CHEF’S TABLE: Kitchen will always be ‘the heart of the house’

‘There are many great examples of Barrie restaurants and their staff stepping up to support charities and help to make our community just a little bit better,’ says food columnist

February is here. From the bitter cold and doldrums of January, our thoughts turn to relationships, acts of love, romantic gestures and all the symbols that go along with Valentine’s Day.

This is the month that all your favorite local spots are filled with amorous couples all seeking that perfect date night dinner or romantic rendez-vous.

In the kitchen, chefs are tasked with creating exciting menu features and experiences that speak to the love and romance that highlights the months theme.

Luckily, deep down most chefs I know are truly passionate romantics at heart that relish the opportunity to share love through their food. Entrees for two, sharing plates and luxurious ingredients are all on the menu and adorned with the trappings of St. Valentine.

There really is something special about a person who is able to connect with the community through providing food and hospitality.

There is no shortage of great quotes that equal cooking and love out there. One that I have always found appropriate comes from Harriet Van Horne: “Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.”

The act of cooking, eating and sharing food are all primal experiences that connect people at a level deeper than most realise. There is no civilized society with out the coming together and sharing with others.

In our communities, chefs are without doubt agents of sharing. With the hearts of poets, minds of scientists and the hands of a skilled artists, they put the best of themselves on a plate with abandon so that others can find comfort and pleasure.

Over my career, I have been lucky enough to get to meet many great chefs, and even luckier to have a few who cared enough to take time to mentor a brash young line cook.

One conversation on the topic of the many nuances of being a chef stands out for me. Chef Casey, who at the time was one of my instructors and a great mentor, and I were discussing the impact that chefs and kitchen culture can have on the overall experience of a restaurant. This was the first time I had heard the kitchen described as “the heart of the house.”

Used in the context of restaurant operations, using ‘heart’ to describe the function of kitchen makes perfect sense. It’s the central point that very essence of the experience flows through. This is even more evident now with 20 years of kitchens and hospitality under my belt.

A happy kitchen is productive kitchen you know… But in poetic terms, “heart of the house” could apply to the function that our hospitality establishments provide to our communities and society as a whole.

There are many great examples of this type of philanthropic ideals taken on by chefs.

Internationally, at top of mind is chef Jose Andres and the Central World Kitchen feeding those effected by natural disasters around the globe. Or America’s own “major of flavor town” chef Guy Fieri, whose Restaurant Employee Relief Fund has raised almost $25 million for struggling hospitality workers.

That same spirit of sharing, helping and supporting those in need is very evident right here in with our own culinary scene.

There are many great examples of Barrie restaurants and their staff stepping up to support charities and help to make our community just a little bit better.

From chef Randy Feltis and his work supporting local charities and hospitality workers, to the crew at Groovy Tuesdays supporting Simcoe Hospice or the team at Donaleigh’s and Dunlop Diner supporting mental health awareness. It’s these acts of love and sharing that make all of our local stars stand out.

Each one with causes and initiatives just as varied and eclectic as the restaurants and the people who work in them. Even during their own tough times, our hospitality sector still finds the means to give back and we are some much better off for their efforts.

For every chef that strives to do the best they can, you truly are the “heart of our house.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.