Chef’s Corner with Carvel Grant Gould
Executive Chef Carvel Grant Gould earned her place among Atlanta’s top chefs the hard way. As a young student at the University of Georgia, Gould made the decision to pursue her culinary interests much to the chagrin of her family. Gould’s mother approached her longtime friend, Gerry Klaskala, in hopes that he could help mentor, and perhaps even discourage, the aspiring chef. Klaskala, current Executive Chef and owner of Aria, was at the time heading up the kitchen at the Buckhead Diner. He offered to give Gould a first-hand look at the culinary world as a line cook. After a week and a half on the line, Gould asked if she still had a job. To which, Klaskala replied, “You’re on the schedule aren’t you?” Gould dug in, working every station of the kitchen and gaining invaluable hands-on experience.
While at the Buckhead Diner, Gould became a culinary scholar, learning as much as possible from the brilliant and experienced chefs under which she worked. Klaskala recognized Gould’s talent and dedication and when the time came for him to launch Canoe, Gould was offered a place on his team. In 1995, she opened Canoe as a line cook. Five years later, Klaskala opened Aria and Gould found a new mentor in Canoe’s next Executive Chef, Gary Mennie. When Mennie left Canoe to open Taurus in 2005, Gould was ready and able to take on the role for herself.
It is evident in Gould’s cooking that she has an innate culinary sense with a remarkable eye and distinguishing palate. She has a particular appreciation for vegetables and seafood. Her craftsmanship emanates in simple dishes with artfully balanced flavors. She often uses the term “palatability” in her kitchen to describe a perfect blend of flavors on a plate.
One of her favorite dishes to prepare is an appetizer using fresh king crab from Dutch Harbor, Alaska. “I take the crab out of the shell and serve it with a butter lettuce emulsion with dry mustard, honey and extra virgin olive oil topped with extra virgin olive oil sorbet.” For the past 2 years, Chef Gould has hung out with the crew of Discovery Channel’s top-rated show “The Deadliest Catch,” where she braves the treacherous Alaskan weather for the opening of king crab season in late October. However, Gould states, “I’m not interested in serving frozen king crab at all nor will I ever. Freezing really changes the flavor and texture. We might see fresh crab into December; that all depends on if they’re able to fly out that day. I can’t predict which days I’ll have it…”
Gould is proud to be one of Atlanta’s most celebrated female chefs and recognizes the late Julia Child as a profound culinary influence. “You have to respect Julia Child because of who she was and what she stood for.” Gould clearly shares Child’s passion for life inside and out of the kitchen, infusing her craft with stimulation and new ideas.
While strolling around the fresh vegetable & fruit garden, journeyPod had a chance to chat with this culinary diva…
The setting at Canoe is remarkable — right on the Chattahoochee river, great open patio, outdoor bar with a seating area and a wonderful garden growing fresh vegetables and fruits all year long. Share with us your idea(s) behind this amazing layout, and how did you become involved in gardening?
I’ve always really been interested in gardening in my spare time, mostly gardening flowers and making arrangements but not as much with vegetables / fruit. We had the space at Canoe to do something great and really show Atlanta that we are serious about sustainable and seasonal dining. It seemed like the right thing to do.
We tried a large variety of different dishes with favorites like the House Smoked Salmon with a Crispy Potato Cake and Vermont Goat’s Cheese and the Miso Marinated Alaskan Halibut with Edamame Hummus – tell us a little bit more about the the menu at Canoe!
The menu changes all the time depending on available products and the season. As an Atlanta native and lifetime southerner…the menu is modern American and highlights the great dishes, flavors and ingredients of the south.
You offer great private event packages and a delectable Sunday Brunch…
Canoe is and has been an exceptional place for special events. It is so neat when I hear patrons telling their server that they “went to prom at Canoe,” “were married, engaged, etc at Canoe.” It is just great! We are lucky to have the river in our backyard and the gardens are such a big part of the restaurant. We have 2 private event tents, a river bar, a private wine room in the restaurant and a table in the vegetable garden all dedicated for special dining events. We host wedding ceremonies in the gardens on the lawn too. It makes for a truly serene setting!
Chef Carvel, everything on the menu has been very carefully created. You are certainly extremely talented, how often do you add new dishes? and how does the creative process work? How do you decide on what works so well together?
Dishes are added and taken off of the menu all the time. I first look at the season and availability and then work my way into creating each dish. I believe that less is more with food and if you work with good ingredients and keep it simple, the best dishes come from that formula.
Have you cooked for any celebrities?
Quite a lot throughout the years including: Jane Fonda, Ted Turner, TR Knight, Katherine Heigel, Janet Jackson, Tyler Perry (he lives across the street from Canoe), Andre 3000, Bono & the whole U2 Band & staff, Kenny Rogers, Alton Brown, Morgan Freeman….the list goes on…
What is the strangest request you’ve received from a guest?
Oh goodness! We get crazy requests all the time! I’ve had requests for everything that we send out to be raw. I’ve been asked specifically for a 20 oz. piece of cod and steamed vegetables…that one makes me laugh because the person was insistent on getting 20 ounces! I’ve been asked for American cheese singles for a hamburger…The requests are nightly!
On a night off, where do you like to dine in Atlanta?
I love Mexican food and frequent El Azteca on Peachtree Road for margaritas! I enjoy a good steak from Houston’s, eat with family at the Driving Club sometimes and really love to cook a big meal at my family’s farm in Madison, GA.
Who do you admire in the culinary world?
The usuals…Julia Childs & Thomas Keller and my kitchen staff
What advice would you give to a young cooking enthusiast?
Simple is the best! Stay focused on yourself before you branch out into management. If you have not perfected your craft, you won’t be much help to others.
Canoe is located at 4199 Paces Ferry Road, NW Atlanta, Georgia 30339. For reservations, please call 770-432-2663, or visit the restaurant online!