Jamie Kennedy: Good food as a way of life

Jamie Kennedy's first cookbook in more than a decade.

Jamie Kennedy’s first cookbook in more than a decade.

J.K. The Jamie Kennedy Cookbook is much more than a cookbook. It’s a warm and personal memoir by one of Canada’s most influential chefs connecting a collection of 121 of his favourite recipes—with appealing reportage photography rather than the highly stylized photos usually seen in cookbooks.

The new book is very much like J.K. himself: Personable, down to earth, without a hint of ego or pretense, with a vision of good food as a way of life seasoned by four decades at the leading edge of gastronomy in Canada.

Like no one before him, Jamie Kennedy popularized eating and cooking with local, sustainable and seasonal ingredients, a theme that runs through the book.

Official launch party at Gilead Café & Wine Bar last night.

Official launch party at Gilead Café & Wine Bar last night.

For cheese lovers, there are two chapters on cheese featuring a dozen recipes that we cannot wait to try—all using Ontario cheese, of course. Here’s a sampling:

  • Pickled Vegetables with Niagara Gold Fondue
  • Sheep’s Milk Cheese-Filled Squash Flower with Fresh Tomato Sauce
  • Potato Gnocchi with Thunder Oak Gouda Sauce
  • Wild Rice Crackers that are always included in J.K. cheese plates.

J.K. makes special mention of the cheddars from Black River Cheese, the gouda from Thunder Oak Cheese Farm, and Niagara Gold from Upper Canada Cheese. Cape Vessey, a firm goat cheese made by the original Fifth Town Artisan Cheese, is also cited. He gives credit to Petra Kassun-Mutch of Fifth Town and Ruth Klahsen of Monforte Dairy for helping to reshape and revitalize the artisan cheese industry in Ontario.

Those who have been fortunate enough to attend the Gastronomy on the Farm dinners on the Chef’s own farm in Prince Edward County, held in conjunction with The Great Canadian Cheese Festival, will recognize many photos and the anecdote about a sudden summer rain filling champagne flutes before the reception started.

Those who attended the Cooks & Curds Gala at the first two Cheese Festivals will find the recipes for Chef’s famed frites and his braised beef and braised oxtail poutines in the book.

What would a Jamie Kennedy event be without his famous J.K. Fries?

What would a Jamie Kennedy event be without his famous J.K. Fries?

Scattered throughout the book are testimonials and comments by a broad range of J.K. alumni, food writers, family members and other chefs. Michael Stadtlander, with whom J.K. launched legendary Scaramouche, provides the foreword. Three quotes:

Much of the food we enjoy in Canadian restaurants today is the result of Jamie’s work in the local food movement, as he has influenced generations of chefs who share his pioneering spirit and love for real food.

—Chef Michael Stadtlander, Eigensinn Farm and Hai Sai

Now I realize that just about every major trend that would blow through Toronto in the next decade was already encapsulated in (Jamie Kennedy’s) Wine Bar: Small plates. Reasonable prices. Deliberately casual ambiance. Do-it-yourself chacuterie and preserves. Very serious cheese.

Food writer James Chatto

Nobody ever says it, so I will: Jamie Kennedy is possibly one of the most important chefs in Canada in the last fifty years. Period. Ever. You get what I’m saying? What was Canadian food until forty years ago?

—Chef David McMillan, Joe Beef, Liverpool House and Vin Papillon

We obtain the obligatory autograph from Chef.

We obtain the obligatory autograph from Chef.

Much of the credit for the success of the book belongs to Ivy Knight, who helped J.K. write the text, and to Jo Dickins for the marvelous photographs. Ivy Knight says of the experience: “Jamie has been lauded for years, ever since, at age 25, he took the reigns as head chef at Scaramouche. It absolutely boggles my mind that he has never turned into a raging egomaniac, but instead is kind and calm and has his feet firmly on the ground. I can’t think of any other chef who’s been in the game this long who can still be found working the line during a lunch rush. ”

J.K. says it was truly a collaboration that lead to the finished product published by HarperCollins Publishers and sold by Amazon and Indigo.

