Kieran Kearns’ mac ’n’ cheese
Kieran Kearns, the executive chef at Vancouver’s Tap and Barrel restaurants, took up road riding in 2018. He bought a Specialized Roubaix this past January with the goal of riding the B.C. Ride to Conquer Cancer. He had thyroid cancer in 2013. In summer 2017, his girlfriend’s father passed away from liver cancer.
Kearns grew up mountain biking. His father gave him a Kona hardtail for his 10th birthday, which he’d ride on Mount Fromme and Seymour. With road riding, Kearns wasn’t sure how it would compare with mountain. “I thought I’d put myself through road biking for good cause,” Kearns said, “and I ended up falling in love with it. I ride my road bike 10:1 versus how much I ride my mountain bike now.” He also rode the Prospera Valley Granfondo in 2018. In 2019, he’s planning to attend the same events, as well as ride the rbc Granfondo Whistler.
When Kearns is not riding, he’s in charge of operations and creating the menus at the Tap and Barrel, the Tapshack and the Brewhall, the latter of which opened this past July. The restaurants specialize in craft beer, so Kearns builds menus that complement the beverages. He also considers the quality of the food. “My cooking style is West Coast,” he said. “The West Coast vibe is about trying to stay lighter and ‘healthful.’ I don’t say ‘healthy,’ because it’s already a ‘cheat day’ once you are out to eat. But if you’re going to order a burger, I’m going to make sure it’s the best best burger you can have by not using prewashed and pre-shredded lettuce. We’re trying to make as much as we can in-house.”
For Kearns’ beer and cheese sauce, the chef recommends a floral medium-bodied beer. “A stout or porter in mac ’n’ cheese will work, but it’s obvious,” he said. “There’s something about achieving balance in a dish. There’s something beautiful when someone says, ‘What is that? It’s good. I can taste beer, but what’s going on there?’ It makes them think about their food a bit more.”
For the craft beer and cheddar sauce 3 tbsp butter 3 tbsp olive oil ¾ cup onion, chopped ¼ cup all-purpose flour 1 cup Brewhall Neon Lights pale ale (Or substitute another beer of your choice. Remember the type of beer will affect the colour and character of the finished product.) 1 ½ cup two per cent milk 10 oz. aged white cheddar, grated 6 oz. cheese curds 2 oz. gorgonzola 2 oz. finely grated Grana Padano
parmesan ½ tsp fine salt to taste For the cast-iron craft-beer mac ’n’ cheese 1 lb. cavatappi (corkscrew) noodles salted water (1 tbsp kosher salt
per litre) ⅓ cup panko breadcrumbs ½ cup finely grated Grana Padano parmesan (grated with a microplane is best) chopped parsley for garnishing Serves 4