Canadian Chefs in Conversation: Kyle Decan, Ottawa ON

by Krlmagi

Kyle Decan combines seasonal, locally sourced produce with British food traditions to create unique dishes at The Rowan in Ottawa.

The whole kitchen professional kitchen environment attracted Chef Kyle Decan from the beginning. He explains, “I guess it’s a bit clichéd but I just found myself in the kitchen. It was the easiest way to keep myself busy. I started reading a lot of cookbooks and eventually I did go to culinary school.”

Chef Kyle Decan
Chef Kyle Decan

Working for the Ottawa area chefs (and brothers) Ross and Simon Fraser helped shape Kyle Decan’s culinary perspective as a young cook He points out, “I’ve been with the Fraser brothers for about four years now. They've shown what great leadership can be. They’re very work driven and they’ve taught me a lot about getting the best out of the products that we use.”

Decan also mentions respected Canadian chef Michael Stadtlander as a mentor. He says, “He taught me a lot about how products are grown and where they come from. He taught me to treat all of the products with respect when I’m cooking them.”

The seasonal, local approach that Decan has learned from his mentors continues to be reflected in the food at The Rowan. He emphasizes the importance of only putting seasonal ingredients on the menu. Decan also points out that they’ve returned to traditional British cuisine in many of their dishes. He adds, “We’re going back into older British traditions and even into Indian cooking because of the big influence it had on British food to see what we can create for ourselves at the restaurant.”

A good example of this approach is the steak and ale pie that Decan put on the winter menu. Rather than serving it as one large pie, they combined ale braised beef with mushrooms, potatoes, thyme and peppercorns with a cheddar biscuit to top it off. Decan says, “It’s a nice hearty dish that will get you through the winter.”

"Rowan" pork pie, pickled summer vegetables, jus, house-made brown sauce
"Rowan" pork pie, pickled summer vegetables, jus, house-made brown sauce

Another part of the approach that Decan takes is making things from scratch. For example, they make their own HP sauce at the restaurant. Their approach is driven by a respect for what they produce and a desire to keep it high quality. Decan says, “We also make our own buns versus buying them because we know how they’ll turn out. It gives us a sense of ownership.”

The restaurant has a good working relationship with the farmers that it uses. Decan mentions Juniper Farms, Mariposa Farm and Acorn Creek as people with whom they work closely. He adds, “ The farmers have put in so much time and effort growing the products that it doesn’t make sense for us to weigh them down with too many unnecessary things.”

Another element of engagement with the product comes from the fact that Decan and his team actually help to grow some of the products. He says, “We’ll spend all day working with our own carrots and that gives us so much pride when we can serve a customer the carrots that we helped to grow and harvest.”

Although he’s a young chef, Decan is striving to find a balance between being stern and presenting himself in a composed manner in the kitchen. He explains that he’s happiest when the kitchen is running smoothly and efficiently. He says, “If we’re having great conversations during work, you can see it in the food.”

Confit duck leg, roasted celeriac and squash gratin, pickled shallots, pine nuts
Confit duck leg, roasted celeriac and squash gratin, pickled shallots, pine nuts

A kitchen rises or falls based on the team of people in it and right now Decan says, “All of our cooks have sought us out. They’ve dropped by with their resumes and they’re driven. It excites me to see that and it makes me excited to work with them. They show up to work and they won’t slack off. If there’s some downtime, they find something to do.”

He adds, “I’ve been given the chef de cuisine position but it’s our restaurant and we’re cooking for the customers. Everyone gets the credit versus just me as the chef.”

One of Decan’s major inspirations as a chef is the products with which he works. He is also inspired by seeing what other chefs in his area are doing with those products. He explains, “It’s so exciting to see how they change things up and how they have a different view on the products. It helps me to change up the ways I look at what I’m doing.”

Change is something that motivates Decan to keep moving forward in his career. He says, “We need change in our menus so they don’t become stagnant. It would be depressing to always come in and do the same thing. We want to work for newer and better things so that we can grow as a restaurant and as individuals.”

Oat crusted B.C. snapper. roasted eggplant puree, savoy cabbage, house smoked bacon, watercress oil
Oat crusted B.C. snapper. roasted eggplant puree, savoy cabbage, house smoked bacon, watercress oil

This chef profile is based on a telephone interview conducted with Chef Kyle Decan and recorded on Fri. March 4th, 2016.

Updated: 03/07/2016, Krlmagi
 
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