Thanks so much to Chef Jeremy Charles for taking time out of his schedule to take a call from me. Chef Charles is the Executive Chef of Raymonds in Newfoundland and a pretty busy guy.
I actually did a little research before my call to Chef Charles… I know, I know… not my forte. And I remembered why I try not to do too much of that… it makes me nervous. Seeing all the amazing things this Chef has done (Silver medal in Gold Medal Plates last year, cooking all over North America for more than 10 years, voted best new restaurant in EnRoute Magazine… the list goes on) is a bit intimidating! And he kind of has a lumber jack look to him that I can see working in Newfoundland, but would scare the hell out of you on a deserted street in Ottawa.
Maybe it’s the beard… or the stern look but it’s telling me “Eat this. And enjoy it. Or else.”
I started by asking Chef Charles how he was feeling. I had attempted to call the day before but he had a horrible tooth ache that he assured me he was on meds for now, and while interview his teammate Chef Korecki, he happened to mention that he had fallen down the stairs the night before. He let me know he is doing much better, and he isn’t normally so accident prone.
So I went on to ask if he had ever been to Ottawa before…
My wife and I lived in Montreal a few years back, and we came to Ottawa for Canada Day once. But I haven’t really dined there, so in my books I haven’t really been there. I’m looking forward to the visit for sure – it will be a nice change of scenery. I’m looking forward to seeing and eating as much as I can in the 4 days I’ll be in town.
Over the last decade, you have cooked everywhere from L.A. to backwoods fly fishing camps in rural Quebec. Where are you most comfortable cooking?
I really enjoyed my time in Chicago and Montreal and I think travel is necessary for any great Chef, but I’ve really enjoyed being home. I’ve got my garden, love to fish and my family is near by. This industry can be grueling at times and having that support of friends and family make it much easier to bare. But about 2 or 3 times a year I take the time to travel and explore. For example we were out in BC last year for Gold Medal Plates. I took an extra day or two to drive around and enjoy the area, source ingredients and suppliers. It was great.
Your bio says that your culinary goals are to redefine rustic East Coast cuisine. What do you define as ‘rustic East Coast Cuisine’?
The people here can relate to hunter / gatherer cuisine. They are hunters and fishermen so seeing Moose, partridge, rabbit and fish on the menu isn’t too far a reach. We just try to put our influence of Italian and French technique on it. Right now on the menu we have a crispy rabbit ravioli that is just awesome.
Speaking of rabbit, Chef Korecki said that you will be doing a rabbit dish for the Celebrity Chefs of Canada Event this March (TICKETS AVAILABLE HERE) - can you tell me a bit about it?
I guess you could call it a tasting of rabbit. I have a friend up here who supplies my rabbit from the West Coast of Newfoundland and I’ll be bringing them with me. They have a diet of White Spruce which gives them a bit of a different flavour. And they are huge – for some reason everything is bigger on the West Coast. Rabbit is just such a great ingredient: relatively cheap, organic and readily available. I love working with them.
What about working with Chef Korecki? You said you have a French / Italian background… while he is a bit more on the asian side of things. How did that work out?
Yeah… my style is nowhere near Chef Jonny’s, but I think it’s turned out great. Everyone brings something new to the table, you know? And he’s such a lovely person – it’s been great working with him. I started cooking with my Mother and Grandmother making traditional Newfoundland food. Working with my hands always came natural to me, and most of my family I guess. I tried a semester of business when I was in Montreal, but it really wasn’t for me. Luckily I found culinary school while in Montreal and now I can do what I love.
Business wasn’t for you?? You must hate that side of being an Executive Chef!
It’s not my favourite part that’s for sure! I struggle with that all the time, but everyone has their strengths. Mine just happens to be cooking.
So are you comfortable with the title of Celebrity Chef??
Ha! Not really. I mean, I don’t think of myself that way. I’m very privileged and honoured to be coming down for this event and I’m so proud of what we have accomplished at the restaurant over the past few years… but celebrity. No… not so much.
Our conversation ended with Chef inviting me to call him anytime if I need anything. He may regret that…
To buy tickets and meet Chef Charles in person, click the banner below.