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Most days, Andrew Carter is known as the executive chef at The Queen and Beaver Public House, but on Thursday night, he was a gastro guide for diners at the first event in St. Lawrence Market's Executive Chef Series. While preparing his seven-course dinner in the Miele Gallery, Carter enlightened his audience about the provenance of each element.
SLIDESHOW: Chef Andrew Carter's favourite English dishes
Last night's festivities were but a first taste of what's to come this summer at St. Lawrence Market. From now until September, the venue will play host to some of the most vibrant chefs in the city. Chefs like Peter George of the 360 Restaurant at the CN Tower and Trevor Wilkinson from Trevor Kitchen & Bar are slated to man the burners and ovens at the Miele Gallery overlooking St. Lawrence Market.
Yesterday, however, we chatted up Carter before the event and asked him what he misses most about England, how Toronto compares to London and why events like these are so important for rising chefs.
Why are events like this so important for Toronto-based chefs?
Toronto’s an up and coming city. There’s been a lot of development going on, especially in this area. The Market is a vibrant area on the weekend, Friday, and Saturday. Just to have that connection between what we do with the Market, I think is very important. For us to be seen in here as well, because we don’t want to be isolated from everyone. We’re not just a restaurant. We want to add to Toronto. So when a chef sets up a restaurant, we’re adding to the city and that’s an important thing for us. Events like this are very good because that connection between what we’re doing and what the Market is doing strengthens both of us.
Personally, why did you choose to participate in the Executive Chef Series?
A couple of reasons. I thought it was a really nice connection between Billy Elliot and Mirvish and the Pub. We’re a quintessential gastro pub in Toronto and Mirvish, with Billy Elliot – it was a nice connection being from England and knowing that culture and producing that culture over at the pub, it just came together very nicely.
What do you think of the St. Lawrence Market area?
I think it’s a real vibrant area. I’ve seen some of the plans that are going to go on down here, the development, it’s really exciting. And I think it’s going to be a real destination not only for tourists, but for the citizens to come down here. On Saturday, it’s one of the main markets in Toronto, a lot of tourists come down here too. When the development is completed, I think it’s going to be fantastic.
Can you make some comparisons between the food scene in Toronto vs. Britain?
England has been known for many, many years for having terrible food and we always take it on the chin. But when I was doing my training in London 20 odd years ago, there were many phenomenal chefs that came out of there...Gordon Ramsay, Marco Pierre White, Pierre Koffmann, some phenomenal world-class chefs were there. So I saw the food come up in London and now what’s happened is you have that explosion of food and then everybody ups their game. So that’s what happened in London.
I see that happening here now. There’s a lot of people getting involved in food because they love it, they’re in the industry and every restaurant that opens up, there’s something different.
What are you trying to do for food in restaurant? What’s your philosophy?
My philosophy is based in hospitality really. I want you to come into my front room which is my restaurant and I want you to feel at total ease with the surroundings, with the drinks, with the food, so that you can get on with your evening. The food’s fantastic, we spend a lot of time and effort doing the food. I come from a fine dining background, so the kind of food that we do there, it is based on a fine dining method of doing it. We make everything in-house, so from the bread that goes on the table to the ice cream, everything is made in-house. We cure our own bacon, we cure our own smoke salmon. The reason I want to do that is when you come in as a customer and you’re paying money, you’re getting good value for your money and not only value for your money, but quality in a really relaxed environment which I find is unique for the level that we’re talking about.
What did you prepare for the diners here today?
Today we’ve got a few courses going on. Initially, we’ve got a cream of asparagus soup. Asparagus is very English, but we also grow it here in Ontario. We made a beautiful cream for the asparagus soup and we put a poached quail egg in there and some bacon. So it’s a kind of bacon and egg thing going on. Second thing we’ve got is a potted rabbit with a Tewkesbury mustard. The potted rabbit – potting things in England is an old English way of preserving things. So you take meat, you cook it and you put it into a container and then you cap it off with glass so you can store it for months. After that, we’ve got soused scallops which is another English way of preparing things. It’s like a ceviche. We sear it off and then cook it in some alcohol with aromatics. After that, we have pheasant and white sausage. So the white sausage is a foie gras sausage. So we’re going to roast off the pheasant which has been stuffed with a confit of pheasant and it’s served with a white sausage with a whiskey date sauce. Then we’ve got an Earl Grey ice, it’s like a sorbet. And then we have a cheese course and end it off with a custard.
It’s pretty exotic and creative. Where did you find inspiration for the menu?
Because we’re associated with Billy Elliot, it’s got to be that English thing. I’ve taken a lot of the things we use in England and some of the things in my childhood that I used to eat and it’s all come together in this menu.
What do you miss most about England now that you’re in Toronto?
There’s so much. I love England. Whether it’s the countryside or the people or the cities, everything. It’s a phenomenal country. There’s too many things to miss.
What’s one dish in England that you can’t find in Toronto?
Well I can do all the dishes so any dish that I miss, I can make.
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