Everyone knows that the best parties always end in the kitchen. With our series Kitchen Party, we’re sitting down with Feast ON Chefs to get to know them, and the local foods that inspire them, a little better.
Chef Benjamin Leblanc-Beaudoin
Iron Kettle Bed & Breakfast
What’s your favourite seasonal ingredient?
Jerusalem artichokes. They’re native to North America and a very versatile ingredient. Similar to potatoes, they’re a good cleanser and have lots of health benefits. I like to roast them with onion and fresh rosemary or do a puree with them. I roast them in a pan with butter, brown them, season them and then puree them with a hand mixer.
What’s your drink of choice?
I’m a sucker for hoppy IPAs – my favourite is probably Boneshaker from Amsterdam Brewery.
Most underrated ingredient?
Quince. It’s another thing that’s not available everywhere but Essex County is a great place for it to grow. My wife’s grandmother has trees so I never have to even pay for them! She makes jams with them. She makes tons of jams actually and we put out 8 or 9 of her jams out for breakfast every morning. I also did a roasted quince and parsnip soup this winter.
I love dining at places that will blow my mind and I wouldn’t be making that type of food. Recently, I went to the Willow Room at the Little Inn of Bayfield just before new years and it was awesome.
Off-duty, what are you most likely to be cooking at home?
I love to braise vegetables and make a Moroccan couscous. Lots of spices, nuts, mint, cranberries and raisins and a tagine tomato sauce.
What’s the best part of working with Ontario food and drink?
My favourite part is the people. Wherever you are, there’s always local food and local offerings but the people that put it together is what sets us apart in Ontario, and especially in Essex County. We do a lot of work with Walkerville Brewery and with the wineries. Because of our connections with the wineries we get a lot of traffic and we always send people their way too.
What are you most looking forward to doing in 2016?
I’m really looking forward to seeing our returning clientele. We’ve spent so much time in our first two years building relationships. Returning clientele challenges me to create new experiences for them.
My other goal is to put my village, Comber, on the map. Comber has the Big O Conservation Area, which is a historic man-made marsh where they used to make terra cotta-like tiles that would help drain farms. They also made the bricks for our house from the marsh! The conservation area is the region’s best kept secret and a huge birding hotspot. The other huge attraction is that in the fall of 2016, our railway tracks are going to be converted to a cycling path and will connected to the Chrysler Canada Greenway. Lastly, we have a really cool museum in an old school and church. It’s incredible to think that a village of 400 people has so much history.
“If I entered a competitive eating contest, I’d definitely win if the item was _______”
I could probably eat 200 oysters!