An Okanagan Valley Chef’s Journey - An Interview with Ex Nihilo’s Executive Chef, Danny Tipper
At Ex Nihilo’s Chaos Bistro, we are fortunate to have a small team of amazing individuals working hard behind the scenes to ensure a fantastic guest experience. One such person integral to creating culinary magic in the kitchen is our Executive Chef Danny Tipper. A few minutes spent chatting with this meticulous and driven chef reveals a strong culinary passion for creating enticing flavour profiles and combinations within every dish he prepares. We had an opportunity to sit down with Danny to learn more about him and his journey as a chef.
The Story Begins in Grandma’s Garden
Growing up Danny looked forward to visiting his grandmother’s house where the aroma of baked bread often welcomed him, along with fresh salami & delicious home-cooked meals. He would spend hours helping his grandma in the kitchen and wandering through her large garden, picking strawberries and beans straight from the vine.
His first especially vivid memory of learning to cook was at Thanksgiving when his grandma shared with him the art of making a roux. He was privileged with the task of adding the wine into the gravy the family would enjoy later that night. Knowing how to make a good roux came in handy during subsequent visits, as she would teach him how to make delicious soups from scratch.
Then there were stories of the great-great-grandfather he never had the chance to meet from the Netherlands, a chef at the famous ‘Hotel Amsterdam’. Perhaps, young Danny pondered, he would follow in his relative’s footsteps. A seed was planted that would eventually grow into a full-fledged dream.
Coming Full Circle - The Life Cycle of a Winery
Danny had grown up surrounded by Okanagan Valley wine culture, and after attending culinary school in Vancouver it seemed a natural direction for him to explore. His quest to cook first took him to Quails’ Gate Estate Winery in Kelowna, which would be his first time working in a winery kitchen. He subsequently became “hooked” on the winery scene, largely due to the sizable garden he had access to for sourcing his ingredients. Life seemed to have come full circle in a way, to the days of his youth spent in his grandmother’s garden.
Waterfront Wines Restaurant in Kelowna would be his next stop, and it was here that he learned much about wine and food pairing, further refining his palette and art as a chef. He grew to be more of a connoisseur of great wine and food combinations, learning about flavour profiles while gaining valuable knowledge that would help him ‘level up’ in his craft. He was now ready to embark on the next leg of his adventure, bringing him briefly to Graymonk and then on to Ex Nihilo when the opportunity presented itself.
When asked about what he likes about working as a chef at a winery, Danny tells us a big draw for him is the life cycle at a winery, which mirrors the seasons and cycles of nature. Spring brings new buds in the vineyard, along with the anticipation of the busy season. Summer entails growth on the vines and a constant hum of excitement at the winery. Fall yields the harvest as winery activity calms, and in the winter the vines go dormant, which is coupled with time for winery staff to catch up and plan for the upcoming year. The pace is not constant & unrelenting as it is with many restaurants. There is a time for everything, including reflection, and that is key.
The Farm to Table Philosophy
The simple farm to table cooking standard first appreciated in his childhood now permeates Danny's every day. At home, his family enjoys a huge garden and a constant inflow of fresh ingredients like he did growing up, and his own children enjoy helping out in the garden and kitchen just as he did as a little boy.
At Ex Nihilo’s Chaos Bistro he is able to extend this same ideology. Every day he ventures to a neighbouring farm to access such fresh staples as tomatoes, basil, and herbs, all of which make it into the in-house prepared tomato sauce for gourmet pizza and other mouth-watering menu items. Cheese is sourced locally from Tanto Latte Cheese; Abundant mushrooms come from Lake Country Gourmet Mushroom Farm, and a longstanding relationship exists with Dueck Falkland Farms. The list goes on, and he is constantly fostering new relationships with local suppliers to acquire premium fresh ingredients for his culinary creations, supporting the local economy while bringing scrumptious combinations to the plate. (Note: Read more about Ex Nihilo’s local suppliers in our blog article: Supporting Local With Ex Nihilo).
There are always a variety of wonderful selections on the menu at Chaos Bistro, but we just had to know Chef Danny’s current favourite. He was happy to oblige our curiosity:
“Right now my favourite dish is our BC Scallop Crudo. I have a fairly high acid palette so I enjoy the green apple and citrus. It also pairs fantastic with our EXN 2021 Riesling which mirrors a lot of those same citrus, granny smith apple, and herbaceous notes that the dish provides. A summertime must.”
