Mediter­ranean

DINE and Destinations - - ON THE COVER -

“It’s re­ally good for you, I hope you like it,” our waiter says earnestly, as we lis­ten to his recita­tion of in­gre­di­ents from cat­tail hearts to car­rot-fed cricket gra­nola, and dishes from sting­ing net­tle spaghetti with spher­i­fied sun­flower milk, to wal­nut foie with sprouted an­cient grains, cran­ber­ries and or­ange. This is in­tel­lec­tual cui­sine, con­cerned with the func­tion of cui­sine, but it doesn’t de­mand any­thing from us ex­cept to ap­pre­ci­ate and ad­mire the colours, the tex­tures, the de­sign, nu­ance and care of ev­ery sin­gle in­gre­di­ent. It doesn’t chal­lenge us so much as it in­vites us to par­tic­i­pate. We com­pletely trust this kitchen.

De­hy­drated flax-based okara crack­ers with car­rot and or­ange are served to us raw to pre­serve the nu­tri­ents in­her­ent in them, and ac­com­pa­nied by cul­tured cashew but­ter and pro-bi­otic crème fraiche. Quail from Que­bec is en­livened with savoury pear but­ter, dessert ap­ples and an essence of smoked tea and pine tips. On­tario lamb is ten­derly cooked for 13 hours with Moroc­can spices, and pre­sented with a metic­u­lous ar­range­ment of vi­brant colour, flavour and nu­traceu­ti­cals. The kitchen is like a lab. “Ev­ery­one here is driven more by their heart than their skill set,” shares chef/owner Ja­cob Sharkey Pearce. “The defin­ing char­ac­ter­is­tic in as­sem­bling the right team is ul­ti­mately, “do you have the love and ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the peo­ple around you?” Be­cause we can teach you the rest.”

It’s about the in­tegrity of the process from prepa­ra­tion to pre­sen­ta­tion, por­tion size and main­tain­ing op­ti­mal nu­tri­tion. This is not a restau­rant ahead of its time; this is a restau­rant do­ing ex­actly what it should be do­ing at pre­cisely the right time.

Sara Wax­man: Some­thing new is hap­pen­ing to cui­sine in our city, but there is no one else do­ing what you’re do­ing. I have never seen any­thing like it be­fore ex­cept, per­haps, in a Cal­i­for­nia health spa. How did you cre­ate this food style? Did you study it some­where?

Ja­cob Sharkey Pearce: It’s in vogue for peo­ple to say they’re lo­cal, and they talk about sus­tain­abil­ity, and then they put a nas­tur­tium leaf on a plate and call it high cui­sine. One of the big­gest defin­ing pieces of our equa­tion is that there is a gen­uine pur­pose, a rea­son be­hind all of this. We have a farm up north, we slaugh­ter our own an­i­mals, we grow ev­ery­thing on the roof, all of our dairy is done in-house from scratch. We make soymilk and tofu from scratch.

I started a com­pany with my brother do­ing diet and nu­tri­tion work for pro­fes­sional ath­letes. I learned there was a real func­tion, and for a decade or more I had been cook­ing for thou­sands of peo­ple, and work­ing with a lot of in­tel­li­gent doc­tors and train­ers, and I re­al­ized the im­por­tance of the con­nec­tion be­tween what you eat, when, why and how, and the health and vi­tal­ity of it.

Why do I use fresh turmeric all the time? Turmeric is one of the best known anti-in­flam­ma­to­ries. In­ter­nal in­flam­ma­tion of the di­ges­tive sys­tem is one of the lead­ing causes for the ma­jor­ity of ill­nesses and dis­eases that are plagu­ing North Amer­i­can so­ci­eties. Why do I make straw­berry kam­boucha with the ce­viche? Kam­boucha is good bac­te­ria, and has a pos­i­tive ef­fect on in­ter­nal in­flam­ma­tion. It in­creases the growth of good bac­te­ria to aid di­ges­tion. We should only be eating so much red meat, and we should not be eating more than four ounces of it, so we’re ex­plor­ing al­ter­na­tive pro­teins. I could put a grasshop­per down in front of you in a form that would make you sing. I’m try­ing to break­down that bar­rier.

SW: You have a unique, dis­tinct phi­los­o­phy, point of view, and menu. How did you get from there to here?

JSP: As a young cook not know­ing what I was go­ing to do up to now, there was a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion. To be com­pletely hon­est, there was

al­ways a yearn­ing and a drive and a want to help some­thing or some­body. Orig­i­nally, I wanted to be a nurse be­fore I wanted to be a chef.

SW: Your orig­i­nal re­spect came for the body, and then you cre­ated the cui­sine.

JSP: 100 per­cent. How we write a new menu or sit down to write a new dish is not about what cool pro­tein can we find and then start putting things on top of it, it’s about what’s miss­ing from the menu. If some­one were to have a tast­ing menu right now, is there enough pre-bi­otic fi­bre? Is there enough pro-bi­otic? Is there enough raw food? What’s the ra­tio of grain to vegetable on the plate? It’s a dis­cus­sion about that first, and then it’s about what is sea­sonal.

SW: Your menu asks some­thing of us. It asks us to be aware of what we are eating, marvel at how beau­ti­ful it looks, and en­joy how it tastes. It’s unique. If you were in New York City, your restau­rant would be lined up. It is un­usual that you are so lit­tle known in this city, be­cause it tells me that while ev­ery­one is say­ing we are world class, we are still quite pro­vin­cial in our habits.

JSP: The goal is for any­body at any mo­ment to have that guttural re­ac­tion to what’s in front of them. If you come in here with­out any prior knowl­edge it can be a lit­tle over­whelm­ing. The layper­son needs to be pre­pared ahead of time for what they should ex­pect. The ve­gan and veg­e­tar­ian com­mu­ni­ties who are al­ways look­ing for some­thing a lit­tle nicer, a lit­tle more in­tel­li­gent, maybe, as op­posed to the stan­dard fare that they do get, they love to come here, and are big sup­port­ers. So, we’ll do a five to seven course ve­gan tast­ing at the drop of a hat.

The task is, if you’re not go­ing to leave peo­ple with that belt burst­ing as­so­ci­a­tion of be­ing full, then value for money has to mean some­thing more im­por­tant.

In the kitchen with Ja­cob Sharkey Pearce

Que­bec Royal Quail

Ursa 924 Queen St., W., Toronto

(416) 536-8963 www.ur­sarestau­rant.com

On­tario Lamb

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