Chef Darren Nixon has been a regular on the Calgary Co-op Kitchen Theatre stage and this year he will be back presenting for Grainworks, a family-owned farming operation which grows, mills and distributes certified organic, non-GMO grains and legumes near Vulcan, AB. As the former chef/owner of the aptly named Divine Restaurant in Okotoks, AB, Darren knows the importance of great and wholesome food.

Come by and see Darren on the Kitchen Theatre stage Friday, July 3 at 7PM and Saturday, July 4th at 1PM.

For a full list of presenters on the Calgary Co-op Kitchen Theatre stage please visit the Western Showcase website.

Calgary Stampede (CS): Briefly tell us about yourself and what your typical day looks like.

Darren_Nixon

Darren Nixon: My day starts early. At 5 am. I manage the seafood and gourmet department in a local grocery store. My day is filled with good production and talking with customers about food ideas and general foodie conversation. When it comes to food I have a gift for gab. In the evenings I teach in home cooking classes for 6 – 12 people. This allows me to continue to research and develop good ideas and feed my passion. Previously the chef/ owner of Divine restaurant in Okotoks, AB.

CS: When did you know you wanted to be involved in the food industry?

Nixon: I grew up in a family where food was very important. My parents were foodies and always experimenting. I started helping them in the kitchen at a young age. I would read their monthly subscriptions of gourmet and bon appetite from a young age.

CS: What do you love about your job?

Nixon: I love teaching cooking classes. It allows me to continue to educate myself and other on the endless topic of food. I am lucky to be able to work with my passion.

CS: Do you have a favourite memory of the Calgary Stampede or Kitchen Theatre?

Nixon:  I have many great memories from the many years I presented at kitchen theatre. In the early days I represented Alberta Lamb and met Bob Bloomer and Michael Smith. Always enjoyed the friendly group of ladies that run and organize the kitchen.

CS: Do you have a recipe you would share with our readers?

Nixon: 
Red Lentil Salad with Honey Mead Vinaigrette,
Spiced Candied Pecans & Fairwinds Feta
Serves 10

1 L cooked red lentils
2 L chopped lettuce – red or green leaf
250 ml julienne carrots
250 ml diced cucumber
250 ml diced red onion
250 ml spiced candied pecans (recipe below)
125 ml crumbled Fairwinds Feta
125 ml honey mead vinaigrette (recipe below)
Kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste

Spiced Candied Pecans:
125 ml butter, 125 ml brown sugar, 15 ml Cayenne, 15 ml kosher salt, 750 ml pecans
Place in heavy pot and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until evenly caramelized. Spread out on a baking sheet to cool. Keep in air tight container in a dry cool place.

Honey Mead Vinaigrette

15 ml minced shallot
10 ml minced garlic
30 ml grainy mustard
30 ml honey
150 ml mead vinegar
300 ml cold pressed canola oil
15 ml kosher salt
5 ml fresh ground black pepper
Whisk all ingredients together in metal bowl. Adjust seasoning. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.
To assemble salad, warm 125 ml of vinaigrette in pan and toss lentils to gently warm.
In large bowl toss carrot, cucumber, onion, pecans and feta. Add warmed vinaigrette and lentils.
Toss to combine. Serve.