Canadian Chef Profiles: Chef Jason Lynch, Nova Scotia

by Krlmagi

Chef Jason Lynch takes an approach to cooking that showcases as many local, seasonal ingredients as possible at the Domaine de Grand Pré and The Black Spruce restaurants.

Jason Lynch grew up on a Nova Scotia farm and had his curiosity piqued about the restaurant industry and cooking by his grandparents who got involved in the restaurant industry after they retired. Lynch was intrigued by the industry and decided to make a career out of it.

After high school, Lynch started working at a large company that owns many franchise restaurants in order to get exposure to the industry. When he'd saved up enough money, he went to Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa to train.

Chef jason Lynch
Chef jason Lynch
Jeff Harper

Lynch says that the major turning point in his career was working with David Barrett and Nicholas Pierce, two of Canada’s most influential restaurateurs. He explains, “They had most famously owned Fenton’s. They had trained the upper crust of Canadian chefs like Michael Bonacini and Michael Stadtlander. An opportunity came up to join their team and I spent seven years with them. I would say they were a big influence on my career along with their long-standing chef Werner Bassen.”

 

When Barrett and Pierce sold Acton’s, Lynch struck out on his own and after running a consulting company, he took a chef position at Domaine De Grand Pre in 2007 before getting involved with Black Spruce.

 

The approach that Lynch has taken to food has evolved over the years. He says that he’s put the focus on using local farmers because he wanted to, "move away from the larger suppliers and support the local farm industry.”

 

Lynch also points out that working with local farmers gives him more control. He says, “It’s a lot easier to have control when you have thirty farmers coming in your back door, so I can inspect the product and decide on the spot.”

The quality of the products he uses also informs his cooking. The chef explains, “Sometimes you just have to let a carrot be a carrot. If you’re dealing with beautiful heirloom varieties that have great flavour, you need very few things to make that natural flavour come out.”

His close relationship to his suppliers means that Lynch is able to anticipate what he’ll need for his upcoming menus. He says that when he meets with his suppliers, he has to, “give them an understanding of the yields I’m looking for during the year. I do the same thing with my meat suppliers. I have a meat supplier who raises certain birds for me because we can’t use wild game in Nova Scotia, so I have to decide how many partridges, for instance, I’ll need.”

 

He adds, “The relationships are great because we’re in contact on such a regular basis. We’re constantly talking about what they should try to grow next.”

Lobster and Scallop Chowder - Spanish almond broth, spring onions and smoked paprika
Lobster and Scallop Chowder - Spanish almond broth, spring onions and smoked paprika
Jeff Harper
Eton Mess
Eton Mess
Mike Dembeck

The chef discusses his approach to menu writing that emphasizes local and wild foraged products in his dishes. He says that he also incorporates his classical French training into the techniques that he uses in his dishes. He adds, “I really start to know the ingredients in my head and then play with them as we go along.”

 

For example, Lynch mentions a dish he created using locally farmed partridge raised for him. He talks about the thought process underlying the dish and says, “I wanted to use rowan berries in the dish. Rowan berries can be incredibly bitter so it took a long time and a lot of playing around to get their flavour into the dish without overpowering everybody’s palate. They more or less start out as an idea of something I really want to put together and they evolve over a couple of months.”

 

It has become almost commonplace for chefs to write a cookbook but Lynch explains that he’d never originally intended to write one because he was sure no publisher would be interested in his approach. He points out, “I don’t have anything against the cookbooks that are out there, but a lot of the cookbooks aren’t a true reflection of the chefs they’re about. They are really mass-produced and done in a manner which I didn’t want to follow.”

 

Eventually, Lynch was approached by a new publisher that agreed to his requests. He says, “It isn’t simply a cookbook but it also gives people some idea of what I feel is important.”

 

Lynch points out that he was trained in the regimented environment of European kitchens with a strict hierarchy that places the chef above everyone else. He says that he doesn’t mind being called a ‘chef’ outside of his restaurant but with his kitchen team, he wants an, "environment where my staff refers to me by my name and I’m like them, I’m on the line every day.”

 

He adds, “I push myself as hard as I can and I’m rarely happy with what I put out, not that I’m disappointed, but I always feel that we can do better or hold out for more. I have a very positive working environment. No position in my kitchen is above or below others. I put as much trust in my dishwasher as I do in my sous chef.”

 

Sometimes the high pressure world of the restaurant industry can challenge a chef to find motivation, but Lynch says that he finds motivation in the way the culinary community in Canada has come together in the last ten years. He says, “I find that it’s becoming a much smaller community and it isn’t as adversarial as it was years ago. Now there’s a small group of chefs in Canada who are focused on pushing Canadian cuisine forward, being supportive and helping cross promote each other.”

Seared Scallops with Beet Puree and Orange Butter

Seared Scallops with Beet Puree and Orange Butter
Jeff Harper

Time: 2 hours | Serves: 4

Ingredients

3 large beets
¼ cup dry white wine
1 orange
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
12 large scallops
Sea salt
Ground white pepper

Preparation

Roast beets in a 350°F oven for 45 minutes or until a fork slides into them without much force. Cool beets and peel, purée in food processor until smooth.

Place beet purée in small pot. Heat white wine and reduce by half, then add juice and zest of orange. Whisk in 3 tablespoons of butter and set aside. Melt the remaining butter in a hot pan. Cook scallops until crisp on the outside and just warm on the inside.

Reheat beet purée, season to taste with salt and pepper, and mold into a round in the centre of each plate. Pour the orange butter around the beet purée, and arrange three scallops on top of the purée on each plate.

This recipe comes from Chef Jason Lynch's book Straight From the Line published by Able Sense Publishing. More information on Able Sense can be found here.

Updated: 12/19/2014, Krlmagi
 
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