A mammoth muffin; from his cookbook, Marty Curtis' Lemon, Blueberry and Cream Cheese Muffins. Photo courtesy of Deep Media.
Although I consider myself the giving sort, I have a confession to make. While I do believe that to be asked for a recipe is the highest of compliments, whenever I hear that request I do take a millisecond pause. I mean, of course I will share. But then again, if I give away all my tricks, will I have no mystique left?
Marty Curtis boasts a love of food that is legendary in the Muskokas and seems to have no such qualms over divulging his recipes. Owner of Marty's World Famous Café in Bracebridge, Ontario, Mr. Curtis has recently released his first cookbook; a book that shares the favourties that have made his shop a success for the last 12 years. Even the secret of the house specialty, the absolutely enormous butter tarts, is revealed within.
A warm welcome Mr. Curtis as first guest for the new "Seven Questions" feature on the site. In his interview, Mr. Curtis spoke about his inspirations in the kitchen, taste trends and finally, those much-lauded butter tarts.
seven spoons: How do your café and the book reflect your food philosophy?
Marty Curtis: Keep it simple. Easy to find ingredients that people are familiar with, when prepared with passion, make for an enjoyable, memorable meal. How you feel before you begin cooking is in direct relation to the end results.
7S: In the book you reference a similarity to Paula Deen in the way you've come to your success. You also have a bit in common with Ina Garten and Martha Stewart in that you left other careers to follow a passion for food. What advice would you now pass on to someone planning a similar leap?
MC: Believe in yourself, feel positive and enjoy what you are doing. For me, having a greater purpose other than yourself will make your work much more enjoyable and a lot of fun.
7S: Marty's World Famous Café has been in operation since 1996; over the years what changes have you noticed in the tastes of your customers and how has your menu evolved?
MC: Some people are wanting lighter menu items loaded with flavour and others still love hearty comfort food. Our phyllo quiche with locally grown leeks has been a big hit lately, served with a simple spring mix salad with olive oil and rice wine vinegar dressing. Our squash soup will appear again this fall as will our Turkey Pot Pie. All in all keeping up the quality is key.
7S: What trends or ingredients are inspiring you right now?
MC: With fall upon us, I am getting excited about pumpkin and squash right now. Now is when we gear up for Thanksgiving time and we make our fresh pumpkin pies again and squash soup sneaks its way onto our menu once again. I absolutely love this time of year for the cooler weather and the smell of a roaring fireplace. The seasonal changes really bring out some creativity and make for fun culinary experiences too.
7S: Often you will hear chefs and cooks separate what they cook professionally, and what they cook in their own kitchen. Is that the case with you, and what is your go-to recipe at home?
MC: I enjoy all the salads at home that you will find on our menu at the café. A great rib steak every now and again as well as a great rack of slow cooked ribs with grilled vegetables. As for a go to recipe ... the Trivial Marinade as mentioned in the cookbook is a go to recipe for me. It works with just about anything for the grill ... beef, chicken or pork.
7S: What are your five pantry or refrigerator staples?
MC: Eggs, butter, pasta, veggies and fruit.
7S: And finally, the obvious question. Why share the secret of your famous buttertart recipe?
MC: It makes me feel good to know that people now have the secret recipe and are able to recreate something in the comfort of their own home that has brought us success on many different levels. It's educational, fun and comforting. Everyone wins.
Thanks to Marty Curtis for taking the time to speak with us. Look out for my review of Marty's World Famous Cookbook (Whitecap, 2008) coming up on Monday, September 15, 2008. The recipe for the Lemon, Blueberry and Cream Cheese Muffins is available in the book and online here (scroll down).