Kitchen Party: Stephen Aspinall of Heatherlea Farm Shoppe

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.


Stephen Aspinall

Heatherlea Farm Caledon, Ontario
Check out their Feast On Profile!

What’s your favourite seasonal ingredient? Spring – Asparagus and rhubarb. Their versatility really gets me excited about the upcoming bounty. Summer –  Tomatoes. There are so many summer goodies to choose from, but tomatoes from the garden are a staple every night for dinner. Fall – Mushrooms. An abundance of wild mushrooms pair perfectly well with a hearty steak or roast of Angus beef from Heatherlea. Winter – Cellar vegetables, especially potatoes; roasted, fried, steamed or creamy gratin, they keep me full and warm all winter. What is your drink of choice? Thats a tough one. For me it changes with the seasons: Summer is all about local craft beers and Georgian Bay Vodka Caesars to cool down on a hot day. In the Winter, I usually crave spicy rich red wine and whiskey to keep warm.  Most underrated ingredient? Cabbage. Cabbage is actually extremely versatile: it’s great for everything from roasting, braising, eating raw, pickling and fermenting. I am constantly making batches of sauerkraut and kimchi at home.  Favourite restaurant? Wow, there are so many to choose from. After living at Dundas and Ossington over the last few years, I had lots of options. Union is great for a simple, seasonal bistro meal. I always keep going back to the neighbourhood staples: Black Hoof for a nose-to-tail fix, Bar Isabel for a social night out, and Odd Seoul for great pub-style eats. Off-duty, what are you most likely to be cooking at home? Working on a beef farm, you can always find me at the grill. I love cooking great pieces of beef; a beauty prime rib, flatirons, slow cooked briskets and short ribs over charcoal. If there’s a little extra space on the grill it’s usually full of seasonal produce to complement the meat, especially sweet corn when it’s finally in season. What’s the best part of working with Ontario food and drink? The best part about working with Ontario food and drink is the continued growth and appreciation for locally sourced Ontario products; from meat, produce, dairy and cheese to beer, spirits and wine. The consumers and restauranteurs are focusing more and more on supporting farmers: getting to know their suppliers and their stories, and giving more recognition to where the product comes from. It’s really cool to see this evolve, and to be a part of! Why is Feast On important to you and Heatherlea? Feast On represents a lot more to us than a certificate on the wall; it represents an everyday commitment to being a truly LOCAL food shop and cafe. Feast On also grants us the amazing opportunity of connecting with the incredible network of like-minded restaurants, inns, chefs, food purveyors and farmers that want to put Ontario on the culinary map. We have seen the first hand benefits of supporting our local economy by choosing local: businesses around us are thriving as part of this community of local growers and brewers, and the feeling we get from being a part of that is infectious. Having a fun, interactive, and evolving network like Feast On to help us grow and cheerlead the already booming local food movement is such a gift! Fill in the blank: If I entered a competitive eating contest, I’d definitely win if the item was…Chicken Wings. Totally.

Want more on Chef Aspinall? Look no further.

Stephen completed a Culinary Management Diploma at Humber College. He started his career at Artisanale in Guelph, before moving to the kitchens of Scaramouche in Toronto. He then travelled to Taiwan where he and a friend ran a small private dining, farm-to-table restaurant. Upon his return to Toronto, he fell in love with butchery. The dream was to find a local farm and practice the art of whole animal butchery and sausage-making, and then he found Heatherlea! Not only has Heatherlea allowed him to grow as a butcher, they have also allowed him to continue to be creative in the kitchen. While butchery isn’t cooking, per se, he has a lot of creativity when it comes to sausage-making, spice rubs, marinades, brining meat, smoking meat and fermenting. Since joining the Heatherlea team Stephen has helped develop the café menu, hosted summer weekend BBQs and launched a number of dining events, bringing new and regular customers out to the farm to enjoy our food. Working at Heatherlea has been an amazing marriage of cooking, butchery and a celebration of local food; it’s always exciting for Stephen to plan for the next season!

Get to know other chefs like Stephen, check out more Kitchen Parties!

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