What Does the Future Hold?
Danny is excited about the future and the "bursting potential" at Ex Nihilo. After spending some quality time in the cellar last fall with winemaker Jim Faulkner, he was able to coordinate and come up with some great combinations for the ongoing Dinner Culinary Experiences and Concert Events at the winery. Spending time with Jim has fostered more of an understanding regarding the winemaking process as a whole, deepening his already extensive knowledge of the wine varietals he is working with every day. Overall we have not yet seen all this talented chef has to offer!
A Guide To Wine Pairing This Summer BBQ Season
Often beer gets all the glory when it comes to BBQ season, but wine really has the potential to bring out the strong bold flavours enjoyed in BBQ grilled cuisine. Many people have questions about which wines pair best with their favourite BBQ’d fares, but in fact, the diversity of possibilities is surprising. With a bit of creativity and a few guidelines, you will be well on your way to creating satisfying combinations. Here we offer a by no means exhaustive analysis, to lend some insight into that all-important question, “What wine do I bring to the BBQ”?
Probably one of the most well known combinations involves pairing bolder red meat such as beef with fuller bodied red wines. For example, you may want to enjoy a cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel, malbec, merlot or shiraz with a steak or beef burger. These higher tannin wines cut through the fat, and wines with a peppery and tobacco flavour work well with the boldness prominent in beef prepared on the BBQ.
Ex Nihilo Varietal to Consider:
There is a bit of a range here. In general, pork pairs well with higher fruit red wines with a little sweetness, as well as rosé and rich white wines, depending on what it is you are enjoying. In particular, pinot noir, or zinfandel can be a good choice for that cut of pork or ribs on the barbie, or you could go a different route and even try an icewine with a grilled pork roast. For a hotdog, a champagne or riesling might work well, cutting through the fat, and if adding mustard, a sauvignon blanc can highlight the ‘tang’ while combating the saltiness of the dog.
Ex Nihilo Varietal to Consider:
Chicken & Fish
Full flavoured white, rosé, and some reds can work in this area of the BBQ department, depending on the boldness of the item. Specifically, enjoy a rosé, chardonnay, or a lighter bodied red wine such as pinot noir for salmon. As for chicken, rosé can pair well with the chicken itself as well as the bbq sauce, if being used. Chardonnay and sauvignon blanc are often a good choice as well for chicken, and interestingly, a malbec can work in cases where the chicken becomes bolder on the BBQ.
Ex Nihilo Varietals to Consider:
For that veggie kabob, crisp white wines like a pinot gris or sauvignon blanc are a good go-to. More earthy veggies such as eggplant & mushroom can also pair well with syrah, zinfandel, or even cabernet sauvignon, but this is really just a start as there is such variety in the veggie department.
We encourage further investigation depending on your particular vegetable choice.
Ex Nihilo Varietal to Consider:
A Note on Pairing with Sauce & Spice
Not only do we take the food we are cooking on the BBQ into account when pairing wine, but the spice and sauce is quite important as well. In terms of sauces, sweet bbq sauces are accentuated with a sweet wine. If a sauce or glaze is more tart or acidic, off-dry whites might be a good choice. BBQ sauces that are more “mustardy” go well with white or light reds.
In terms of spice rubs, we could devote a whole blog article to this but there are a few basic guidelines that may help. White wines tend to go better with “soft herbs”, which include tarragon, basil and dill. “Hard herbs” such as rosemary and thyme often pair well with red wines. Rosé and white wines work really well with fresh herbs in general, and when combining spices, go with the overall style of the dish - i.e. middle eastern, etc. If that dish is particularly spicy, a riesling or gewurztraminer might be in order.
Ex Nihilo’s Summer BBQ Wine Bundle
Back by popular demand, Ex Nihilo has a special BBQ bundle available for sale this summer. A fabulous sauce we sell in our winery has been paired with a variety of specially chosen wines. As an added perk, our chef has included some great Icewine recipes. For more information visit our online store or tasting room. Now you can’t go wrong when showing up for that next BBQ!