Everyone knows that the best parties always end up in the kitchen. Meet Cameron MacDonald, the Executive Chef of Bistro 42 at North 42 Degrees Estate Winery in Harrow, Ontario.
BISTRO 42 – NORTH 42 DEGRESS ESTATE WINERY
What is your favorite seasonal ingredient?
This is an incredibly difficult question to answer with everything available in this region. Some favorites that come to mind are definitely ramps, asparagus, and being a native of the tomato capital of Canada, nothing really beats a fresh field tomato!
I was born and raised in Leamington, so tomatoes have always been part of my life. Every August, the smell of Heinz was the back-to-school smell. Tomatoes have been the heart and soul of this area for so long, so I think that it’s super important to showcase them, and be able to say, “these tomatoes were grown right down the road”. I love them! They add so much to sauces and soups but are also great in other applications. Not too long ago I got a bunch of heirloom tomatoes and pickled them all. There are so many different ways of utilizing them.
What in your opinion is the most underrated ingredient?
It is hard to pinpoint one certain ingredient, but I think that local and sustainable food is very underrated. The people that know about it, know how important it is, but there needs to be somewhat of a revolution in the way we farm, harvest, and consume. Consumers need the knowledge to make the right choices for themselves, and the future of the environment. It’s our collective responsibility to spread the knowledge of how important local and sustainable food is.
What are some of the most innovative ways you’ve seen wine used in cooking?
Here at the winery, we are experimenting with wine syrups, wine jellies, mustards, and vinegar. Today, I’m working on a few jelly trials using Riesling. I’m taking different Rieslings and am going to use them to make different variations of jellies – a sweet jelly, a spicy jelly, a ginger jelly, and a lavender jelly.
I haven’t done much baking with wine but one of our team members does quite a lot of baking with it. She does some incredible things, incorporating wine into some of our sweet dishes by using it to make reductions, syrups, and things like that. Wine is just as applicable to use in desserts as it is to use in savory dishes.
What’s your favorite food & wine pairing?
I definitely have to go with a nice medium rare ribeye steak with Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine pairs so well with the meat and jus, and I always love adding rosemary to my beef dishes which also pairs nicely with Cabernet Sauvignon.
What is your favorite dish to cook at home?
My favorite dish to cook at home is some sort of fresh pasta. It’s fresh, simple, and can feed a lot of people. Pasta-making is something I taught myself when I first became interested in cooking, and it’s still something I love doing. It also forces me to use my pasta roller, which otherwise would not see much action in the kitchen.
The basic pasta recipe that I’ve known for years, and years is very adaptable. From it, I can make tagliatelle noodles, tortellini, ravioli, and anything like that. And as far as sauces go, I most often choose to use a fresh tomato sauce.
Outside of your chef life how would you describe yourself?
Outside of my chef life, I would describe myself as someone who enjoys the simpler things in life. I would trade the ‘city life’ for the ‘country life’ any day of the week. I have been blessed by the fact that I have been able to live the ‘country life’ for the last year after moving back from Niagara. Essex County is such a fantastic area to live and grow, with everything it has to offer. Life moves at a more comfortable pace here, though at times (quite often) it can get crazy.
What to you is the best part of working with Ontario food and drink?
The best part of working with Ontario food and drink is the quality of products. The farmers, purveyors, and suppliers work incredibly hard to provide us with the best ingredients that they can. This is evident in the food that comes through the kitchen doors. There are clear differences in the look and taste of food that has been grown in Ontario when compared to other places. Not to mention, the food is right in our backyard, so it can be harvested at the perfect time, not losing any of its quality in the time it takes from harvest to plate.
Why is Feast On important to you and your restaurant?
Feast On is important to me and the restaurant because we want to provide our guests with the best possible experience. Eating food that is local, and responsibly grown and harvested is slowly gaining momentum in our area. It is our responsibility to educate our customers about why we do the things that we do, and why we use the products that we do. We love supporting our local community, our farmers, and our suppliers in the same way that we hope our community will support us and our vision. We are attempting to ‘blaze a trail’ in Essex County, and what better way to ignite that fire, than to be certified by and work with such a recognized organization that has the same vision and values that we do.
What does your ‘Perfect Weekend’ in Harrow look like?
My perfect weekend in Harrow would probably start with my children and I going through our morning routine – Feed and water the pigs, collect our eggs, and feed and water our chickens. Farming is something that I’ve always wanted to do on my own and now that I have the ability to do it, it’s just really nice that it’s something that I can teach and pass down to my kids. They are learning how to care for these animals and as they get older, they will have an appreciation for where food comes from.
After our morning on the farm, we’d enjoy a nice breakfast, and spend the day outside. Walks in the park, drives along Lake Erie and the Detroit River with a picnic lunch in tow, would follow. The day could also possibly include a drive to Erieau, where we’d spend the day at the beach. Long story short, my perfect weekend is spending it with the people I love the most, enjoying what the area has to offer.