Stratford Chefs School Brings Backhouse to Life

Chef Ryan Crawford has been a wandering chef, hosting delicious pop-ups and collaborations around the province, for far too long. But fear not! Fans of his homestead inspired fare can rest easy, his newest venture Backhouse has found a home in Niagara-on-The-Lake and is scheduled to open in May.

Last week, we had the chance to indulge in a little preview courtesy of the talented apprentices of The Stratford Chefs School.


A play on a croque madame with 44 month old Ontario proscuitto served on a warm slate plate.

Lead by Michelle Hundt, the students created an 8 course feast — complete with “snax” and petit fours, based on Chef Crawford’s recipes as part of the school’s signature ‘Canadian Guest Chef Series‘. The series invites some of Canada’s most noted chefs, many of whom are alumni, to share their skills and experience with current students.

Highlights included a simple, yet heart warming bread course of cultured butter and sourdough miche made with ‘Roxanne’ — Ryan’s 15 year old bread starter he created while at the school in 2000.


Also worth some serious recognition was the drunken chicken. The students sous-vide hens after brining them in Dillon’s barrel aged spirits, then finished them in the wood fired oven. These tipsy little birds were served with salt roasted rutabaga and curly ques of Soiled Reputation cabbage.

The nights dishes were all paired with wines from Niagara’s Lailey Vineyard — including a stunning 2011 Pinot Noir 3.7 with notes of raspberries and ripe red cherries. The wine, named after the 3 vineyards and seven barrels used in it’s creation was a Silver Medal Winner at the National Wine Awards.

So what can you expect from Backhouse once it opens? Well, if last week’s feast was any reflection (and we hope it was!), there’ll be many twists on comfort classics, tons of tastes of Niagara plus a whole lot of in-house made extras. Think 44 month old prosciutto made by Chef Ryan and Paul Harbor of Ravine Vineyard —  a Feast ON restaurant; and plenty of pairings with Ryan’s wines: The Duke and The Dyck.

You can follow Bev and Ryan as they build Backhouse, from bare floor boards to finished product, on twitter or facebook

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