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When Cesar de la Parra was an apprentice at the Michelin-three-starred Restaurante Martín Berasategui in San Sebastian, in the Basque region of Spain, he worked 16-hour days for no pay. He lived in the basement; all that kept him from returning to his native Mexico was his passion for exceptional food. “You learn a lot about discipline and integrity in Michelin kitchens,” he says, “but nothing about sustainability.” Since joining the Lebanese-inspired Nuba, he’s helped it grow in two years from a hole in the wall to four varied rooms (including the latest, in the main room of the Waldorf Hotel) and over 100 staff.
How to Buy
In Lebanese cuisine, lamb is a springtime staple. It’s available year-round from Salt Spring Island and the Okanagan, but beware the fat content in spring. “The little sheep have done nothing over winter but eat and become fat.” What an animal eats influences the flavour of its meat, of course, so opt for grass-fed lamb. Two Rivers Meats (604-990-5288. Tworiversmeats.com) offers non-medicated, hormone-free halal cuts. “Never buy premarinated meat,” says de la Parra.
How to Cook
Salt and pepper are all lamb needs. Season just before you cook the meat. “If you salt and pepper your lamb an hour in advance, the surface will become dry and dehydrated. That’s an easy way to turn a Gucci prime loin into a cheap cut.” Lamb is naturally soft and can be grilled, seared, or baked. “But don’t use tongs to flip your cut.” A spatula will keep the moisture inside. De la Parra likes to serve lamb with a rosemary honey sauce and a sprinkling of lemon zest.