The Proust Culinary Questionnaire

Chef Eric Hanson, Prairie Noodle Shop, Canadian Culinary Championship Bronze Medallist

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.

Eric Hanson is the executive chef at the popular 124th street restaurant Prairie Noodle Shop. You may remember Eric from Get Cooking, or Niche, or his work with Alberta Pork. But before that Eric polished his skills and indulged in his love of travel by cooking in 40 countries in over ten years.

Eric took gold at the Gold Medal Plates competition in Edmonton last fall, guaranteeing a spot at the national Canadian Culinary Championships (CCC) held in Kelowna in February. The competitions raise funds for the Canadian Olympic Foundation and celebrate Canadian excellence in food, wine, athletic achievement and entertainment.

Chef Eric Hanson

I was born in Rocky Mountain House, but consider Edmonton my hometown.

Years cooking?
17 professionally, but cooking since I can remember—whisking meringue for baked Alaska in the kitchen with my Mom and butchering a moose outside with my Dad.

Where would you like to live?
Singapore, some of the best food I have ever had. We didn’t want to leave.

Your favourite food and drink?
I’m a big bubbles guy—Blanc de Blanc and fresh seafood.

What would you be doing if you weren’t cooking?
I don’t think I could do anything without it being about food.

What quality do you most appreciate in your friends?
Trust, love and support. I have that in abundance.

Your favourite qualities in a dish?
Respect for the ingredients along with a bit of a what-the-hell attitude—a little bit Julia Child, a little bit rock and roll. You have to be willing to have some fun with it.

A cook?
I appreciate the right attitude, if someone is ready to apply themselves then I want to share the world with them; if they think they already know better than everyone, they’ve already lost.

A wine?
I liked to be surprised; when you try something new and it knocks your socks off.

Who would be at your dream dinner table (dead or alive)?
Nicola Tesla, Malcolm X, Captain James Cook, Hans Gruber and John McClane.

Who would cook?
The future me, the best cooking me.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
I used to say fire it in—a lot. Everybody made fun of me.

Current culinary obsession/exploration?
Still doing this southeast Asian and central American mix up—Mexi Thai.

Best (cooking) thing that ever happened to you?
I worked on a South African game reserve where all the other kitchen staff were Zulu. Before I left they gave me a celebration, a native dance ceremony to accept me into their group, telling me in a symbolic way that I was ok.

Meaningful/crazy cooking experience?
The Culinary Championships. There was nothing like that triathlon— running for butter, getting ferried around in a stripper bus with the other chefs, frantically trading with chefs for ingredients, singing on the podium. I’d been planning since May and it finally came together in February. What a ride!

Ben Swinbourne. He was the sous chef at Berardo’s, my first real kitchen job.

Favourite casual cheap and cheerful/afterwork food?
A cider at North 53, my second family.

Do the thing you are most afraid of. The courage comes later.

What’s next?
We just opened a second location in MacEwan University called the Prairie Outpost—udon noodle bowls with things like jerk pork, and roasted tofu, something different.