|Chef Stephanie Brewster in New Kitchen|
I’ve written previously about the ‘Luna’ re-launch events for the rejuvenated Crown Jewel of the Royal Botanical Gardens’, the stunning David Braley and Nancy Gordon Rock Garden. More on that below, but the real long-term foodie story here is of a new chef with serious cred that has been enticed from London, Ontario to take over culinary operations at the RBG. I believe Chef Stephanie Brewster is going to transform RBG’s culinary operations for the better.
Hailing from Fanshawe College, where she was a popular professor in the culinary program, she was the winner of the very first episode of Chopped Canada, impressing chef judges Michael Smith, Vikram Vij and Anne Yarymowich. Along with some other food writers I had the opportunity to meet her (again in my case) at a walkthrough of the new facilities at the Garden.
Brewster with her great attitude and ready chuckle is easy to warm to. She has quickly immersed herself in the local culinary scene. Clearly relishing competition, she went head to head with three other chefs in a recent Popup Hamilton Showdown where she produced a stunning dessert pairing for a Peller Estates Icewine she was assigned to match up with.
She told me, just having returned from Italy, and with only six weeks in the Burlington/Hamilton area
under her belt, she felt “very welcomed as both a newbie and a female by the other chefs.” Her new job is “a challenge, as it involves both the role of Executive Chef and Manager of Operations for the Spectra Group which won the contract for provision of food services at the RBG.”
She’s looking forward to building her team, and to adding fun touches like weekend High Teas at the Tea House. She told me she wants to bring the gardens into the dining areas, growing her own vegetables in the RBG gardens, curing and smoking bacon, essentially “going back to roots of food, cooking from scratch, encompassing fresh local produce whether grown on our own property or sourced from community.”
She’ll have some neat offerings at both the sold-out family celebration (Chorizo pogos for the kids!) and the more adult-oriented one on Thursday May 19th for which there are still tickets available. The evening will feature a lightshow, raffle, auction as well as “an array of live cultural performances from local musicians, thespians and buskers that include fire artists, magicians and acrobats.”
More importantly from a foodie perspective will be the fare on-hand from local chefs including the talented Dan Megna (Twisted Lemon and now also Lake Road Restaurant), Jonny Blond (Jonny Blond Kitchen), Brandon Ashby (West Plains Bistro) Paddy Townsend (Rapscallion) Matt Jonny (The Mule), and Ken LeFebour (Nellie James Too). There’ll be wine from Peller and Diamond Estates and beer too from Collective Arts and Wellington Breweries, all of which will make it to the regular RBG menus too.
Several other writers and I got a preview of some of the offerings at a pre-launch event (see photos.) These included Brewster’s arrancini on a sensational smoky, deeply-red tomato chutney, honey-glazed scallops with sea salt, and a pretty goat cheese panna cotta dessert, as well as a mesquite Waygu flank steak slice with caramelized brie, and a smoked salmon with baby bok choi and bacon by Chef LeFebour.
It will be a lovely night, no doubt. But beyond that lies the prospect of some terrific ongoing food choices at the RBG, good enough to be a draw in their own right alongside the other attractions at this wonderful facility.