Tag Archives: Anita Stewart

Celebrating Canadian Food: Chef Jeffery Mickelson, Klondike Kate’s, Yukon

25 Jul

Jeffrey Mickelson Klondike Kate's Dawson City Yukon

July 30 is Food Day Canada, an initiative started nine years ago by Canadian food writer Anita Stewart to celebrate Canada’s food bounty and culinary skill. Chefs, restaurants and ordinary citizens all over the country will mark the occasion in their own special ways. In advance of Food Day Canada, we’re chatting with some of the chefs whose restaurants will celebrate Canadian food on July 30 to gauge their thoughts on our country’s food scene and traditions.

Last time, we spoke with chef Michael Howell of Tempest Restaurant in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. This time around, chef Jeffery Mickelson talks about his experiences cooking at Klondike Kate’s in Dawson City, Yukon. Mickelson, a B.C. native, worked from 2002 to 2007 at Klondike Kate’s before departing to spend some time working in kitchens around the world, including in Vancouver, Ottawa, Chicago, Mexico and England. He’s returned to the kitchen at Klondike Kate’s for 2011, and will be helping to prepare a menu celebrating the Yukon’s bounty for Food Day 2011. 

What do you love about cooking in the Yukon?

Cooking in the Yukon is really no different than cooking anywhere else. Obviously getting stuff here is always a bit of a issue, but as far as local producers go, it’s great. We get fresh birch syrup from Uncle Berwyn, various wild and cultivated berries from an emu farm down river, lots of amazing produce from Grant Dowdell’s farm. Our season is much shorter, but the producers can grow large amounts of goods in the short time. Our customer base is territorial and worldwide. We serve lots of regular Yukoners, and when summer is in full swing, the tourists are reliving the Klondike adventure. Myself and Wade (co-chef/owner) are out foraging all summer long, for various stuff including, nettles, herbs, mushrooms, wild greens, spruce tips etc.

How have local factors such as geography, economics and demographics influenced your cooking style?

We grow fast and big, and store our goods for the off season. You really need to know how to store and preserve the produce to get local stuff all year round. Our biggest problem is getting local meat. There is no meat inspection building in the Yukon, so we rely on a portable abbitore to drive around to inspect and slaughter animals that are destined for restaurants or grocery stores. The costs are so high for this service that, in the restaurant, it is hard to get people to switch to a local product at twice the price. There are not enough producers to provide inspected meat for the entire territory, and the government does not want to lower the costs of production (inspection costs, subsidies, etc.) to get it to the restaurants. Our busy season is in the summer, the same time the food is being produced. Come fall when we’re closing up shop, the meat is being slaughtered, which is great if you’re stocking up your freezer for winter at home. But to buy stuff that’s been frozen for six months at almost twice the price is a hard one to swallow. It is getting better though.

How has the local food scene in your region evolved over the years?

There are more producers, and more organic, natural foods. The restaurant scene in the Yukon is young and slowly evolving.

What are your thoughts on the idea that there is a “Canadian cuisine”?

We definitely do have a defined style of food, almost identical to the U.S. After all, we all came here at the same time, just spread out to different spots. If you look at any historical cookbook, Canadian or American, the recipes and food styles are almost identical.

How is Klondike Kate’s celebrating Food Day Canada?

Everyday at Kate’s is food day. We use all the local goods we can get our hands on and thrive on fresh product coming in the back door in season. We will be doing a Food Day-themed menu paired with Canadian wines.

Celebrating Canadian Food: Chef Michael Howell, Tempest, Nova Scotia

13 Jul

Chef Michael Howell Tempest

Last month, we had the opportunity to attend the first Great Canadian Cheese Festival in Picton, Ont. In addition to being able to learn about and taste cheeses from all over Canada in a setting that is quickly becoming one of Ontario’s greatest culinary tourism escapes, I loved that the festival pulled together chefs from all over Canada and gave festival-goers the chance to chat with them.

