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Breezy treats

PHUKET: Watching Cheryl Johnson at work you think, “I could do that. It’s easy.” It’s not, of course.


By Alasdair Forbes

Thursday 19 April 2012, 12:38PM


Chef Johnson: ‘When I was a child I used to get up really early and cook breakfast for the whole family’.

Chef Johnson: ‘When I was a child I used to get up really early and cook breakfast for the whole family’.

She’s swiftly stuffing squid bodies with lettuce, herbs and coriander with a little bit of bacon. Her assistant is doing the same. She murmurs to him, “No, not quite so much...”
How does she know?


Experience, of course. Cheryl was born in the Philippines where her father was a US military contractor.


“We moved around the world a lot,” she says. But for the past 12 years Canada has been home – I’m a Quebecer at heart,” she says.


“I always loved to cook. When I was a child I used to get up really early and cook breakfast for the whole family. I always tried to do it before they woke up.”


In the States, while studying engineering, she got a job washing dishes at a Japanese restaurant in San Diego. Kitchen staff were nonplussed when she offered to help them, having washed all the dishes far faster than any dishwasher before.


She ended up dumping the engineering and running the kitchen. Not too much of a disappointment for her father – “He loves to cook, too,” she grins.


She went back to school, this time in New York at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), once described by famed TV chef Julia Child as the “Harvard of culinary schools”. The college had a system of 18-week “externships” at top restaurants around the world.


Cheryl ended up in Montreal at Toqué restaurant. The restaurant’s name is a pun, referring to the traditional tall chef’s hat, but with the additional meaning in
French of “a little bit crazy”.


The restaurant’s reputation is far from crazy, howeverand while some CIA students found that their externships at other restaurants basically consisted of slave labour, Cheryl says that at Toqué, Chef Charles-Antoine Crète and others “took time – they taught us.”


She ended up staying there for nine years, and learned an awful lot more.


And now she’s in Phuket, stuffed with that knowledge, and with a kitchen of her
own on a hilltop. The place is called Breeze, and it’s in the Cape Yamu complex at the
far end of Cape Yamu.


At a food tasting in a private villa in Cape Yamu before the opening, The Phuket News was treated not only to the stuffed squid but also to fillet of sea bass with lettuce, asparagus, rose apple and Granny Smith slices, scallion vinaigrette and butter sauce; and a dessert of shredded pineapple with whipped cream, meringue, sugar, pepper, olive oil and basil tips. And vanilla icecream.


If that feast was anything to go by, Cheryl and Breeze will very quickly become
the new hot – meaning cool – place to go for dinner.

Breeze opens on April 20. To book, call 081-271- 2320. For more information see the breeze atcapeyamu Facebook page.

 

 

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