Interview with Chef Luke Hayes-Alexander

Chef Luke Hayes-Alexander is the Executive Chef and Owner of the internationally acclaimed L.U.S.T Supper Club.  He cooked with Canola Eat Well at several Diabetes Canada events this spring. We recently sat down with him for a chat.

Your journey to becoming a chef is quite unique. Can you share a bit about that?
I grew up in the restaurant industry; my mum, Carrie, opened her first resto (in Kingston, ON), when I was 1.  I fell in love with food and cooking early, and started training when I was 11. When I was 15, we decided I was ready to take over the kitchen. I ran it for 8 years, during which time press from around the world covered it (Financial Times, CTV National News, Toronto Star). After 8 years we wanted to do something new, so we decided to sell the resto, move to Toronto, and start up L.U.S.T (Luke’s Underground Supper Club). We just passed our 3rd anniversary, and the Food Network named it one of the top 15 supper clubs in the world.

Congratulations!  Incredible to find your passion at such an early age. What do you like most about cooking?
Hmm, that's a tough one! I really love the idea that by cooking, we can 'travel', through the plate, to different parts of the world. Also, being able to cook foods that make people happy, regardless of the type of day they've had, is pretty cool too.

Is there a food style or cuisine that you’re currently fascinated by?
I'm totally in love with regional Southeast Asian flavours...Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, etc. That part of the world grabbed me years ago, and hasn't let go since.

At recent events with Diabetes Canada (the Black Expo and Durham Symposium), you’ve prepared dishes inspired by Jamaican Hakka cuisine. Can you tell me about this cuisine, its flavours, and how you came to learn about it? 
I learned about it a couple years ago because we had a big dinner we were doing where Jamaican-Hakka cuisine was the theme. It’s a fascinating cuisine...during the mid-late 1800’s, a lot of Hakka Chinese immigrants moved to Jamaica for various reasons, and they combined the dishes and ingredients they encountered with their cooking techniques and flavours. 

I understand you were diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of seven. What influence or impact, if any, do you think this had on your becoming a chef?
I don’t think it had a direct impact...I think I always gravitated to the kitchen. But, it definitely impacts what I eat personally, how I cook, why I’m so passionate about keeping fit, etc.

What is your favourite food or what foods are you craving now?
I have so many! But seriously, as I'm answering these questions, the one dish I'm craving is one of my favorite comfort foods—dandan noodles. From the Szechuan province of China, they're everything I love in a bowl...rich, spicy, complex, porky, and oh-so-addictive.

How often do you use canola oil in your cooking and what is your favourite culinary application for canola oil?
I use canola oil often. It’s just so versatile! From vinaigrettes all the way to baking. I think my favorite way to use it though is for searing and deep-frying. As it has such a high smoke point, it ensures you get a golden-brown crust every time.

Click here for a Jamaican Hakka Power Bowl recipe created by Chef Luke Hayes-Alexander

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Chef Luke Alexander-Hayes with a Jamaican-Hakka power bowl