of the historic JB Little Brickyard) is scheduled to open this spring. We can’t wait to see what Nate ends up doing with the backyard.

People love how Nate’s small cafés fit into their neighbourhoods. Don’t be surprised if one pops up in yours soon.

Nate Box, Micro Restaurateur

Nate Box, Micro Restaurateur

Hometown?
Edmonton.

Where would you like to live?
I’m living there, downtown Edmonton.

What would you be doing if you weren’t cooking?
Some form of property development, space planning.

What do you most appreciate in your friends?
Honesty and openness.

Your favourite qualities in a dish?
Simplicity and balance.

A cook?
Willingness and humility.

A wine?
Freshness, crispness.

Who would be at your dream dinner table (dead or alive)?
Danny Meyer, Louise from Gravity Pope, Scott Benoit, and Erica Vliegenthart, a baker at District.

Who would cook?
Dan Barber.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
The word totally, makes me feel 14. Totally embarrassing.

Current culinary obsession/exploration?
Walking through a brand new building; it’s not so much about cooking for me now.

Best (cooking) thing that ever happened to you?
Talking with Sean Heather (Heather Hospitality Group, Vancouver) and dinner at Blue Hill at Stone Barns with Dan Barber.

Mentors?
Clark Murray and Ron Hinz.

Favourite casual cheap and cheerful/afterwork food?
Pizza, doesn’t matter what and where.

Philosophy?
The pillars of our company — quality, simplicity, stewardship, servant- heartedness and sustainability.

What’s next?
After Little Brick? I have a list of 10 things, from opening a bar to doing more consulting.

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