A valley resident with creative culinary flair recently made waves at one of the most prestigious cooking schools in the world, and is setting his sights high for his cooking career.
Lucas Ruault spent last fall attending the Ballymaloe Cookery School, which is based on an organic farm near Shanagarry at the southern tip of Ireland. While honing his already considerable kitchen skills, he enjoyed 4 a.m. morning tromps to visit the cows and pick fresh garnishes — and scored some of the highest grades the school has ever given out.
“It’s not a long course, but it was intensive. Essentially they squeezed everything you’d learn in a two-year course into a few months,” Mr. Ruault told The Pioneer. “It’s been ranked as the sixth best cookery school in the world and it really is of the utmost quality. You really get a solid theory of organic fundamentals; almost all the ingredient are from the farm or are locally sourced. The ratio of teachers to students is six-to-one, which is by far the best ratio at any high-end cooking school, and a lot of restaurants seek out Ballymaloe students.”
Mr. Ruault is currently working at From Scratch in Fairmont Hot Springs, as he did before going to Ballymaloe. From Scratch owner Lara McCormack is a past Ballymaloe graduate, which helped Mr. Ruault get a foot in the door, but he said getting accepted to Ballymaloe was not as difficult as he had thought, mostly because the considerable cost deters many would-be students.
“It’s expensive, but I really think it’s a bargain based on what you learn” he said, speaking with a distinct Irish lilt in this voice, showing that he picked up more than culinary knowledge at Ballymaloe.
“It’s kind of embarrassing. People have commented on it,” he said of the accent. “I did chum a lot with the locals, so I probably got it that way.”
After graduating from David Thompson Secondary School (DTSS) in 2014, Mr. Ruault first went to art school in Calgary, but when he starting cooking for himself for the first time, he found a new passion.
“My dorm room overlooked the Southern Alberta Institute of Training (SAIT) cooking class training room,” he said. “I ended up staying in my room all day, forgetting art school classes and cooking all day, getting further and further down the rabbit hole. And I haven’t looked back. I’m just really driven in terms of everything culinary. I actually wake up with new menu plans and thinking about how I can incorporate what’s in season.”
His fellow Ballymaloe students would typically get up at 6:30 a.m., start classes shortly thereafter and continue until about 9 p.m., and then collapse into bed. Mr. Ruault, however, got into the habit of waking two and half hours earlier, heading out to see the cows and plucking herbs to use as garnishes in the day’s dishes, “not because I wanted to get the highest marks, but because it was an opportunity that was available to me. It’s pure passion.”
He said he is creative by nature, loves to serve and entertain, and is stubborn enough to love the challenge of cooking.
“Everything in each dish has to be perfect, pretty, in season and have a purpose. It’s a borderline unhealthy obsession,” said Mr. Ruault, adding that, in terms of future plans, he has his eye on working at a Michelin star restaurant, likely in Germany, or the French Laundry — a Napa Valley restaurant in a converted stone farmhouse run by renowned chef Thomas Kelly and labelled by celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain as the “best restaurant in the world, period”.
“Hopefully at some point in the future I’ll open my own restaurant,” he said. “Going to Ballymaloe has boosted my confidence and ambition. I’m excited to see what happens next.”
Mr. Ruault will likely be working at From Scratch for the rest of this year, if not into early next, before heading off on the next step of his career — leaving valley residents some time to sample his work while they still can.