In between jobs at some of the most coveted restaurants in North America, including Toronto's Avalon, Woods apprenticed to learn more about every technique from molecular gastronomy at Chicago's Alinea to slicing sashimi at Sushi Kaji Restaurant and cutting up carcasses at The Healthy Butcher in Toronto.
After leaving his first role as executive chef of Habitat last year, Woods, 34, has incorporated his varied repertoire of skills at his globally inspired new restaurant.
The menu at Lucien, named best new restaurant of 2008 by Toronto Life magazine, transforms classic comfort foods into complex creations such as Japanese bincho grilled octopus with homemade chorizo and potato foam, French onion soup with duck gizzards and foie gras, and Southern fried chicken cooked sous-vide with a buttermilk-and-cornflake crust.
Q: How would you define your style?
A: "I think it's sort of establishing what modern Toronto food is. If you ask me to define that I think, it's obviously geographically based. I sought out those who tended to have the best techniques, very solid techniques, and ground myself that way and that allows me to draw culturally either from different ingredients or different techniques from different cultures. So in terms of modern Toronto, it's definitely grounded in French technique with a lot of cultural influence."
Q: Are there any modern techniques that people can try at home?
A: "I think a dehydrator is a great tool, whether you consider it molecular or not. We're making really thin bread wafers as well, again going back to the soup, and it's just rolling out bread on a pasta machine. You could use a rolling pin, and then you just season it with whatever you want and dehydrate it and then you have these really thin bread wafers."
Q: What do you like to cook for yourself?
A: "One thing that I'm always doing at home, believe it or not, are these sort of takes on things like nachos. I'll make a bunch of pickles that day and maybe make sausages and a bunch of different condiments and just kind of make these big spreads. And it's nothing fancy but I've made most of it myself. Aside from making the chips, I'm a little bit lazy, but I love things like that."