It’s must-read. Order it online, buy it in a book store . . . or have lunch at Gilead Café & Wine Bar, buy the book there and ask Chef to autograph it.

 —Georgs Kolesnikovs, cheese-head-in-chief at CheeseLover.ca and founder of The Great Canadian Cheese Festival and Canadian Cheese Awards

Cheese Gala: From Newfoundland with goat and curry

Chef Katie Hayes Katie of Upper Amherst Cove, Newfoundland.

Bonavista Goat Curry with Coriander-Whipped Fresh Chèvre, Partridgeberry Chutney on Wood-Fired Oven Pita

One of eight tasting dishes prepared by eight outstanding chefs from across Canada for the Cooks & Curds Gala at the 2012 Great Canadian Cheese Festival on Saturday evening, June 2, presented by Swallow.

The Gala is the culinary and social highlight of the Cheese Festival. The first sitting at 6:00 p.m. has SOLD OUT. Second sitting at 7:00 p.m. now on sale. Don’t delay ordering your tickets!

Chefs use Canadian cheeses to create mouth-watering tasting dishes that are paired with Canadian wine, craft beer and cider. The strolling dinner concludes with an after-dinner cheese board presented by Dairy Farmers of Canada, sweets and wine.

Food Network celebrity chef Bob Blumer will make a guest appearance to prepare his signature blue-cheese cappucino made with Alpindon from Kootenay Alpine Cheese and Devil’s Rock Creamy Blue from Thornloe Cheese.

Ivy Knight, editor-in-chief of Swallow, the new online food and drink magazine, serves as Gala Co-ordinator.

Cheese Gala: Manitoba chef meets Ontario ricottta

Chef Talia Syrie of Winnipeg, Manitoba

Ricotta-Stuffed Blintzes, Wine-Braised Leeks, House-Smoked Walnuts and Berry Compote:

One of eight tasting dishes prepared by eight outstanding chefs from across Canada for the Cooks & Curds Gala at the 2012 Great Canadian Cheese Festival on Saturday evening, June 2, presented by Swallow.

The Gala is the culinary and social highlight of the Cheese Festival. The first sitting at 6:00 p.m. has SOLD OUT. Second sitting at 7:00 p.m. now on sale. Don’t delay ordering your tickets!

Chefs use Canadian cheeses to create mouth-watering tasting dishes that are paired with Canadian wine, craft beer and cider. The strolling dinner concludes with an after-dinner cheese board presented by Dairy Farmers of Canada, sweets and wine.

Food Network celebrity chef Bob Blumer will make a guest appearance to prepare his signature blue-cheese cappucino made with Alpindon from Kootenay Alpine Cheese and Devil’s Rock Creamy Blue from Thornloe Cheese.

Ivy Knight, editor-in-chief of Swallow, the new online food and drink magazine, serves as Gala Co-ordinator.

Cheese Gala: A cook and curds from British Columbia

Chef Jimmy Stewart of Whistler, British Columbia.

Aerated Triple Cream Camembert with Phyllo Crisps and Spiced Almonds

One of eight tasting dishes prepared by eight outstanding chefs from across Canada for the Cooks & Curds Gala at the 2012 Great Canadian Cheese Festival on Saturday evening, June 2, presented by Swallow.

The Gala is the culinary and social highlight of the Cheese Festival. The first sitting at 6:00 p.m. has SOLD OUT. Second sitting at 7:00 p.m. now on sale. Don’t delay ordering your tickets!

Chefs use Canadian cheeses to create mouth-watering tasting dishes that are paired with Canadian wine, craft beer and cider. The strolling dinner concludes with an after-dinner cheese board presented by Dairy Farmers of Canada, sweets and wine.

