YOUNG GUNS ON THE OT­TAWA FOOD SCENE

Ottawa Business Journal - Ottawa at Home - - FRONT PAGE - BY PAULA ROY PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BY MARK HOLLERON

It’s a for­tu­nate time for din­ers in Ot­tawa. There is an im­pres­sive ar­ray of restau­rant op­tions, some fea­tur­ing the ris­ing stars in our culi­nary scene who treat in­gre­di­ents with care and con­sis­tently de­light the guests they feed. Ot­tawa At

Home talked with three kitchen wizards un­der 30 who are mak­ing a big name for them­selves thanks to a com­bi­na­tion of in­spi­ra­tion and per­se­ver­ance.

STEPHEN LA SALLE 27, THE AL­BION ROOMS

This Ot­tawa na­tive is sin­gle-hand­edly chang­ing the per­cep­tion of what it means to eat in a ho­tel restau­rant. At the Novo­tel’s Al­bion Rooms, his Bri­tish­in­flu­enced food, con­tex­tu­al­ized within Ot­tawa’s vi­brant ar­ti­san food scene, is draw­ing rave reviews. It’s also help­ing to ce­ment Stephen’s rep­u­ta­tion as one of the area’s most im­pres­sive chefs, so much so, that he has been in­vited to com­pete in the pres­ti­gious Gold Medal Plates com­pe­ti­tion in Novem­ber.

A grad­u­ate of Algonquin Col­lege’s culi­nary pro­gram, he was in­spired to pur­sue his cho­sen path while work­ing at La­pointe’s restau­rant in the By­Ward Mar­ket as a teen. “I loved chat­ting with em­bassy chefs as they were do­ing their early morn­ing shop­ping.”

Upon grad­u­a­tion, Stephen worked at ARC The Ho­tel and the Whales­bone, where he gained enough ex­pe­ri­ence to be hired by the Novo­tel. “I have the best chef job in Ot­tawa, but it is very de­mand­ing. It was a big gam­ble for them to ap­point some­one so young to a po­si­tion of such re­spon­si­bil­ity but I think it’s worked out well for ev­ery­one.” He cred­its the business skills he learned at culi­nary school for help­ing him deal with the ad­min­is­tra­tive as­pects of his po­si­tion.

His ad­vice to young chefs is to stage (train) in as many places as pos­si­ble. “That’s how you make con­nec­tions and it’s also the best way to keep on learn­ing. Work­ing with other chefs, whether in a kitchen or in a field at a fundraiser, is re­ally in­spir­ing.” Most im­por­tantly, he adds, is a con­stant de­sire to try new things. “I’m go­ing to have a lot of fun play­ing with var­i­ous el­e­ments as I pre­pare for Gold Medal Plates.”

IAN CAR­SWELL

29, K.W. CATER­ING AT THE NA­TIONAL GALLERY OF CANADA

Hav­ing grown up in Petawawa, Ian Car­swell found his love of the kitchen life­style at Nip­piss­ing Col­lege, where he worked part­time at a fam­ily diner. After ap­pren­tic­ing in North Bay, Ot­tawa and Toronto, he went to Europe. “I had amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ences there, par­tic­u­larly at Helsinki’s Chez Do­minique, ranked in the top 25 restau­rants in the world. It was in­tense – I worked 100 hours a week but I learned so much.”

Ian landed at Ab­sinthe Café when he re­turned to Ot­tawa and he moved next to K.W. Cater­ing where he quickly rose to be­come ex­ec­u­tive chef. At just 29 years of age, Ian en­joys the re­spon­si­bil­ity of run­ning the Na­tional Gallery ’s busy kitchen, serv­ing up a blend of clas­si­cal French cui­sine with modernist touches. “I like dishes that are rel­a­tively sim­ple, beau­ti­ful, and supremely flavour­ful. I en­joy the pre­ci­sion and ef­fi­ciency of big events, but I also ap­pre­ci­ate small din­ners be­cause I can take more time with each plate.”

As part of a lo­cal group of young chefs, it’s phe­nom­e­nal for him to be par­tic­i­pat­ing in great fundrais­ing din­ners like the FLUX se­ries and the Ot­tawa Hu­mane So­ci­ety’s Sum­mer Har­vest Gar­den Party. He ad­vises other as­pir­ing chefs to knock on doors to make things hap­pen and to be pa­tient. “You don’t have to do it all by the time you are 30 or even 40 – take time to en­joy each step along the way.” To that end, Ian is cur­rently tak­ing five months off to be with his young daugh­ter. “Bal­ance is key. I would love to have my own restau­rant one day, but I’m not in a rush.”

JAMES BRATS­BERG 28,

MENA

You know you’re do­ing some­thing right when your eatery is one of 30 nom­i­nees for the 2014 Canada’s Best New Restau­rants award from Air Canada en­Route mag­a­zine. Chef James Brats­berg is hum­bled by the nom­i­na­tion and de­ter­mined to prove that MeNa, a gem on Preston Street, is de­serv­ing of the ac­co­lade.

His re­sumé is im­pres­sively lengthy for a 28-year-old chef. From New­mar­ket to Cal­gary to down­town Toronto, he ac­cu­mu­lated ex­ten­sive kitchen ex­pe­ri­ence. A chance invitation to join a friend in Ot­tawa led to a job run­ning the raw bar at E18h­teen im­me­di­ately prior to join­ing the MeNa team. “I love hav­ing full cre­ative rein here as I present com­fort­able, French-in­spired food us­ing as many lo­cal in­gre­di­ents as pos­si­ble,” says James.

Work­ing in Ot­tawa has proven to be a great fit. “Ot­tawa is like a big small town. There is a true sense of com­mu­nity among chefs and peo­ple are gen­uinely friendly, which I think helps the culi­nary scene as a whole. Chefs seem to be more open with each other about their ideas than in big­ger ci­ties like Toronto.”

James ad­mits that the tran­si­tion from bri­gade mem­ber to be­ing the per­son in charge of the kitchen hap­pened a lit­tle faster than he ex­pected, but he is rel­ish­ing the op­por­tu­ni­ties be­fore him. “I love be­ing part of such a young, en­er­getic team here at MeNa – I think it’s amaz­ing that at 28, I’m the old­est guy in the kitchen!”

“Ot­tawa is like a big small town. There is a true sense of com­mu­nity among chefs and peo­ple are gen­uinely friendly, which I think helps the culi­nary scene as a whole. Chefs seem to be more open with each other about their ideas than in big­ger ci­ties

like Toronto.”

JAMES BRATSBER, MDNA

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