Mount Julian Restaurant Welcomes Spring

by Alyssa Joynt

If you’ve ever visited Viamede, you will have spotted a white building with a green roof on your way in.  Perched overlooking the lake, The Inn at Mount Julian was built in 1847 to welcome overnight travellers and loggers.  Although it has been updated with modern day amenities such as electricity and indoor plumbing, the building has remained much the same, and as you step inside you know that you are in for an exciting experience.

As Viamede re-opened and welcomed the return of spring, I returned for my second season of work and my first shift at the timeless Mount Julian restaurant. The culinary experience at Mount Julian is all about the story.  Each ingredient that goes into the 5, 7, or 9 course tasting menu, as well as the a la carte options, adds not only to the dish but also to the story that your meal has to share.  I loved learning all about the stories that food can tell, and so I thought I would take you inside the walls of Mount Julian and give you a sample of an evening at the restaurant.

Recently, to celebrate the return of greenery to Viamede, Chef Alexander prepared a decidedly spring-themed meal that started off with an amuse-bouche nick-named the “spring bouquet”.  Featuring all of the first things to pop out of the ground in spring time, pea shoots and cat tail were wrapped in wild leek that was foraged on Viamede property, and the bundle was topped with a drop of maple syrup, which made its entrance last month.

Right before the soup course was served, guests were treated to multi-grain baguette and house-made butter that was prepared with honey and sumac.  Sumac is the bushy red plant that can be spotted all over, and the red buds, lending a distinctive citrus flavour, were what went in to making the delicious butter.  Sumac also grows white flowers, but thankfully Chef avoided those – white buds are poisonous!

Once the bread disappeared, guests were treated to a blast of spring in the form of soup.  Containing spinach and wild leek that was foraged on the property, the soup’s bright green colouring was reminiscent of the bright green that has returned to the Kawarthas after a long-lasting winter, and continued the spring theme of the meal.

Seared Manitoulin Island Rainbow Trout swam onto the scene for the next course.  Viamede is situated in a wild-rice region, and so the trout was perched atop wild rice and cranberries, and was topped with a savoury cranberry jam (ten points if you caught my fish pun. Ten points if you noticed the second one.).

The salad was served next and perpetuated the spring theme through its light lettuce, multi-coloured carrots, radishes, and red wine and shallot dressing.  It was followed by the main course, which was beef wrapped in Viamede bacon.  Viamede has a farm on-site, and our happy, adventurous, attention-loving pigs enjoy a happy and well-fed lifestyle before they make their way onto our plates in a sustainable and locavore-approved farming practise.  The beef was accompanied by caramelized mashed potatoes and topped with mushrooms and horseradish sprouts that were sprouted in Viamede’s own herb garden.

To finish off the night, dessert was a flourless torte-brownie hybrid with sour cream and a maraschino cherry made at Viamede.  The cherries come from Niagara, and they are drenched in maraschino liquer on-site.  The work that goes into their creation comes out in their delicious and fresh flavour.

For each course, every ingredient was carefully picked to be local, fresh, and delicious.  Each piece added something to the story of spring, and ultimately to the story of Mount Julian.  If it took a page of writing to describe just one five-course meal in the most concise detail, imagine the culinary adventures and the exciting stories that await you on your next visit to Mount Julian.

I hope to see you soon!


A Weekend Fit For A Queen

I’m sitting here, on the tail end of the first real weekend of summer. Slightly exhausted, generally soaked, and really, really happy.

There are countless stories among guests, staff, and even the poor poor sunfish that decided to be near our shore, but we’ll have to keep it to the highlights for now.

Culinary:

This weekend, Mount Julian really came out in its full splendour for the summer. Chef Alexander and I spent the week foraging, and we found countless edibles – wild leeks have been out a few weeks, but the spruce tips only opened on Thursday. Clover, dandelion (leaves for salad, flowers for cookies), garlic mustard (an invasive plant we love to eat), wild chives, mint, trout lillies, and even wild purple violets. I don’t think Chef was happy when I described his lovingly crafted salad as “lawn trimmings,” but, well, I thought it was apt (and delicious).

 

Finding Friends:

One of our new initiatives is the “Find A Friend” board  – after years of recreation programming, we have realized that guests make the best memories on their own. We still offer a recreation program, but also have a board for guests who share interests to meet.

This weekend, a family of 8 decided to organize a scavenger hunt, of sorts, based on the letters of VIAMEDE – draw an Ant. Eat an ice cube. There was a great turn out, and the kids all came away with new friends.

