Jeremy Charles

Q&A with Chef Jeremy Charles, Raymonds Restaurant and The Merchant Tavern, St. John’s, NL

Education: St. Pius Culinary Institute, Montreal

Career path: Professional Fly Tier

Years of experience as a chef: 18

What are your earliest memories of cooking?

My earliest memories of cooking were working on traditional Newfoundland dishes with my grandmother at her summer house in a small fishing village in Newfoundland called Old Perlican. Also splitting codfish with my grandfather on a rock outside the house.

Why do you think you were drawn to a culinary career?

The endless creativity, high energy, ability to work with my hands, being able to serve things that we hunt and fish for while celebrating the whole animal.

Jeremy Charles

How would you describe your restaurants?

Raymonds and The Merchant Tavern are highly focused on and driven by local ingredients — celebrating the bounty of local wild produce and seafood while offering the best of service.

If you knew you were eating your last meal, what would you have?

My grandmother’s “fish and brews,” a traditional Newfoundland dish composed of salt fish, hard bread, pork fat and potatoes.

What is your philosophy about food?

Focusing on the wonderful ingredients in your environment that surround you.

Where do you go to dine out?

My grandmothers home; also The Bonavista Social Club and Mallard Cottage (local Newfoundland restaurants)

What is your favourite ingredient?

Parsnips, codfish and moose.

Who were your biggest influences or inspirations for becoming a chef?

My grandmother, Claude Pelletier, and Michael Ross.

If you knew you were going to be exiled to a desert island, what three ingredients or food items would you take with you?

Hard bread, salt fish and red wine.

What do you think is the most overrated food trend right now?

Farm to table. Are you really practising what you preach?

What do you think is the most underrated food trend right now?

We will keep that for the food writers.

Is there any type of cuisine that you would like to experiment more with?

Probably Mexican cuisine. After spending a few weeks in the Yucatan with locals and seeing all the beautiful wonderful flavours they were using, it makes me want to cook more Mexican meals at home with friends and family.

What are the essential ingredients for success in the foodservice industry today?

Being aware of your surroundings and market, staying open to change and diversity, and keeping within your boundaries.

Which cooking technique or tool is a favourite of yours right now and why?

The soft-serve ice cream machine. Who doesn’t love soft serve? Being able to create our own soft serve is a childhood dream.

What is your favourite food combination right now?

Cod and pork.

Do you have any culinary guilty pleasures?

Good quality chocolate, homemade pasta, and thin crust Hawaiian pizza from Venice Pizzeria (local pizza joint)

What are some of the most interesting or unique challenges of being a chef?

Managing people and schedules and also keeping things interesting and creative while maintaining a healthy work environment.

What are some of the unique aspects of running a restaurant in Newfoundland and working with local producers and ingredients?

Living on an island and being isolated, we have a very short growing season. In order to sustain quality products throughout the year, one must be organized and plan ahead to cellar, preserve and store ingredients. We are so fortunate to have a wonderful bounty of wild game that we are able to feature on our menu throughout the year, which makes for a wonderful dining experience while creating a sense of place.

What advice would you have for aspiring chefs as they enter the industry?

Always have a good attitude. Shoot for the stars. Less is more. Let the food speak for itself. Keep it simple and keep it local.

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