Fire, Meat, And Amola Salt

Eric Pateman may have said goodbye to his beloved restaurant, Edible Canada, but the chef and owner of Amola Salt is taking his love of local around the globe.

by | Apr 4, 2021 | Food + Drink

Eric Pateman with a box of Amola Salt on his balcony

Eric Pateman. Photo | Abby Wiseman

It’s a foggy, cold and wet day in Squamish, where Eric Pateman lives. We meet on his balcony, keeping a cautionary distance as he prepares a fire-grilled feast. I’m here to talk about Amola Salt — the flavoured finishing salt he produces — but there is so much more to discuss with this veteran chef, consultant, and locavore.

The week I met Pateman, announcements were rolling out about the closure of his long-standing restaurant, Edible Canada, which lived on Granville Island for 15 years. Pateman is taking it in stride by all appearances as he sprinkles Amola’s Molten Hot Salt on our first course — chicken hearts.

Amola’s origins are utilitarian. The salt supplier he used at Edible couldn’t supply salt anymore, so he started to make his own and sold it out of the small local-only food store attached to the restaurant. 

“We started out with 30 flavours, and we’d bag them in these tiny little bags,” said Pateman. “It was like the jewellery store of salt.”

Eventually, they cut down to five flavours, which Pateman chose because they accentuate a dish’s flavour, not hide it. 

“I thought these would add to the dish but also be used on a regular basis,” said Pateman. “Like bacon salt adds that smokiness that can go with anything from s’mores to popcorn to steak to fish.”

The most used flavour in the Pateman household is the truffle salt, which his kids sprinkle on their morning eggs. 

Pateman throws on the next course — skewered halibut, which he sprinkles with hickory smoked bacon salt — while discussing the virtues of using excellent ingredients and cooking them simply, preferably, for him, over a fire. 

A box of Amola Salt with a rare steak
Beef skewers cooking over a wood fire

Photos | Abby Wiseman

Before Local Was A Thing

With our current enthusiasm for local, it’s hard to imagine that when Pateman opened Edible Canada, it was an anomaly. 

“We were first out of the gate,” said Pateman. “Other than John Bishop, who was probably one of my biggest mentors, nobody was doing it on a non–fine dining level.”

“The purpose of Edible was to give farmers, fishers, and foragers a voice. Back then, Farmers Markets weren’t that big a deal. When we opened the market, we had maybe 50 suppliers, and when we closed, we had close to 500.”

Over the 15 years of Edible’s life, Pateman saw a shift from local food being ‘poor man’s food’ to becoming a luxury. 

“It used to be that if you bought locally, you were poor,” said Pateman. “The pineapple, the pomegranate, if you could afford imported food, you were rich, and your palate was sophisticated. A strawberry from the farmer down the road was not seen as something to cherish. Now it’s flipped on its head, and you can buy pineapples and pomegranates every day of the week, but you can’t get a local strawberry every day of the week, so it’s really special.”

In some ways, the local food movement worked against him. Edible was a sought-out destination when it was more difficult to find local food, but as more regional ingredients started showing up on menus, shops and shelves, competition heated up.

“I remember when the buyers of Whole Foods would show up constantly,” said Pateman. “Now, people as a small artisan producer can make a living, which in the beginning was our goal. We did our job, but we also ran our course.”

A box of Molten Hot Amola Salt
A beef cube being seared on a piece of charcoal

Photos | Abby Wiseman

From Pole to Pole

The pandemic has also made it difficult for Pateman to leave the country, something he does prolifically as a consultant under his brand ESP Culinary Consulting

To say that Pateman has taken on a few wild projects is an understatement. He’s done everything from arranging an extravagant culinary trip to the Arctic on a private 737 to a luxury bourbon and blues tour through the American South. He’s done a stint in Fiji working with a super exclusive resort on a private island, but he’s also kept things close to home with projects like the Yukon Culinary Festival.

Pateman works with public and private sector entities to help them tell their culinary story — guiding them to focus on the producers behind the food, who he believes are the real rockstars. 

“The chefs have had the spotlight for far too long,” said Pateman. “At the end of the day, we are just cooks. It’s harder to grow it. It’s harder to get it to market. So, I think it’s time to shine a light on the producers.”

If everything goes as planned in the coming months, Pateman will be taking off again to New Zealand and parts of Asia, which will keep him away throughout most of 2021. For someone who spends the majority of his life abroad, staying home has been a grounding experience.

“Honestly, at the end of the day, COVID has been a good thing for me,” said Pateman. “I know it’s been crappy for so many people, but it’s allowed me to spend more time in one place than I have in 20 years, to connect with my family more, and look at more at the changes I can facilitate.” 

“Plus, salt sales are good.” 

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Excellent work. Well done you. Bravo.

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