When you ask Tyler Scott about his food philosophy, he doesn’t wax poetic. “For us, local food is food grown near Peterborough. It makes sense to buy from our neighbours. They’re our customers.”
Tyler is the new owner of Rare Grill House in Peterborough. He’s been the chef at this local steakhouse for years but recently, he and his wife Kassy purchased it from Chef Brad Watt. Brad owns Publican House Brewpub, just down the road.
“We’re going to change some stuff for the new year. We want the dining room to feel like the kitchen,” says Tyler.
“We want to bring some of those touches that show our philosophy to the front, put them in front of the customer.”
Along with his Sous Chef (and in-house preserver!), Kylie Lawther and his “Sous-Sous Chef” John Lawless – “Sous-sous may not be a real thing, but it is here. We’re a small team and we all work hard,” says Tyler – they’re looking to bring unexpected, “rare” experiences to Peterborough’s dining scene.
The food at Rare is a little different. At any given time, you’ll find grilled beef heart with market salsa verde or prairie oysters (google it) grilled to perfection. It’s part of their commitment to using the whole animal and one of many reasons they keep a personal relationship with their local abattoir. Starting this autumn, they’ll be launching a special – by request only – tasting menu that explores the Kawarthas rich food culture.
Tyler visits the farmers’ market twice a week to pick up produce for the restaurant and touch base with his suppliers.
On our last visit, he bought every single head of fennel at the market. “I bought some last week too, but we served it all with our fish special. I want Kylie to pickle this for the winter – when we can’t get local fennel anymore,” he said.
He loves the hyper-local honey Hunnabees produces in the area; as well as the dozens of varieties of hot peppers he gets from Martin’s Farms and the rye loaves by Hard Winter Bread Co.
Going to the market to meet with vendors isn’t convenient by any means. It’s precious time out of his small kitchen and it puts a strain on his small team; “but it’s important to have a relationship with my farmers, so I make time to come out.” It also helps that in the summer months, you can find him slinging his famous, extra crispy fried chicken alongside the other vendors.
“Prime Rib” for two is available by special request. Tyler sous-vides a steak after searing it to mimic the roasted flavours of a prime rib roast, without having to use a massive hunk of beef. It’s served with a goat milk and mushroom risotto and their housemade beef jus.
That commitment to local is taken one step further by Kylie Lawther, Rare’s sous-chef and preservation specialist. Last year, she canned over 400 jars of tomatoes – plus pickles, fruit, wild edibles and their infamous housemade HP Sauce.
“We don’t want to pickle things just for the sake of pickling things. That’s how you end up with a basement full of stuff you don’t want to eat,” says Tyler. “Were preserving things with minimal seasoning so we can use them in the coldest months.”
Ultimately, using ingredients from the Kawarthas is how Tyler and his crew are setting themselves apart while building a collaborative community in the region. “We want people to be excited about our food scene here. I love it here, so it makes sense that other people will too.”
Rare is located at 166 Brock St in Peterborough, Ontario.
They’re open 5PM – 9PM, Tuesday – Saturday.