Canadian Chef Profiles: Jamie Harling, Rouge, Calgary AB

by Krlmagi

Chef Jamie Harling focuses on showcasing local, ethically grown and seasonal ingredients in his innovative dishes at Rouge in Calgary.

Food has been an important part of Chef Jamie Harling’s life since childhood. His grandparents were always in touch with food from its sources to how it was made. He made sausage with his father and grandfather. His grandfather also kept bees and was a keen hunter and fisher.

Harling was also influenced by working for his sister, Andrea Harling, who is also a chef. She hired him in her kitchen while he was in university as a summer job. The atmosphere and the energy of the kitchen attracted him so he continued to work in kitchens as he went to university. He went traveling after university and made the decision to start a culinary career at that point.

The chef had been an athlete growing up and points out, “When I started in kitchens I realized that I could get the same rush in a busy service as I did when playing sports. That’s what originally drew me to it and now it’s my life and I love it.”

Chef Jamie Harling
Chef Jamie Harling

Influential chefs that Harling worked for include his own sister, Chef Jack Eckhardt and Chef Andrew Halitski. His sister remains a major influence on him and she still teaches him about food as well as fielding any questions he might ask of her. Jack Eckhardt was Harling’s chef at a restaurant called Zee Grill and showed the young chef how to make cooking a successful career. Chef Andrew Halitski was the executive sous chef at Bymark in Toronto when Harling was working there. Harling considers him one of the best chefs he’s ever cooked with.

He also mentions a culinary school instructor named Chef Deborah Reid who influenced him. She has been a mentor to him since culinary school when she helped him decide to leave early after he’d earned his certificate. Harling says, “One day, I went up to her and said, ‘Hey chef! I think it’s time for me to leave,’ and she said, ‘Jamie, I think that’s the best decision you’ve ever made.’ “ Harling wanted to travel and do stages and Reed agreed that culinary school wasn’t the right place for him at that point.

Showcasing the changing seasons and local ingredients are key aspects of Harling’s cooking at Rouge. The restaurant sits on roughly one acre of land and they have a garden where they grow vegetables to supplement the menu. Harling plans his menus around what’s coming out of the garden at any given time. He says, “Everything I believe in and everything I do is local, sustainable and showcases the ingredients.”

Harling celebrates each ingredient in his cooking and respects the integrity of those ingredients. He wants to keep the intrinsic qualities of each product intact whether it’s a carrot or a pig. The goal for him is to ensure that customers see the best out of each ingredient that they eat.

Heirloom tomato and nasturtium salad, shaved katsuobushi, black garlic aïoli, cultured ramp vinaigrette, sourdough.
Heirloom tomato and nasturtium salad, shaved katsuobushi, black garlic aïoli, cultured ramp vinaigrette, sourdough.

Writing menus and creating dishes is also driven by Harling’s seasonal, local approach to food. For example, when he sees that pattypan squash are ready in the garden he’ll find a way to showcase them on the menu. Harling adds, “When a producer shows up with a great new vegetable that they tried growing I’ll take a look at it, I’ll taste it and I’ll start from there. “

Finding producers who share his beliefs and values about food is key to Harling’s ingredient sourcing. He’s looking for hormone and antibiotic free animals that are pasture raised and ethically treated as well as vegetables that are similarly well treated and ethically grown. He uses the example of Greens, Eggs and Ham. It’s a farm with which he works closely. He points out, “Mary Ann and Andreas  grow some of the best vegetables and meat out there. Their duck is the best duck I’ve ever had in my life. When they bring me celeriac, it’s generally the best I’ve ever tasted.”

Harling feels that the most important traits in a chef are teaching ability and the ability to learn. Leadership is also important, but Harling wants to teach the line cooks what it takes to be a good chef, so that they can go on to success in their own careers. Part of that teaching for Harling is helping the cooks learn how to be creative and self-sufficient thinkers, not just people who follow orders. To be a successful chef for Harling is to be someone who looks for solutions rather than problems.

Cold-smoked Coho salmon, crème fraiche, cucumber, confit cherry tomatoes, pickled shallots, lemon-dill vinaigrette.
Cold-smoked Coho salmon, crème fraiche, cucumber, confit cherry tomatoes, pickled shallots, lemon-dill vinaigrette.

Always learning from himself and the cooks around him is important for Harling. He learns as much from the young cooks as they do from him. He adds that having passion for what he does and integrity in how he does it are also crucial traits for him.

Building a solid kitchen team revolves around finding people who want to learn for Harling. He’s looking for passionate people who believe in doing the right thing. Harling isn’t looking for arrogant people who don’t want to be part of a team. He says, “When someone new comes in, they have to have the right mentality. Obviously, they also need basic culinary skills, but a good attitude is the most important aspect in the people we hire.”

Harling’s general manager at Rouge uses a bowling analogy to talk about the restaurant business. He says that you’re either throwing strikes or you’re throwing gutter balls and there’s nothing in between. Some days there are a lot more gutter balls. The chef deals with this challenge by continuing to improve himself and help his team to improve. He explains, “ I’m always learning and I’m motivated by that. I want to ensure that I never stop learning and I never stop getting better.”

Les Riopelle de I’isle, pickled cherries, cherry coulis, sourdough, Nicola Valley honeycomb, whipped honey, bee pollen.
Les Riopelle de I’isle, pickled cherries, cherry coulis, sourdough, Nicola Valley honeycomb, whipped honey, bee pollen.
Updated: 07/30/2015, Krlmagi
 
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?
1

Comments


   Login

You might also like

Canadian Chefs: Steven Harris, two six {ate}, Ottawa ON

Chef Steven Harris combines Old World techniques, modern ideas and local prod...

Canada's Chefs: Chef Kyrn Stein, Ottawa ON

At Ottawa's SOCIAL Restaurant and Lounge, Chef Kyrn Stein focuses on showcasi...


Disclosure: This page generates income for authors based on affiliate relationships with our partners, including Amazon, Google and others.
Loading ...
Error!