Cooking is a vision of art, according to Canadian chef Jamie Kennedy.
Canadian chef Jamie Kennedy is a passionate advocate of the Slow Food movement to combat fast food and believes people don’t need to have sophisticated tastes to appreciate locally grown 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.
Kennedy spoke about his love of cooking and what he prepares for his children.
What got you interested in locally produced food and the Slow Food movement?
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.
Do you think the Slow Food movement as a trend has a long shelf life?
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 are many more people concerned about the environment and so that affects food economies more now than it had in the past.
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.
What are your three favourite ingredients from Ontario?
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.
Do you ever feel limited by what’s available in Ontario?
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.
I’m finding as time goes on that it’s much easier to work within those parameters than it was 20 years ago.
And that’s about my own sensibility and exploration and research and connection.
Did you take any family recipes into your restaurants?
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.
What do your four children like you to cook for them?
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.
Seared Yogurt-Marinated Chicken Breast with Fiddleheads (Serves six)
For the chicken:
2 tbsp whole cumin
1 tbsp whole coriander seed
1 tsp whole black pepper
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 cup plain yoghurt
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Salt to taste
1 tbsp sunflower oil
For the fiddleheads:
455g fresh fiddlehead ferns
1 tbsp butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 Place a frying pan on medium heat. Add the whole spices to the pan and stir continuously until they are golden brown and releasing their aroma.
Allow them to cool before grinding in an electric coffee grinder or pouring them in a mortar and pestle.
2 Add the ground spices and chopped garlic to a stainless steel bowl.
Add the yogurt and mix well. Pour some of this mixture into a ceramic baking dish.
Lay the chicken breasts on top and cover with more marinating mixture. Refrigerate overnight.
3 Preheat an oven to 175C. Set a vegetable steamer on medium heat.
Set a frying pan on medium high heat. Remove the chicken breasts from the refrigerator. Scrape excess marinade from the breasts. Season with salt.
4 Add oil to the frying pan. Sear the chicken breasts to a golden brown on both sides.
Transfer the breasts to a baking sheet and place them in the oven for 10 minutes to finish cooking.
5 Steam the fiddleheads for 10 minutes. When they are cooked, transfer them to a mixing bowl and toss with the butter and seasonings.