Canadian Chefs Profiled: Harrison Hennick, Toronto ON

by Krlmagi

Chef Harrison Hennick creates well-exectuted, simple yet flavorful food using as many high-quality, local ingredients as possible at Furlough in Toronto.

Harrison Hennick says that he started cooking out of both necessity and interest. He explains that he didn't come from a family with strong cooks, so he realized that if he wanted to eat good food, he'd have to learn to cook for himself.

Hennick adds that he started out learning to cook by watching the Food Network and various Youtube channels and following along with the recipes. He points out, "I’d been in music my whole life, but along with some of my friends that I’d cooked for, I’d made the realization that, 'Hey! You’re pretty good at this. Maybe you should consider it seriously!' "

Once he'd decided to move down the culinary path, Hennick says that he applied at various restaurants but he hadn't been to culinary school and lacked cooking experience, so he struggled to find a job. Eventually he was hired on at a small pub where he says that he enjoyed the atmosphere of the kitchen but didn't find the food that he cooked there stimulating.

Eventually he applied for a job at Chef Lorenzo Loseto's George restaurant and worked there for three and a half years.

Chef Harrison Hennick
Chef Harrison Hennick

Chefs Lorenzo Loseto and Claudio Aprile are the two people that Hennick says influenced him as a younger chef.  Of Loseto he says, "Lorenzo strongly influenced me as a cook and as a person. He molded me into the disciplined cook I am today. It’s been ten years but he and I still have a very close and interesting relationship. I would consider him my biggest mentor in the industry."

Hennick talks about Claudio Aprile and says, "He gave me the opportunity to have my first chef job. He inspired and molded me to be the chef that I am today as far as running a business, creating a team and managing people.

The chef's basic approach to food and cooking remains the same regardless of the style of food he's cooking. He explains, "My approach has always been to keep things as basic as possible using fresh ingredients sourced from the most local place available at the time. I’m technique-driven and I like to create beautiful, tasty food using proper ingredients."

A variety of local purveyors form Hennick’s network of suppliers. He mentions Park’s Mushrooms, Phil’s Place and Perth Pork as particularly good sources for local ingredients. The chef explains that he goes to smaller purveyors because “those are the guys that really have their hands in it. They know what they’re talking about. They’re able to tell me what’s fresh, what’s local, what’s coming in next week and that’s the best way to work.”

When it comes to planning a menu, Hennick says that he applies his philosophy on cooking, considers the area his restaurant is in and what people might want to eat and combines those factors with a practical approach that takes logistics into account. He says, at one point, he would never have used a word like logistics but adds “working in a small space and trying to put out really nice food means you have to think about how you’re going to pull it off.”

Saffron-poached halibut en croute: Pommes purée, citrus-braised parsley root, radish, watercress emulsion
Saffron-poached halibut en croute: Pommes purée, citrus-braised parsley root, radish, watercress emulsion

Hennick explains that his current menu was based around ease of execution. He says, “We have a very prep-intensive menu but when it comes to service it’s very easy to execute. It’s about having the proper mise en place because the rest of it is a matter of putting it together.”

Organization, understanding and leading by example are three traits that Hennick says he hopes to embody.  He explains that without organization things start to fall apart from the top down. In terms of understanding, the chef points out that he’s never been someone who yells at his staff and adds “I’m serious about what I do and I’m very stern but I want people to be scared of disappointing me rather than scared of me.”  Hennick says that he leads by showing that he’s the hardest working person in the kitchen.

 

The culinary team that surrounds a chef is also crucial. Hennick says that he’s looking for hard-working cooks who want to do well as badly as he wants it. He points out, "If you don’t want it, I don’t want you in my kitchen!”

The chef continues by saying, “If I get all of you because this is what you want, I’ll give you all of me and I’ll teach you everything that I know. I’m not saying that I know everything because being a cook is always a learning experience."

Hennick talks about where he finds inspiration as both a cook and a chef. He says that as a cook its the fact that he loves what he does and that he gets paid to “play with food”. As a chef, he says that, despite the long hours,  when he hears diners say, " 'This is the best meal I’ve ever had'  that makes it all worth it."

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Updated: 03/20/2015, Krlmagi
 
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