Everyone knows that the best parties always end up in the kitchen. Meet Chef Jeff Ryan, the Executive Chef of Wharf & Feather at the Holiday Inn Kingston-Waterfront.
WHARF & FEATHER
What is your favorite seasonal ingredient?
Without a doubt butternut squash. Autumn always provides an abundance of goodies, including apples, root vegetables, pumpkins, Brussel sprouts, and a variety of squash, but my favorite is butternut squash. I find it to be the most versatile squash, and its high sugar content makes it caramelize really nicely. Roasted in the oven is the start to many of my favorite dishes. Be it, roasted butternut squash soup, ricotta, and butternut ravioli, a gorgeous roasted vegetable side dish, or a buttery sweet roasted butternut risotto. It’s such a versatile vegetable, and to have it available locally, without any insecticides like dieldrin the DDT alternative, is amazing.
What in your opinion is the most underrated ingredient?
Tomato paste comes to mind. Many people only think of tomato paste as an additive to tomato sauces, and often do not add it correctly when they do use it. The concentrated nature of tomato paste creates such a depth of flavor in dishes and turns any soup, stock, sauce, vegetable dish, curry, to the next level. The most important step when using a paste is to caramelize it first. It brings out the nutty richness of the paste and helps to elevate your dish like never before.
What is your drink of choice?
If I’m at the cottage, it’s an ice-cold PBR [Pabst Blue Ribbon]. If I’m on the beach enjoying the serenity of the waves, it’s a piña colada. If I’m walking down the streets of Cuba sampling some local fare…can you say Cerveza!
What is your favorite thing about being a Chef at a hotel?
I think it’s the diversity of everything from outlets, to people, to styles, and so on. No day is ever the same. Restaurant settings are frequently limited to an a la carte menu, which usually does not change that often, due to the cost of menu change, engineering, printing and retraining, and brand of that establishment.
In the hotel setting, you have room service, in-house dining, take-out, banquets, meetings, VIPs, turn downs, patios, and staff meals. Now granted the stress levels are up there, as inventory levels, labor, and spending are a lot higher, but the rewards are worth the stress. With a great team behind you, and the ability to use great local products, which I have at the Wharf & Feather, I look forward to going to work every day.
What is your favorite dish to cook at home?
I’d have to say Pad Thai. It’s not the healthiest dish to consume, but my oh my, the flavors of a scratch Pad Thai are incredible if done right. Salty, savory, sweet, and spicy. A little seafood, vegetables, noodles, chicken, egg, and peanut with a spicy palm sugar tamarind scratch sauce…it can’t be beaten! A nice craft beer that is a little on the bitter side, pairs well with Pad Thai. It acts as a nice palate cleanser.
Outside of your Chef life how would you describe yourself?
After working in a chaotic, stressful environment all day, I do enjoy my peace and quiet. I tend to spend my summer nights in my backyard by the fire, rather than the couch in front of the television. Or, by taking a ride through the bush on my trail bike. I’m not a big drinker and have had my share of bar life. I do love to travel, though with what we’ve all had to endure over the last year and a half, one must be creative to find that place to regroup.
What to you is the best part of working with Ontario food and drink?
As a Chef having the ability to source local ingredients, the best part of working with Ontario food and drink is knowing you are a small piece to the puzzle, helping to support your community and its producers. Just as we see local customers as vital to our establishment, so are the local producers and suppliers to our economy. I am proud to be a source for local goodness and look forward to any opportunity to be a part of the local food movement.
Why is Feast On important to you and your restaurant?
Again, it’s knowing that we are a small piece of the equation. Not to mention the quality and availability of products. I take pride in my food, as do the local producers, and we stand behind what it is we do. I believe in supporting local, and will do what I can to continually support the local.
What does your “perfect weekend” in Kingston look like?
A perfect weekend in Kingston for me involves relaxing and having breakfast, lunch, or dinner made fresh, not by myself. Typically, I love to go out and eat, though right now we are only doing takeaway. Score Pizza is one eatery I like. I enjoy touring the market in Springer Market square, checking out local purveyors and what they have available. Taking a long ride along Hwy#2 on the water on my motorcycle, taking a hike along the water and checking out some boats, and having a backyard bbq with good friends and some local fare, and a bonfire in the backyard each night are also ways I enjoy spending my time.