Food Network celebrity chef Bob Blumer will make a guest appearance to prepare his signature blue-cheese cappucino made with Alpindon from Kootenay Alpine Cheese and Devil’s Rock Creamy Blue from Thornloe Cheese.

Ivy Knight, editor-in-chief of Swallow, the new online food and drink magazine, serves as Gala Co-ordinator.

Cheese fuels passion to organize a better Festival

Here are the cheeseheads who work behind the scenes to make The Great Canadian Cheese Festival happen. From the left, Lin Chong, registration co-ordinator, Jackie Armet, cheese co-ordinator, Becky Lamb, volunteer co-ordinator, Terry Chong, operations manager, Karin Desveaux, executive director, Peta Shelton, Prince Edward County liaison officer, Ivy Knight, cheese gala co-ordinator, and Rebecca Crosgrey, event co-ordinator and assistant to Georgs Kolesnikovs, founder and director.

When they worked up an appetite during a recent planning session, here’s the cheese they dove into for lunch:

Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese: Hard and Semi-Hard, two impressive cheeses, the first like a Gruyere, the second like a Gouda, produced by Shep Ysselstein, a young chessemaker, in southwestern Ontario.

Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser: Tomme du Haut-Richelieu, a lovely washed-rind, goat-milk cheese from one of Quebec’s artisan-cheese pioneers.

Brillat-Savarin: A luscious triple-cream Brie with a truffle from France was devoured with much smacking of the lips.

Fromagerie Le Détour: The distinctive Grey Owl—with its dark ash rind—is sweet, tangy and creamy, a terrific example of the high standard of goat-milk-cheese production in Quebec.

Fromagerie de l’Abbaye Saint-Benoît: Bleu Bénédictin, a Canadian classic made under the supervision of Benedictine monks in the Eastern Townships of Quebec.

Époisses Berthaut: An extraordinary washed-rind cow’s milk cheese with a natural red tint from Burgundy in France is too powerful for some, worshiped by others. Ours came to us courtesy of Glen Echo Fine Foods.

Fan mail, comments and ideas will reach the Festival event staff via cheeseheads @ cheeselover.ca.

Cheese Rave: Craziness at the Drake with Ivy Knight

Ivy Knight, Toronto’s extraordinary social convener and food writer, is hosting a Cheese Rave on Monday night at the Drake Hotel to kick off ticket sales for The Great Canadian Cheese Festival. Says Ivy:

I will be blindfolding the city’s top cheesemongers and testing their palates. Afrim Pristine of Cheese Boutique, Cole Snell of About Cheese and Michael Simpson of Leslieville Cheese Markets will pit their talents against each other and the cheese

Cole Snell will be on hand-pulling fresh Ontario Buffalo Mozzarella. Jameson Irish Whiskey will be pouring shots to be taken with cheese chasers for the Name That Shot contest and the cheesemakers of Quebec are sending five award-winning cheeses for you to taste, thanks to Plaisirs Gourmets. Including Alfred Lefermier, Tomme de Gross-Ile and Rassembleu.

From 7 p.m. to 10:00 only, Cheese Festival tickets will be sold on the spot for unbelievable prices ranging from $86 to $8.60 to commemorate the 86’d festivities organized at the Drake every Monday night by Ivy.

Click here to read what the Ottawa Citizen has to say about at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival taking place June 4-5 at Crystal Palace in Picton, in the heart of Prince Edward County, Ontario’s fastest-growing culinary destination and Canada’s newest VQA wine region.

Top Chef Canada: Attack of the Cheese top-secret no more

UPDATE: CLICK TO VIEW EPISODE 2 IN ITS ENTIRETY

Judgment time at Top Chef Canada: Cheese is up next.

CLICK HERE FOR A PREVIEW OF THE CHEESE EPISODE

Former Susur Lee Sous-Chef Dustin Gallagher’s playful tussle with a large block of fromage in Episode 1 gave Top Chef Canada viewers a heads-up on a key ingredient in upcoming Episode 2: Canadian cheese!

