Meet Denis Hernandez of Swine and Vine

Everyone knows that the best parties always end in the kitchen. With our series, Kitchen Party, we’re sitting down with Feast On Chefs to get to know them and the local foods that inspire them a little better.


 

DENIS HERNANDEZ

SWINE AND VINE

Kitchener, ON

 

What’s your favourite seasonal ingredient?

Ramps are my favourite seasonal ingredient. They are delicate but pack so much flavour. I make use of the entire ramp – leaves and bulbs; and apply various cooking methods to prepare them – such as poaching or braising with a little butter and salt.

Most underrated ingredient?

I think that there are a lot of them, to be honest with you, but in my opinion, the main ones are cucumbers and celery. I use these ingredients in so much of my cooking as a base, but using them as a focal point in a dish is such a great thing.

There is a lot of variation in the way I use cucumbers. Sometimes I pickle cucumbers. But the liquid of a cucumber is also amazing! I really like using cucumbers as a nice cold broth; it’s so refreshing. Cucumber liquid can also be used to do a warm vinaigrette. Honestly, I even like eating cucumbers just with lime and salt. I don’t know what it is, there is just something about cucumbers that are great, and they’re around a lot! There are so many flavours that you can add to a cucumber, and cucumbers also contribute a lot to a dish texturally. They’re great with tartare and things like that as well.

What’s your drink of choice?

Oh man, I have to say chocolate milk. There’s a company called Eby Manor, which is local to the region, and I get their chocolate milk. Yeah, I love chocolate milk; it’s amazing!

What’s your favourite dish to cook at home?

I like to cook whatever makes my fiancé smile. Usually, that’s Tom Yum Soup – she really likes that. Other than that, I typically just cook simple things – we’re both suckers for Chicken Caesar Salad and those kinds of comfort foods.

Whenever it’s time for us to eat a nice dinner, I pull out the usual stuff, like steak. I’m Salvadorian as well, and we love our pupusas, but for the most part, when I cook at home, and I’m cooking for my fiancé, it’s Tom Yum Soup.

What’s the best part about working with Ontario food and drink?

Building relationships and acquiring knowledge. That has been pretty awesome! As producers start to realize how much you appreciate what they do, you start getting text messages and phone calls saying, “Hey, I got this, I got that.” It’s been the biggest benefit to learn all of the things I’ve learned, such as what comes out of our soil around here and variations of things that I never knew before. It’s been amazing to learn all these things.

Why is Feast On important to you?

Feast On is important for two reasons.

The main reason is to see where I’m at and what I’m actually using. Feast On has helped me see how much I’m actually doing local. Participating in this program pushes me for next year to do better than I did this year.

The second reason is to support what’s happening in the food industry, especially right now. It’s our duty to support [local producers]. It’s also showing people just how beautiful the stuff that comes out of our region really is.

Outside of your chef life, how would you describe yourself?

Honestly, I am a family man through and through. For the most part, if I’m not working, I am at home spending time with my wife and daughters. On the side of that, I like to keep reading everything I can get my hands on, learning new techniques or flavour profiles or just trying to find inspiration. Right now, I’m almost finished with Six Seasons, a vegetable-forward book relating to harvest times.  As far as hobbies go, I try and get out and golf when I have the time, although it was hard this year with the distancing.

What’s your perfect weekend in Kitchener?

Alright, for me, it would be getting up to the sun shining – that’s the number one thing, it has to be a beautiful day. I’d make the kids breakfast, hang out with them for a little bit, take them to the park, and we’d get to enjoy the beauty of the day. We’d check out a festival if one is going on – there are a lot of festivals here in Kitchener in the summer.

Around lunchtime, I’d have lunch on a nice patio with my family. I leave where we go to lunch up to my fiancé.

Sometime between lunch and dinner, we’d probably have to make a stop at my mom’s house and have some pupusas. After that, I’d go home, hang out with my fiancé, make some dinner, go for a nice walk.

I’m a family guy. There is a lot to do in Kitchener, and I love supporting restaurants, but on weekends, I like spending time with my family to tell you the truth.

SWINE AND VINE

 

* Originally published here

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