Jenny and I spoke only briefly with Michael Howell, chef of Tempest Restaurant in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. But in those few minutes, we really got a sense of the passion chef Howell, a Nova Scotia native who’s lived and cooked all over the world, has for both his trade and his home province.

July 30 is Food Day Canada, an initiative started nine years ago by Canadian food writer Anita Stewart to celebrate Canada’s food bounty and culinary skill. Chefs, restaurants and ordinary citizens all over the country will mark the occasion in their own special ways. In advance of Food Day Canada, we’re going to be chatting with some of the chefs whose restaurants will celebrate Canadian food on July 30 to gauge their thoughts on our country’s food scene and traditions.

First up, we talk to chef Michael Howell. 

What do you love about cooking in Nova Scotia?

I am blessed to be living in the heartland of Nova Scotia’s agricultural bounty. My restaurant is 500 metres from the Wolfville Farmers Market, less than five kilometres from five wineries, and most of my fresh product comes from within 20 kilometres of my business. ALL of my suppliers are primary producers – I do not have to use ANY distributors.

Nova Scotia is a nascent destination for culinary tourism and yet there is a breadth and depth to the chefs cooking here that is equal to many far more cosmopolitan destinations. We choose to live here because of the quality of life as well as the quality of porduct available at our beck and call.

How have local factors such as geography, economics and demographics influenced your cooking style?

Seasonality is a mantra that many chefs espouse nowadays, and in some cases, rather exemporaneously. I truly try to cook seasonally with respect for local ingredients. I can get local tomatoes (from a greenhouse) 10 months of the year. I have another greens supplier that keeps me in exotica (radish sprouts, micro mix,  etc) 12 months of the year.

Seafood is ALWAYS available so I am only restricted by green veg and fruit availability. For several seasons, I have cooked an all Italian menu for the winter that reflects seasonality but also brings in the locals in the dead of winter – think squash and quark ravioli with sage butter or locally farmed (land-based farming) branzino with winter veg ragu. My cuisine is simpler as I get older – less complicated, more about purity of ingredients and flavours –  but I try to stay au courant so that I am not thought of as anachronistic by critics and so my young cooks  don’t get bored by simplicity…

How has the local food scene in your region evolved over the years?

I, and several other chefs (Martin Ruiz, Craig Flinn, Dennis Johnston, Ray Bear) are driving a culinary rennaissance here in Nova Scotia. We bring experience from all over the world to our little corner of heaven. We continue to travel and experience great cuisines and make an effort to stay relevant when we come home to our businesses. Our cuisine is distinctly steeped in seafood – that is inescapeable, of course. But we aren’t just about Digby scallops and lobster either. Many of us are beginning to grapple with the issues of sustainable seafood when it comes to procurement, so hopefully we are driving a new thinking when seafood suppliers think about the methods of harvesting and the species they are delivering to us, so that they respect an increasingly passionate scrunity of the products we are serving at our restaurants by customers concerned with sustainability and the health of our oceans.

What are your thoughts on the idea that there is a “Canadian cuisine”?

Canadian cuisine is indefinable. We are motivated by our ethnicity, by our regionality, by our urbanism. Anthony Walsh’s interpretation of Canadian cuisine is one pole (bringing the best to Toronto from all corners of Canada), Martin Picard’s is another (celebrating distinctly Quebecois cuisine steeped in French tradition). Our cuisine is interpreting our local ingredients wherever we are. Increasingly, like Italian cuisine, we  are regionalized. Tuscan cuisine is completely unlike Pugliese cuisine, yet they share a common thread of pasta,  and primi, secondi and dolce as a method of dining. I cook scallops, lobster, halibut, haddock and mussels as regional celebrations yet I still cook Berkshire pork, great rib eyes to make the steak lover salivate, and cool vegetarian dishes to satisfty the increasing number of non-protein eaters that are a part of the culinary landscape. There will never be a definable Canadian cuisine, unless the definition is melting pot influenced by regional ingredients.

