We are so excited to welcome Executive Chef Jay Nutt to the Viamede Resort and Mount Julian team! We’re big fans of Jay, but we thought you might like the inside scoop on who he is, what he’s all about, and what he’s going to be cooking.
This is the first installment in our four-part interview series with Chef Jay. Stay tuned here for the sizzling details each Friday.
Get to Know Chef Jay: The Man
Where did you learn to cook?
I went to school at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), in the 2-year culinary program. After graduating, I apprenticed at Jasper Park Lodge, one of the Fairmont family of resorts. I then worked at the King Edward hotel in Toronto, under Chef John Higgins. I spent a year at the Prince Edward Hotel in Charlottetown. Between all that, I’ve done cooking classes, worked at winter festivals, even a hunting lodge. I’ve travelled a lot – Paris, Barcelona, Venice, San Francisco, Vancouver, New York – all the places you like to eat. From 2003-2016 I was the owner and operator of In a Nuttshell and Nuttshell Next Door Café, nearby in Lakefield Ontario.
What did you want to be when you were little?
Smokey the Bear! But it turned out it wasn’t only me that could prevent forest fires. As a young person I wanted to be a forest ranger/outdoor education person. That has always remained my non-professional passion – camping, canoeing, adventuring etc.
Tell me about your culinary journey to Viamede?
One of reasons I went to Jasper Park Lodge was that they were a high level resort in Canada with a Canadian-born and trained Executive Chef. It was my first exposure to eating local, highlighting Canadian products and flavours. I carried that inspiration with me through my career. I recently sold the Nuttshell business, thinking I might take some time off. During the last few months I’ve been working on a cookbook with my wife, Jennifer MacKenzie, a food writer and recipe developer. And it turns out I was just in the right place at the right time – Viamede’s existing forest-to-table philosophy and focus on eating local is such a great match.
What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned working as a chef?
Learning to be patient, developing communication skills and learning to trust my staff.
How do you keep pushing yourself creatively?
I think it’s just something that some people have. It’s not a conscious thing for me, I just take the ingredients that are available and find ways to blend them into new combinations and flavour profiles. Having my wife in the industry gives me an opportunity to bounce ideas around. We actually work in opposite directions, which makes for really interesting results – Jennifer often has to come up with a concept and pitch it to an editor, develop the recipes, and then make sure they work. As a chef, I go into the fridge or market to see what’s available, and, using my skills and training, create a product that can be put on a menu.
Thanks so much for your time today, Chef Jay!
Keep your eyes out for the next installment in our interview, Get to Know Chef Jay: The Food, on Friday, January 27.