Not too long ago I was invited to join some other journalists to train with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police at the Royal Canadian Mountain Police (RCMP) Academy in Regina—a once in a lifetime opportunity. This was one of the hardest 24 hours of my life, however the pain quickly faded since our valiant efforts were rewarded with a stay at the historic Hotel Saskatchewan Radisson Plaza, one of Canada's grand railway hotels. My corner suite was bigger (and certainly more lavish) than my apartment at home, but the highpoint of my stay was meeting their remarkable Executive Chef, Milton Rebello, a Gold Medal Plate winner at the Canadian Culinary Championship.
I enjoyed every morsel of his imaginative six-course brunch (which started with an apple and bacon cinnamon bun and ended with a stunning dish of rhubarb ale braised short ribs topped by a perfectly fried quail egg) so much that I just had to meet the man responsible. Once I began interviewing this extremely talented—yet humble—chef I quickly realized he exemplifies the hotel’s motto, “Life’s too short for ordinary!”
Chef Rebello even graciously allowed me to share his recipe for a scrumptious, healthy breakfast cookie that enamored President Clinton when he stayed at Hotel Saskatchewan so much that the name was changed to the “Bill Clinton Cookie.” Make sure to check out the recipe after the interview!
Janice Nieder: Where were you born?
Milton Rebello: I grew up in Mangalore, India, which is a Southern coastal town.
JN: How would you describe your cooking style?
MR: I love to cook with local ingredients, many which I find [at] Regina Farmers’ Market. I then bring the flavors to life with respect, passion and some of my ma’s secret spices.
*Author's Note: If the Farmers’ Market doesn’t have something he wants, Chef Milton will simply plant it in his family’s garden, where he, his wife Louise (also a gifted chef) and two small daughters (Skye and Livia) grow fruits, vegetables, edible flowers, and herbs. A large portion of the space is devoted to a variety of mustard plants, one of his favorite ingredients.
JN: Who or what inspired you to become a chef?
MR: My Ma was [my] inspiration. She is still […] the best chef in the family.
JN: What was the first thing you cooked?
MR: A nice fluffy chorizo omelet.
JN: If you weren't a chef, what would you be?
MR: I was always interested in fine art. I think I would have explored that. For now, I get to use my inspiration on a plate instead of a canvas.
JN: What is the most exciting ingredient or cooking trend?
MR: Flavored vinegar….Flash pickling is fun.
JN: Is there an ingredient or food trend that you hate?
MR: I stay away from any ingredient that is not sustainable or produced/processed with ethical practices. For example, force-fed geese for foie gras or shark fin.
JN: What is your proudest culinary moment?
MR: Winning the Bronze medal at the Canadian Culinary Championship 2013 in Kelowna. Being the first chef from Saskatchewan to ever place in the top three of Canada.
JN: Can you name some of the famous people you've cooked for?
MR: I have had the privilege to cook for His Highness Prince Charles and Camilla, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Governor General of Canada David Johnston, President Bill Clinton, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Salman Bin Abdulaziz, Princess of Pataudi Sharmila Tagore, Sir Paul McCartney, and Michael Bublé.
JN: If you were going to get a culinary tattoo, what would it be?
MR: Culinary trends keep changing but tattoos stay. I have culinary engraved on my heart.
JN: What would you choose for your final supper?
MR: Fresh oyster, finest caviar, and champagne. Go out in style!
JN: If you could spend a month studying the local cuisine of a country, which one would it be?
MR: The cuisine of Peru and Chile.
JN: What comfort food do you make for yourself after a bad day?
MR: I always save a big bag of salty potato chips for a rainy day.
JN: What did your mom pack in your lunch box?
MR: I had the best lunch box when I was growing up. Spiced vegetable stuffed flat breads (Parathas) with spicy carrot pickle, rice crêpes with cardamom flavored coconut and jaggery. It was a pleasant surprise every day.
JN: What is the strangest food you’ve ever eaten?
MR: During my travels to China, I […] tried everything that my wife Louise would recommend. Of course, she [would] not tell me what I [had] tasted till I […] had a big chunk of it. But I guess I will try anything for the first time.
JN: And how did you meet your wife?
MR: My wife was born in Chengdu, Sichuan province, China. I met Louise by sheer destiny. She was studying textile and fashion designing at University of Alberta but in her third year of her Degree program she switched to the culinary program at NAIT (Culinary School in Edmonton). I was doing a vegetable and fruit demo there and for the first time I found a student who was blessed with better skills and attention to detail than I.
Morning Glory Cookies a.k.a. “The Bill Clinton Cookie”
Makes: 24 cookies from 1.5 ounce scoop
- 284 gm butter
- 500 gm brown sugar
- 5 gm salt
- 3 nos (135ml) eggs
- 10 ml vanilla
- 30 ml water
- 375 gm pastry flour
- 15 gm baking powder
- 8 gm baking soda
- 315 gm rolled oats
- 75 gm chopped pecans
- 75 gm shredded coconut
- 75 gm shredded carrots
- 75 gm raisins
In a mixing bowl cream butter to light and fluffy consistency. Mix in brown sugar and salt, whip until evenly mixed and creamy. Lightly whip eggs and add to the butter/sugar mixture. When evenly mixed, add water and vanilla. In a separate bowl, sieve flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add flour to the mixture and mix evenly.
Finally, add all of the remaining ingredients—rolled oats, chopped pecan, coconut, and raisins.
1.5 ounce scoops should make approximately 24 cookies. Scoop onto a parchment paper/baking tray at 350 °F for 14 minutes.
Note: This is just the starting point. Feel free to embellish with a variety of your favorite nuts, seeds and dried fruit.