Kennedy treats Toronto to slow food
In the past two decades he has developed some of Toronto’s most critically acclaimed restaurants, including Jamie Kennedy at the Gardiner and Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar, which offer both unique and re-interpreted classic seasonally appropriate dishes.
Along the way he has helped foster a community of artisan producers around Ontario who contribute the naturally grown ingredients in his menus.
Q: What got you interested in locally produced food and the Slow Food movement?
A: “It’s the realisation that it’s not just an expression of your own vision in art, using food as a medium, but also that it involves a community of people to take that dish and work it backwards. Find out where all the food came from, who made it, and who made the wine, and under what circumstances did they make it, and are they being paid properly for their work.”
Q: Do you think the Slow Food movement as a trend has a long shelf life?
A: “I hesitate to use the word trend. It’s more like a turning point. Because there are other issues that come into it now, that perhaps were put to the back burner at different points in history, like the environment.
“There’s a feeling now that perhaps we shouldn’t be purchasing food from far away places, rather we should observe what our natural rhythms are.”
Q: What are your three favourite ingredients from Ontario?
A: “The ingredients are probably of less importance to me than the anticipation of those ingredients… I now am anticipating asparagus – I’ll go crazy. Or maple syrup, that’s before asparagus. When those things are really on, I have a tremendous feeling of satisfaction in using those things, when they’re on. That’s how I write menus, how I create dishes.”
Q: Do you ever feel limited by what’s available in Ontario?
A: “No, I don’t. If you impose a set of parameters around the work that you do it can be challenging but it’s about breaking through the challenge and making it work for you in terms of your own vision for things.”
Q: Did you take any family recipes into your restaurants?
A: “There are certain things from my extended family that I have plucked. Mostly things to do with preserves, things like what my great-aunt was doing. Blueberry buckle, mustard pickle, green tomato relish, jams, jellies. They are on the menu and those are the things that you take from summer and pull it out in the winter and people love it.”
Q: What do your four children like you to cook for them?
A: “One of things I’ve done ever since they were little is breakfast. I make really slow cooked scrambled eggs that have lots of onions that have melted before I add the eggs and I finish it with a lot of Parmigiano Reggiano and chives and they just go crazy over that.”