While growing up in Halifax, Russian-born Ana Damaskin would return to her grandmother’s kitchen near the Finnish border during her summer vacations.
“My grandmother was terrifying. She was a French-trained pastry chef. I remember the first time she had me whip meringue. I think I was 12. I had to do it by hand, and I thought it was done. She was like, ‘No you’re not. I’ll prove to you that you’re not done.’”
That shower of goopy egg-white inspired Damaskin’s perseverance. Pavlova, she says, became her signature dessert.
“That’s some crazy Russian grandma shit.”
With many years of fine dining experience in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Manitoba, Damaskin is currently the Chef de partie at Capital Grill & Bar’s new Broadway location. As far as her personal culinary ideology goes, she opts for simplicity.
“I just like making food that I like. Fresh, local, nothing complicated.”
Damaskin has a particular fondness for good balsamic vinegar, ripe persimmons and scallops “when they’re fresh from the shell with the roe and they’re still pulsating.”
On a day off, she’ll get a slow-proofing dough started or roll a batch of fresh gnocchi.
“Making it from scratch is so relaxing.”
Surprisingly, it was by virtue of her adventures as a comedian that Damaskin began brewing her own kombucha.
“I was staying at someone’s house this summer when I was (in Saskatoon) on tour ... and they gave me part of their SCOBY. I drove back to Winnipeg with it.”
Fascinated by fermentation, she says she’d like to travel to Iceland to eat hákarl, a notoriously pungent national dish of ammonia-rich, ground-fermented shark.
“Fermentation’s been around for centuries. Every culture has a different way of doing it. It’s interesting stuff.”