It was 2012 when first I covered Isabelle Baril’s food swap, the grass roots social gathering she started in Cardiff. It was a fascinating conversation for me as I was introduced to this dynamic French Canadian with a very interesting background, having been raised in a small town in Quebec where farming, foraging, hunting and trapping, fishing, making cheese, canning and butchering were a way of life. Besides that, her sewing skills have led to making baby costumes in the form of food such as turkey, lobster and lemon meringue pie. This landed her on Martha Stewart’s TV show and Martha was fascinated by her creations.
Flash forward five years and Isabelle has opened another creative chapter in her life as chef/teacher at Lazy Acres and chef/owner at Belle Cal Seasonal. I caught up recently to learn more about her new endeavors.
LTP: Chef teacher at Lazy Acres seems like a perfect gig for you, how did that come about?
I heard they wanted someone local and involved in the community so I talked about the food swap I started and how I’ve been volunteering garden farm to table at Paul Ecke for seven years and my culinary experience and it seemed like a perfect fit. Being the resident chef for the Moonlight Room has been such a fun ride and I love it.
How do you feel that growing up in a family with a butcher dad and a family of hunters, fishermen and farmers in Quebec has influenced your style?
I’m so proud of where I come from. The way I was raised and the way we appreciate nature and where the food comes from, that’s what I want to teach my own kids. I had a great childhood, running around the woods and foraging everything. We hunted and fished a lot. I loved trapping rabbits with my brothers but it’s the respect that goes along with it that my family taught me that I am so thankful of.
What a great store to teach at and the teaching kitchen is very well-equipped. What are some of the features that make it such an amazing place to take a class?
The classes are so fun. I teach for all levels so people should not be intimidated by them. They are affordable and the amazing Lazy Acres market is my pantry. I can fit up to 16 stoves, everyone has their own cutting board and knife, pans, pot and all the extra gadgets to make their own dish. We have great screen TVs over the front kitchen so people can watch me closer as I’m chopping and working the dough. It’s bright and has an airy feel. When I teach the kids classes, parents can look from the windows.
You have classes for just about any age and skill level. Can you share some of what’s offered and what people can expect in one of your classes?
We have many different classes from paella night to pasta 101. When I teach the pasta class, we even infused them with herbs and squid ink or beer juice, make our own ricotta cheese to fill our raviolis. Kids classes are such a good thing to keep the little ones busy and show them early how to be healthy and hands on in the kitchen. We even have our little “mommy and me” classes that are for 2 to 5 year olds, so much fun for them to be involved at an early age and follow recipes. The classes have three to four courses, you’re hands on all the way from appetizer, building a salad or the art of plating to making your own main dish and putting together dessert.
You also have a new venture called BelleCal Seasonal, what’s that all about?
Yes, this is my own Venture that I started last year. I specialize in cooking course dinners at private homes. People hire me and invite guests. They take care of the drinks and I cook three to eight courses. I can also do pairings with beer, whisky, tequila and wine. Planning a memorable evening eating a beautiful meal that I design with the host. I can work with all diets and using seasonal and local ingredients. Doing these dinners gives me the chance to showcase my skills with more refined food. It’s like art on a plate and going with the client’s taste palate I can create an event in their own home.
I also do smaller dinners or catering events. Check out my website for more information.