Canadian Chefs in Conversation: Bill Jones, Deerholme Farm, Duncan B.C

by Krlmagi

Chef Bill Jones combines the plethora of local produce and ingredients from the Cowichan Valley with global influences in the creative cuisine that he crafts at Deerholme Farm.

Bill Jones’ first steps down the culinary path were taken as a child. His father was also a chef and he taught him to cook at an early age although he encouraged his son to take a different path than he had. Jones went on to study geology but continued to be passionate about cooking. Eventually he trained as a chef in England and France and started off on his culinary career.

Chef Bill Jones
Chef Bill Jones

While he was living in Calgary, Jones had Chinese friends and became fascinated by the Chinese restaurant culture, so he studied it voraciously. This fascination lead to Jones broadening his culinary horizons even further while he continued to work as a geologist. He says, “I went on to research other cultures and I read more than 1000 cookbooks over a couple of years. I learned there are a lot of similarities in cooking all over the world.”

Now living on a farm means that Jones’ food is influenced by the changing seasons. He combines the seasonal ingredients that he uses with Japanese preparations, French sauces and Argentinian asado-style grilling. For example, he explains, “Our next farm dinner is based on wild mushrooms and Southeast Asian dishes with influences from Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia. Sometimes they are based on ingredient themes like truffles or local lamb from nose to tail.”

Jones’ food is strongly tied to the abundant supply of produce in the Cowichan Valley. The majority of his ingredients come directly from his farm or other farms in the region. He believes in supporting his local economy as well as creating food with a real sense of place. He says, “Locally farmed products, foraged products from the forests and ocean and sustainable seafood are very important to us. The best food is the food with the shortest distance between source to table. We are creating food that is a healthy part of the local environment.”

Although Jones was trained in the classical style in which the kitchen was viewed as a battleground with the chef as a general, he explains, “I still take that role, but I look to be more of a motivator and educator than a shouter of orders. I generally succeed [at that role].”

Porcini gnocchi
Porcini gnocchi
Stinging nettle gomae
Stinging nettle gomae

Jones believes that creating  food is a matter of respecting and showcasing the ingredients. He sees creativity and the understanding of how to create consistent quality as important traits from the cooking perspective. Jones adds, “You also have to understand costs so you actually make money on the operation. It is a lot of balls to juggle at one time.”

The right attitude is crucial in the people that Jones surrounds himself with in the kitchen. He seeks people who are excited about food and service. He’s also looking for people with a willingness to learn. He says, “If you have this, you can be taught to do the rest. You must love cooking or you are in the wrong business.”

Inspiration can be found in many places for Jones. He takes it from cookbooks, TV shows, eating out and exploring social media. He explains, “I am friends with chefs from all over the world, these days you can get tons of inspirations just by looking at Facebook posts and seeing what they put out each night. I try not to follow too many trends but currently I am reading a book about Iceland and the Nordic cuisine they practice there. I will probably do a dinner based on this in the spring.”

Chef Jones' smoked salmon
Chef Jones' smoked salmon

This profile is based on emailed questions replied to by Bill Jones on Nov 16, 2015.

Updated: 11/17/2015, Krlmagi
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