Titled “Cheese, Glorious, Cheese” and airing on Food Network Canada on Monday at 9 p.m. ET/10 p.m. PT, the chefs battle with each other in typical Top Chef style with first a quickfire and then an elimination based on creating appetizing cheese dishes.  It’ll be quite a challenge for some, particularly Gordon Ramsay protégé Chef Dale Mackay who admits to not having much experience cooking with cheese, as well as Calgary Chef and Sommelier Rebekah Pearse who calls the challenge “a little tough.”

The chefs are given a range of Canadian cheeses from coast to coast. Will they use gouda from Gort’s Gouda Cheese Farm in B.C., Alberta’s Sylvan Star Cheese, or Ontario’s Thunder Oak Cheese Farm?  Cheddar from Quebec’s Perron or Wilton’s Cheese Factory in Ontario?  Perhaps they will create from a hodgepodge of cheeses?  Selecting the wedges they know, the culinary contenders craft distinct plates for a cocktail party of 50 guests who help the judges in their selection of the second chef to be asked to pack his or her knives and go.

The most watched original premiere in Food Network Canada’s history, Top Chef Canada continues to vigorously protect its trade secret: the element of surprise. The cheeses procured and showcased? Guarded jealously. News of a guest judge from the cheese industry? Mum’s the word. We’ll have to watch Monday’s episode to find out!

—Gabi Gopie-Tree

Gabi has a law and politics background but her passion for food, wine, and entertainment developed from nearly a decade in Europe and the U.K. where, she discovered, many still find the time to enjoy the finer things in life. Gabi blogs about food, wine, music, travel, and life at poshbirdgabi.wordpress.com

Editor’s note:

It’s amazing how tightly shrouded in secrecy the producers of Top Chef Canada like to keep their show before it airs. Witness the scant information CheeserLover.ca was able to obtain for the above report.

No mention of even the basics, such as Dairy Farmers of Canada being the sponsor of the episode and provider of the cheese.

Even cheese and wine expert Julia Rogers, a good friend and supporter and presenter at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival we’re organized, wouldn’t say boo when we emailed for confirmation about her serving as the guest judge on Episode 2.

“Sorry, but I signed a confidentiality agreement as thick and detailed as could be. I will not be able to comment on anything you ask prior to the show airing, except to say that the challenge involved Canadian cheese,” she emailed.

But, if the truth were known, Julia did post this tidbit on her Facebook page:

Top Chef Canada spoiler alert . . . On Monday, watch me judge contestants’ cocktail party cheese offerings with as much integrity as possible, while wearing false eyelashes and losing the microphone down my dress.

From other sources, we learned:

Monday’s episode of Top Chef Canada on the Food Network will be all about CHEESE!  The episode will be the main ingredient in the two key challenges in the show and will be featured prominently throughout the show.

The first challenge of the show is the “Quickfire Challenge” that measures specific skill sets of the competitors. For the challenge, a table full of cheeses made from 100% Canadian Milk will be unveiled to the competitors and they will be asked to create a dish using as many cheeses as they wish and then describe the dish and the inspiration behind it.

In the “Elimination Challenge,” the competitors will be divided into teams and will be given a specific Canadian Cheese and a meal course to work within. The chefs must then create a dish around their kind of cheese that works within the corresponding course in the dinner service—which is at an actual function. This challenge will showcase the versatility and variety of Canadian cheese.

We’ve posted the video clip that is posted on the Food Network Canada website at the top of this post. Those who are unable to watch the show Monday night will be able to view it on the website Tuesday.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs is Cheesehead-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca. He’ll have a tape in the old VCR on Monday night as he and SO will be at the Drake Hotel taking in the Battle of Paté organized by Ivy Knight as part of her 86’d series of fun food events.