Chef Ryan Edwards started out bartending and serving, but quickly found himself drawn to the energy and atmosphere of the kitchen. He explains that he spent more time talking to the chef and the cooks than serving. Edwards says that he was in his mid-twenties at that point and had to make a decision about his future goals. He says that he chose to go to cooking school and points out, “I loved it from minute one. As soon as I could get a part time job in a kitchen, I did. I was lucky enough to be introduced to Chef John Taylor and we got along well enough that he offered me a part-time job at Domus Café. I’ve never looked back since then.”
Conversations with Canadian Chefs: Ryan Edwards, Ottawa ON
Chef Ryan Edwards combines a deep respect for regional, local, seasonal Canadian ingredients with a love of using global flavours at Salt Dining and Lounge in Ottawa.
Chef Ryan Edwards
Chef John Taylor was his major influence as a young cook according to Edwards. He says that Taylor’s “regional, seasonal, fresh as you can be” approach and his emphasis on using local farmers and purveyors has stuck with him and continues to shape his culinary thinking.
The chef discusses his current approach to food and cooking and says that he’ll always support local and regional products but he takes influences from global flavours. He talks about the freedom that cooking with a wide variety of influences gives him and says, “I’m worried less about doing anything specific and more about cooking really delicious, awesome food! I’m happy to come to work every day, so I never let me menu get stagnant, I never rest on laurels, I always try to push it.”
He adds, “Sometimes you fall on your ass when that happens but most of the time its super rewarding and it pays off big time when you take the chance.”
When it comes to developing and maintaining relationships with local producers, Edwards says that the connections he made while working at Domus Café and Taylor’s have held him in good stead. He explains that, even as a young line cook, he knew that he wanted become a chef, so he knew that he had to build relationships with purveyors. He says that using large commercial suppliers for produce, meat and fish has never made sense to him. He continues, “They have their place but to me that’s where you get your dry goods and your cleaning supplies. If you want the best quality ingredients, you have to get them from as close to home as possible.”
Those close relationships mean that Edwards can rely on the purveyors for advice. He says, “I can pick up my phone and call a supplier. They’ve had their hands in the dirt, they’ve raised the animals and they know what they’ve been fed and how they’ve been slaughtered. The answers to all of my questions are one phone call away.”
House dry aged beef carpaccio, roast garlic & sea salt cracker, anchovy aioli, gherkins, purple mustard, jalapeño jellyl
Edwards says that his creativity is often sparked by small things. He uses the example of deciding to make an eggplant pureé to serve with some wild boar he received from one of his local suppliers. He continues, “We work in Little Italy in Ottawa and there’s a great sandwich shop down the street. I was having a sandwich for lunch with spicy pickled eggplant on my sandwich. All of a sudden I was thinking about doing an eggplant puree but making it taste like spicy pickled eggplant!”
The chef points out that after his initial inspiration falls into place, he’ll sit down and talk to his kitchen team and start to bounce ideas off of them and tap into their passion for food to create a complete dish.
In terms of how Edwards deals with working in the kitchen, he says that he’s learned the importance of not just being a task master and pushing. He says that he’s become more mellow with age. He says that he understands that being a cook is a hard job and adds, “You’ve got to be tough. Guy, girl, I don’t care what age you are, you’re going to wake up in the morning and you’re going to be sore. You have to love what you do. You need passion.”
Edwards says that he keeps that passion alive in his team by instilling them with his own passion for food and hard work. He explains that he’ll do the dirty and difficult jobs so that his staff can see that he’s committed to what he does as a chef.
There is no struggle for motivation to stay in the job for Edwards. He says, “I just love what I do! I got a later start in the culinary world than most chefs so I had to bust my ass to get what I wanted. It all goes to the passion for what I do. I’ve worked twenty jobs in my life and this is the only thing I’d do again. I’ll probably die chained to a stove with a smile on my face!”
Chile-glazed octopus, Panko and nori crusted egg yolk, squid ink vinaigrette