Fred Decker is a trained chef and certified food-safety trainer who has written and blogged on food-related topics since 2007. Previously he sold computers, insurance and mutual funds.
School: Memorial University of Newfoundland, Nova Scotia Community College, Northern Alberta Institute of Technology
Degree: Two-year culinary arts certification, no academic degree
Approved Sections: Food, Tech, Careers, Business/Personal Finance
As a Chef, do you cringe when you see people taking Instagram photos of their food? Not at all. I think it’s a compliment if people want to share/memorialize your food, or use it to make their friends jealous.
What are some of the ‘unusual’ things you’ve consumed/prepared as a Chef? I’m guessing things like testicles, eyeballs, monkey brains, feet…
Pretty much all of the above. Prairie oysters, frankly, are kind of bland. They need the breading and the dipping sauce to amount to anything, kind of like the dodgier sort of chicken nuggets. Eyeballs, usually in the context of enjoying a bowl of fish heads. There’s good eating on the heads, especially the cheeks and tongues, but if somebody’s visibly grossed out by this I’ll sometimes slurp up the eyes just to get that “EWWWWW!” reaction. I can be childish at times.
Feet are usually rich in collagen and connective tissue, so they slow-cook to a soft and lush texture. Order the chicken feet sometime in a Chinese restaurant, they’re very good. Calves’ feet in their own jelly used to be considered especially suitable for invalids. Other weird stuff? Seal flippers I guess, I don’t know…I’m a sucker for most kinds of offal, I love the varied textures and flavors. Liver, kidney, heart, tripe, bone marrow…sign me up.
I’m still not eager to eat feet! Anyway, kitchen injuries never seem to be a matter of “if” but “when” — how badly have you injured yourself in the kitchen? Lemme see..I’ve gotten some pretty good burns over the years, and the usual collection of cuts. I took off a fingertip one night with a mandoline (bandaged it, put on a glove, and finished my shift). Once my thumb got infected, when I was shucking a few hundred pounds of lobster, and swelled up to the size of a plum. I couldn’t get in to see the doctor, so I lanced and bandaged it myself and went back to work. That was at my own little restaurant, so there was nobody to cover if I wasn’t there.
Time and time again Chefs on Bravo’s Top Chef are incapable of preparing a dessert. Can you make dessert? If so, which one is your go to? I’ve been a semi-commercial baker and served as my own pastry chef, so I can certainly get the job done. There are several I’m partial to, but my signature dessert at the restaurant was a simple, unadorned vanilla-bean crème brulee. Among desserts it’s the little black dress, the understated classic.
What’s something you wouldn’t have thought possible could happen but did because you are a Chef? Being on television, I guess. I did a lot of live TV in Edmonton because I was two blocks from the studio, and I was their go-to guy when somebody canceled on short notice. I’ve done a couple of taped, themed programs as well, one of which was carried nationally on cable.
Who’s your favorite celebrity Chef? Probably Anthony Bourdain, though I haven’t watched him for a while. He’s always fun to watch or read. He’ll be in my little Nova Scotia town in November as part of a local food festival, so I’m hoping to meet him and get my copy of “Bone In the Throat” signed.
How do you relax? With a book, nine times out of ten. The tenth time I’m cooking, baking, or poking around a farmer’s market.
What are some genuine writing tips you employ?
- Write first, edit later. Second-guessing yourself as you go is a time sink.
- “What you know” is a variable, not a constant. Keep learning, and expanding your areas of expertise.
- Never, ever forget a good reference. A well-tended set of bookmarks is solid gold.
What’s the best part about working with the Studio?
Well, gee…as a chef I worked 110-hour weeks, sweated my butt off, killed my back and knees, and cut and burned myself routinely. As a DMS writer I look up interesting things and then explain them to people. What’s not to like?