How is Tempest celebrating Food Day Canada?

We are cooking a hugely celebratory multi-course dinner that reveres local ingredients:

Dulse crusted Roasted Elmridge Farm Fingerlings with Farmers Sour Cream and Acadian Sturgeon Caviar
Domaine de Grand Pre Champlain Brut

Arctic Char Tartare:
Sustainable blue Arctic char, Back Door chives,  opal basil oil, horseradish espuma, crispy Lakewood Market garden zucchini blossoms
L’Acadie Vineyards Sparkling Rose

Trio of Taproot Farms Sun Gold Tomatoes:
Panzanella with Fox Hill Cheese House mozzarella, Boulangerie la Vendeenne sourdough
Tomato water and ShanDaph oyster shooter
Stinging nettle and Fox Hill quark ravioli with tomato confit
Annapolis Highlands Vineyards Geisenheim Riesling 2010

Applewood smoked leg of Gaspereau Valley lamb with Chef’s Garden pirri pirri sauce, minted tabbouleh, our own ajvar, lemon verbena foam
Luckett Vineyards 2009 Triumphe

Noggins Corner peach tart, Ran-Cher Acres goat cheese and Cosman & Whidden Honey gelato
Domaine de Grand Pre Pomme D’Or

Celebrate Food Day on Saturday

28 Jul

 Canada Maple LeafOne of the best things about being a food lover living in Canada – and one of the easiest things about blogging about food in Canada – is that there’s just so much great stuff to enjoy within our borders. The fresh fish and seafood, variety of produce, grains, meats and dairy we have is truly unbelievable. And with such easy access to all these great food products in communities across the country, it’s no wonder that Canadian chefs and home cooks alike are so innovative. But with all this around us, it’s easy to take it for granted.

Food Day, which is this Saturday, July 31, is aimed at making sure Canadians recognize our bounty. Food Day was started in 2003 by Canadian food writer and educator Anita Stewart, with an event – The World’s Longest BBQ – designed to help the country bounce back from the sanctions that were then in place on Canadian beef. The spirit of that first BBQ has carried through annual Food Day celebrations over the past eight years, with more and more people marking the day by holding their own backyard grill fests. Stories posted by Canadians to the Food Day website over the years demonstrate how people have embraced the celebration.

This year, Food Day is being expanded even further, as restaurants and food suppliers across the country are joining forces to offer special menus celebrating Canadian food. The Food Day website has a listing of the more than 130 restaurants participating across Canada, and some of the menus posted look incredible. Have a look and consider checking out a participating restaurant in your community if you don’t feel like firing up the grill at home.

I grew up surrounded by a tradition of, and passion for, great food. The Italian side of my family made me appreciate fresh ingredients and simple preparations, while my amateur gourmet chef mother taught me that food can be cooked and presented in so many incredible ways. But it was the five years I spent living in Manitoba in my 20s that really gave me an understanding of the complexity of food beyond what appears on my plate. As a trade magazine editor working in the Prairies, I spent those years covering agriculture issues. I had the chance to speak to farmers, manufacturers, food marketers and government officials about the challenges and triumphs associated with being part of the food chain. I was founding editor of Canadian Potato Business, a magazine aimed at providing important information to producers of Canada’s most important field crop. As much as that tends to be a point of amusement in conversations today, it was a great experience and opportunity to learn about issues my born-and-raised-in-the-Greater-Toronto-area mind hadn’t previously thought of. And the fact that the magazine continues to thrive today (albeit under a different name and written by people with better understanding of farm issues than me) makes me proud.

I won’t be in Toronto on Food Day to take advantage of the great menus from this city’s participating restaurants. But whether or not I’m eating at a Food Day partner resto on July 31, I’ll be sure to spare a thought to all the people who dedicate their lives to bringing us amazing food products.

How will you celebrate Food Day?

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