Butter On The Endive’s Owen Lightly On Being A Punk, Getting Married Young, And Boring People

Owen Lightly Interview on Foodists

Butter On The Endive's Chef Owen Lightly

On a cold November night, many of Vancouver’s foodie elite descended to the new Gastown location of The Found & The Freed “pop up” shop for an event called Sweater Season. Accompanying the kitschy collectibles and eclectic collection of antiques was served a fabulous meal prepared by Chef Owen Lightly, the genius behind Butter On The Endive.

Small plates of yarrow meadows duck confit tortellini in a pine mushroom broth, seared Qualicum bay scallops with bacon wrapped salsify and apple-mustard vinaigrette circled the room. Then various canapés such as caramelized onion, marinated anchovy and niçoise olive toast, pig face and sweetbread croquette with pumpkin-currant chutney, and grass fed beef tartare with parmesan crisp and watercress continued throughout the evening. Each dish was packed with flavour and elegantly prepared and served. The final sweet note was provided by a memorable quince beignet with almond and brandy caramel.

We were too busy stuffing our faces, drinking and buying trinkets to take many pictures, but here are a few:

Later, we sat down with Owen and subjected him to our barrage of interview questions, which are below:

  • Why did you leave kitchens like West and Araxi to start Butter On The Endive? I took a month off and went to Europe and came back energized with an entrepreneurial spirit. It started with a pop-up dinner in Squamish and grew from there.
  • How would you categorize the type/style of cooking you offer? That’s a hard question to answer. Italian food has had a huge influence on my cooking in recent years, but above all, I just try to make food that is honest, made from scratch and really delicious.
  • How do you keep it interesting after nearly a decade as a professional cook? My dad used to say to me, “boring people get bored”. I try to keep that in mind.
  • What are your favourite kind of customers or events to cater? I love doing events in unique locations for open-minded people.
  • What’s next? Hopefully a very busy 2012 and eventually starting to look for a brick and mortar location…..
  • How do you define creativity and apply it in your career? Creativity for me is the distillate of a lot of reading, eating and thinking. It comes in flashes (usually when I have a knife in my hand) and then it’s a lot of hard work to turn that flash into reality on a large scale.
  • Where do you find your best inspiration?  Walking through a market looking at ingredients or when I’m running.
  • What’s the one piece of advice or tip you wish you’d known as a young person? I’m going to leave this to William S. Burroughs “Avoid fuck-ups. We all know the type. Anything they have anything to do with, No matter how good it sounds, Turns into a disaster.”
  • Who would you like most to hear speak at a conference? Mike Watt.
  • What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done? I got married young, and subsequently divorced not long after.
  • What did you learn from your most memorable failure? That the little voice in your head is usually right.
  • What’s your one guilty indulgence? Those borderline tabloid New York food blogs ie. Eater, Grub Street….
  • What are you reading these days? Tiger by John Vaillant. Consequently not going to the Siberian Taiga anytime soon…..
  • What fact about you would surprise people? That I was in a punk band in high school called Spent Load.
  • How does your life and career compare to what you envisioned for your future when you were a sixth grader? I honestly don’t know if I had a clue what I wanted out of life when I was in the sixth grade. I was pretty much looking ahead to high school with terror/dread and wondering what sex was like.
  • How would you describe what you do in a single sentence to a stranger? I make food happen in various places for all kinds of different people.
  • What’s the most recent thing you learned (big or small)? How to make a Swiss meringue.
  • If you had a magic wand, where would you be in five years? I don’t believe in magic wands, but if I have my way I‘ll be cranking out amazing food in both the catering realm and in a busy restaurant.
  • What keeps you awake at night? Fear and self loathing.
  • If you could interview anyone living or dead, but not a celebrity, who would it be and why? I would probably interview my grandparents on my dad’s side, who I never had the chance to meet. I think it would help me understand my dad and myself a little bit more.
  • If you could do anything now, what would you do? Play more music. I’ve been so focused on work lately that my guitar has developed a nice layer of dust on it.
  • Where was the last place you travelled? New Orleans for work.
  • What was the best surprise you’ve experienced so far in life? How many rich experiences cooking would give me.
  • Where is your favourite place to escape? Sleep.
  • What was the best advice you were ever given? Put your head down and work.
  • What practices, rituals or habits contribute to your work? Sharp knives, lists and deep breaths.
  • When you get stuck creatively, what is the first thing you do to get unstuck? Have a glass of whiskey and look at The Flavor Bible (or its earlier incarnation Culinary Artistry). Solid gold. You can start with any ingredient you want and go in a million directions.
  • If you had fifteen extra minutes each day, what would you do with them? Read.
  • What has been one of your biggest Ah ha! moments in life? Travelling throughout Italy a couple of years ago was filled with them. Fried anchovies in Liguria, all’Amatriciana in Rome, pizza in Naples……could go on and on.

Who do you think we should interview next? Email your suggestions to [email protected].



One Response to “Butter On The Endive’s Owen Lightly On Being A Punk, Getting Married Young, And Boring People”

  1. Posted on December 29th, 2011

    great interview! love owen.

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