Savour Stratford Culinary Guide #nextgen chef Launch

(Photo credit Terry Manzo)

Unbeknownst to many, the city of Stratford, Ontario has an exciting food scene. For locals and visitors, the Stratford Culinary Guide is the go-to guidebook for navigating the city’s crop of hip restaurants, food tours, artisans, breweries, and distilleries. What better way to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Stratford Culinary Guide than with a small, informal pop-up event showcasing the talents of the city’s chefs along with craft beverages from Stratford’s breweries and distilleries.
On Monday, April 29th, 2019, the Stratford Tourism Alliance hosted this anniversary event at Richmond Station. Owned by two alumni of the Stratford Chefs School, Ryan Donovan and Carl Heinrich, it was the perfect venue for this party. Each guest was treated to appetizing hors d’ oeuvres from a small group of young Stratford-based chefs. The #nextgen chefs are twelve young, up-and-coming, talented chefs that are making their marks on the Stratford food scene.

Black Swan Brewery poured out glasses of their English Pale Ale and Indian Pale Ale, while Junction 56 Distillery served their refreshingly Black Raspberry Gin Fizz cocktail, a spin on the Sloe Gin Fizz cocktail with Junction 56’s black raspberry gin, simple syrup, lemon juice, and topped with club soda. A sprig of lavender as the garnish complimented the gin’s floral notes.

In promotion of this year’s culinary guide, the Stratford Tourism Alliance launched an interview series of twelve young chefs called the Stratford #nextgen Chefs series. This blog series introduced Stratford’s new generation of culinary talent (all graduates of the Stratford Chefs School) and celebrated the breath of fresh air they brought to the city’s culinary landscape. Four of twelve chefs were present at the tasting, and each chef presented two different sets of hors d’ oeuvres. The four chefs were:

  1. Meaghan Evely of Pazzo Taverna
  2. Ryan O’Donnell of Mercer Kitchen and Beer Hall
  3.  Vincent Stacey of Pazzo Pizzeria
  4. Jamie Crosby of The Prune
chefs Jamie Crosby, Vince Stacey, Meaghan Evely, Ryan O'Donnell at Savour Stratford Culinary Guide #nextgen chef Launch at richmond station
#nexgenchefs Jamie Crosby, Vince Stacey,
Meaghan Evely, Ryan O’Donnell

Each of the chefs was engaging with the guests as they posed for pictures and were delighted in the extremely positive feedback that they received for their food. They were also open to talking about their backgrounds, the origins of their love for food, and any other fun questions one would ask a chef.
Chef Jamie Crosby from The Prune made two dishes: marinated mussels with wild leeks, lovage, ginger and maple tartlettes with islay scotch whiskey and charcoal cream. Both dishes were fantastic, and the charcoal cream tasted like a roasted marshmallow. When asked about his favourite ingredient to cook with, Chef Crosby responded by saying, “whatever is in season,” which is fair enough. The wild leek, a prominent component of his first dish, was his favourite ingredient for spring for its garlicky flavour.

Stratford #nextgenchefs Jamie Crosby
Stratford #nextgenchefs Chef Jamie Crosby

Chef Meaghan Evely, Saucier at Pazzo Taverna presented two dishes: marinated sardine crostinis with salsa verde and fennel and marinated stuff plin with parsley oil and parmesan. She has been working as a chef for four years and has some of the coolest food tattoos ever seen on a chef! What she loves most about being a chef is the thrill of thriving under high-pressure situations. If the producers of Chopped Canada are reading this, you might want to visit Chef Meaghan Evely in Stratford and check her out in action!
Stationed right next to her was Chef Vincent Stacey, who served pickled squash with dates, pancetta, and gorgonzola and smoked rillette with fingerling potatoes and apples. While his dishes were delicious, there was more talk amongst the guests about his dazzling smile and a fantastic head of chestnut brown hair.

The deep fried tuna sushi rolls with togarashi aioli and pickled ginger made by Chef Ryan O’Donnell was hands-down the crowd favourite of the day. Guests were coming back to his station for seconds, thirds, and fourths! After learning about his year abroad living in Mito, Japan, it was clear that Japanese culture and cuisine profoundly influenced his style. When asked about his favourite food memory, he recalled his second day in Mito when he walked into an izakaya and ordered an okonomiyaki. He then described the rest of the beautiful memory as such: “It was topped with bonito flakes that were flying off the pancake like butterflies; when I saw that, I was like, woahhh! What is happening?!”

Other highlights of the pop-up include a short thank you speech from Lori Degraw (Executive Director of the Stratford Tourism Alliance), and a short tour of the Richmond Station kitchen, led by Ryan Donovan.