The Brasa Spatula School showcases the cooking techniques, recipes and culinary stories of some of the most popular chefs and celebrities from around the world. This series has been created to help readers become better at-home chefs. Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook.
STEPHAN: “My name is Stephan Dyer. I was born in Costa Rica, but I’m a citizen of the world. I have Peruvian parents and I currently live in Toronto, Canada. I’m a comedian, conference speaker and a professional speaking coach.”
JUAN: “Same answer, just change the name. Ha! Just kidding, I’m actually Colombian. I grew up there, but like Stephan, I travelled the world and settled down in Toronto. I’m a comedian and Stephan’s business partner. We like to make people laugh.”
S: “We’re both former bankers turned comedians. I studied at the University of Toronto and Juan has his masters in marketing and brand management. For seven years, we were senior managers at Scotiabank. I was in wealth management and Juan was in brand management and marketing. He later moved into HR. While working for the bank, we did a little bit of comedy on the side. After every show, Juan would ask me what I thought about leaving our banking gigs. Eventually, he demanded that we quit our daytime jobs and pursue comedy full time. I didn’t want to hear it.
We were living the immigrant dream and killing it at the bank, while so many of our friends struggled to find well-paying, lucrative jobs.
As time went on, our comedic acts took off and we did really well for ourselves. We dreamed of leaving our tiny cubicles to pursue something that we truly loved. The seven years as a banker taught me a lot. It helped shape me into the entrepreneur I am today.”
J: “At first, neither of us imagined we could do comedy for a living. I mean, I had stage fright as a kid! As we got better as performers, I’d try to convince him that we should quit our daytime jobs and pursue comedy full time. At one point, he gave in. We made it happen.
Now, comedy is one thing, but cooking is another. It’s no joke. While I do cook every day, I keep it simple. Once a week I treat myself and put a little more effort into my creations. Half the time I try to recreate dishes from my mom’s kitchen without even knowing the ingredients! There are times when I wing it and other moments where I call my mom to help me out.”
S: “I am an awful cook. I’m blessed to be married to a wife who makes cooking look easy. If I were a bachelor, I’d probably be living off of omelets, cereal, pasta and canned soup for the rest of my life. My wife is Venezualan, so we eat a variety of meat with rice at home. I also like to add refried beans and plantains to my dishes. When my wife gets fancy with our meals, she follows recipes from two cookbooks. One is by a Venezuelan goddess named Sasha Fitness. She is a fitness guru, but also has little recipe books that include healthy and delicious meals. My Peruvian grandparents sent us the other cookbook - it’s called Nicoline. On special occasions, we try to recreate something Peruvian.”
J: “Stephan and his wife are fancier in the kitchen. Personally, I stick to the basics. The first dish I learned to cook were scrambled eggs. My stepdad is an incredible cook and he always told me to put my entire arm into the scrambling bit. I always make sure some air gets inside the eggs and they become fluffy and grow. I add in tomatoes, onions and cheese. Calentao is a Colombian dish made from reheated leftovers. You mix rice with scrambled eggs and any other leftovers from the day before. That’s as fancy as I get.”
S: “The first dish I ever learned to cook was cereal. I’m a cereal killer. I’m kind of ashamed to admit this, but I grew up in a house with maids. My meals were made for me and I didn’t experiment in the kitchen on my own. At age 15, I went to boarding school where we had a cafeteria. Then, my wife took me in and cooked our meals. The first thing I remember cooking on my own were fried eggs, sunny side up.”
J: “And you probably did that yesterday.”
S: “It was fried eggs with gallo pinto. In Costa Rica, it’s a very popular dish. Gallo pinto is just rice and beans mixed together. That’s my go-to dish. Fried eggs with gallo pinto, toast with butter and maybe some plantain.”
J: “Neighbouring South American countries influence one another’s cuisine. I’m from Bogota, Colombia and a lot of our country’s cuisine is influenced by Peru. By age 5, I had tasted my first ceviche.
In my opinion, Peruvian cuisine is the best. It’s hands down my favourite food. Peruvians use elements from different Latin American cuisines. The food is influenced by the coast as well as by Asia.
I’d love to make the Lomo Saltado on my own. It is the perfect combination of meat and fries, both of which I love. Peruvian dishes are remarkable and I wish for more people to discover them for themselves.”
S: “My favourite Peruvian dish is the Anticuchos de Corazon. It’s a grilled heart on a skewer. Some might be turned off by the name, but it tastes like an excellent steak - except a hundred times better. It’s juicy, very fresh and already cut up into pieces so that it’s easy to bite and savour. While you can get this dish at an expensive restaurant, I associate it with intimate gatherings and socializing with family. It reminds me of being at the cottage or La Finca (which translates to the farm). Growing up in Costa Rica, all the Peruvian families would gather at La Finca, listen to music and enjoy Peruvian food. There were plenty of Peruvian dishes such as ceviche and Anticuchos de Corazon.
South American cuisine is tied to tradition. I enjoy arepas - it’s probably what I’d serve if someone was coming over for dinner. Basically, it’s corn flour that you open in half. You can put in steak, avocados, tomatoes and cheese. Personally, I like to put in chicken, avocado, mayo and cheese. There are also vegetarian versions with no meat.”
S: “Let’s not forget about hot sauce. It’s a kitchen staple in South American homes. Right now, I’m hooked on Frank’s Red Hot. When I lived in Mexico, it was all about the Salsa Valentina. You can find it in supermarkets here in Toronto too. My dad was a big fan of rocoto and put it on all of his food. It’s a Peruvian chili with a serious kick. My Peruvian grandparents would give my dad rocoto seeds, which he would plant in our family garden in Costa Rica. We always had fresh rocoto just an arm’s reach away.”
J: “All this talk about food and I’m getting hungry. I mean, I was serious about comedy and made that happen. Who knows, maybe cooking is in the stars for me. If I could cook a mean meal and sit down with Dave Chapelle that would be the ultimate. Do a little barbeque with meat and potatoes. What a way to woo someone.”
S: “I’d love to chat with Jim Carey. He seems like a guy who is open and vulnerable - not afraid to share his points of view. I bet we’d have a great conversation over the Anticuchos de Corazon. A little comedy in the kitchen.”