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Meet Chef Jeff Curtis of Elmhirst’s Resort in Keene

Everyone knows that the best parties always end in the kitchen. With our series, Kitchen Party, we’re sitting down with Feast On Chefs, brewers and restaurateurs to get to know them, and the local foods that inspire them a little better.

Jeff Curtis

Elmhirst’s Resort

Keene, ON

What’s your favourite seasonal ingredient?

Strawberries. Fresh Ontario strawberries in peak season are like nothing else. They are beautiful and versatile, fragrant and sweet, with a nice tartness. I have fond memories of picking and eating strawberries as a small child, and to this day I will buy as many flats as I can get my hands on during the season. I eat them constantly this time of year; they will find their way into almost everything I make.

What’s your drink of choice?

Anywhere I go, I like to drink whatever is popular there –the local brew, the signature cocktail, the house wine. At home I like to keep cold beer on hand. Publican House Brewery is right up the street from me, and their Henry’s Irish Ale is a fabulous winter beer. Its malty, yeasty and just a little bit sweet on the palette… without being too heavy.

What is your favourite meal to prepare for guests after a day of activity at Elmhirst’s Resort?

I take a particular pride in our boardwalk barbecue events. It’s great fun to bring the smoker down by the lake and carve up some home-grown beef brisket for the guests. The beef is slow smoked over gorgeous hardwood, cut down on the property, and served right off the smoker with smoke wafting around the boardwalk while a band plays. It really creates the perfect close to a day of fun on Rice Lake.

What’s the best part of working with Ontario food and drink?

I love that there is huge diversity in ingredients, cooking techniques and food cultures in a relatively small space. When you couple that with a tremendously vibrant agricultural community, I feel like anything is possible.

Why is Feast On important to you and your restaurant?

Feast On is important because it helps us represent our culinary and hospitality culture to the rest of Canada, and the rest of the world. It also helps us grow and develop that identity and promote it. I’m very passionate about local food culture and it’s a huge help to work with an organization that values and promotes that.

Fill in the blank: “If I entered a competitive eating contest, I’d definitely win if the item was _______”.

Pie and Coffee.

What does your ‘Perfect Weekend’ in Keene look like?

Canoeing and swimming in Rice Lake is a must, or a walk/ bike ride down the back roads to soak up the scenery. The Hope Mill is especially beautiful. I would make sure to head to my friend Neil’s BBQ restaurant for some pork ribs, between Neil and I, Keene is a good town for BBQ.

I might even visit Ryan Sloan, down on MacGregor Bay Road. He’s the wonder who built our smoker and he’s always building or doing something new (like currently hosting a rock band, called The Venisons, while they practice in his garage). I might share a beer or two with them and enjoy some music before heading to Elmhirst’s for an elegant dining room dinner. It feels great to get dressed up, take out my partner or some friends, and enjoy a great farm-to-table steak dinner and wine from the cellar.