 

Guests:

Our guests were, unsurprisingly, awesome. The rain on Saturday brought people together in the dining room. The sun on Sunday created a rush for our boats. Our pool decks had more water on them than the pools had in them, thanks to splashing kids. BBQs at cottages and our new BBQ patio, The Porch, got heavy use.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention fishing. This time of year, for someone like me, fishing can be a bit boring – pickerel aren’t all that fun to catch, and not much else is in season. But for kids, this is the best time of year. My fly rod’s been working for a few weeks, but the hot sun finally got the sunfish, crappy, and perch biting. On Friday, some guests had rods from their friends with some very strange lures until I got them some simple jigs, and worms the next day. The rest of the weekend, rain notwithstanding, kids were passing around half a dozen fishing rods, catching hundreds of fish in total. It was great to watch!

 

The Farm:

After a late start, our piglets are off to the races. They’re still too small for the big pen (they’d easily escape the fence holes), so for now, they’re in the turkey pen. Our Easter chicks are doing well. This week, we should be getting turkeys, ducks, and quail. Bob, our gardener, has the veggies off to a strong start, and we should get more than we’ve ever gotten from our gardens.

So, life is good. Summer is here!

 

Cheers,

Ben


A Day in the Life of a Pig

As anyone who has been to the Viamede Farm knows, our pigs are friendly, inquisitive, and ridiculously playful.  At two months old, they also love being the center of attention.  And so, without further ado, meet Rosa the pig!

rosa-the-pigHi!  Welcome to my farm!

My day starts just before 8 o’clock, when my sisters and I get up to meet Farmer Jarrod.  He comes and visits us every morning to feed us breakfast, which consists of soya, corn, barley, and peas in tasty pellet form.  Even though there is a lot to go around, my sisters and I love trying to fight over the same bucket.  It’s just more fun that way.

After breakfast, there is a lot of fun to be had.  We can play in the swamp, run around in the sand, or go on an adventure in the woods!  When no one is around, we also like to work on our top secret digging mission.  We have started construction on a tunnel under the fence so we can go visit the turkeys, run out to greet our two-legged visitors, and explore the rest of the farm- just don’t tell Farmer Jarrod!  When it’s too hot to play, we love to laze in our trailer or cuddle together in our shelter.

While I do love all of my playtime, the best part of the day is the Farm Tour.  At 3:30, Ben, or one of his friends, brings down a pail of breakfast slops, pellets, and a whole bunch of new people for us to meet.  My sisters and I love waiting at the fence and greeting all of our new friends, but we don’t stay there for long!  We like to gather at the gate and wait for Ben to climb in with our food, and then we follow him around as he pours it into our pails.

Once we’ve eaten our fill, we make our way back to the fence, getting head rubs, and posing for pictures.  If we don’t have any new visitors, we’ll have fun playing tag or follow the leader with whoever brought us food.  It’s the best part of the day.

We are pretty lucky pigs to have so much space, food, love, and attention, and we take advantage of it to the fullest.  Next time you’re at Viamede, make sure you come down to the farm to say hi!

rosa-and-friends

 


Viamede’s Hidden Gems

By: Alyssa Joynt

When there is so much going on, it’s easy to miss out on some incredible opportunities, and with a recreation schedule as busy as ours, that happens all the time here at Viamede.  To help you stay on top of everything, here’s a list of some of the best (but lesser known) activities here at Viamede.

 

Pajama Pingpong:  As much as we wish it was, going out in pajamas is not always socially acceptable.  But every Saturday night, we toss out the rules and enjoy comfy clothes, friendly competition, and new faces with Pajama Pingpong.

Historic Walk and Nature Hike:  Did you know that the Viamede chapel didn’t always stand amongst our gardens?  Or that Mount Julian was actually an inn itself once?  Do you know where you can find the old reservation book from decades past?  Transport yourself to days gone by and take a guided tour of Viamede as you learn about our historical roots.  If history isn’t your thing, let one of our staff members take you on a naturalist adventure to see the Viking Oak and other local flora and fauna.

Beach Games:  Sometimes, the best way to make new friends is with a little friendly competition, and what better way to do that than playing on the beach?  Participate in sand castle competitions, building expeditions, or games such as musical beach towels, Sharks and Minnows, and Beach Golf.  Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at noon.

Fireside Water Volleyball:  The newest addition to our recreation schedule, this is an activity that is fun for all ages.  On rainy or cold nights, gather in the indoor pool to play water volleyball beside the flickering fire.  Just don’t get distracted by the starry night sky!

Nature/Survival Activity:  Go foraging with our GM Ben, play games on the activity field, or go on an interactive hike through our beautiful grounds.  Just don’t forget your bug spray!  Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at two o’clock.

Chef’s Tour:  A quintessential part of any foodie’s vacation, the Chef’s Tour is the perfect opportunity to get an exclusive look at the kitchens while getting to know our chefs.  Learn more about our locavore philosophy and find out exactly where your food comes from.  Every Wednesday and Sunday at two o’clock.

 

As you can see, there is a lot of fun, learning, adventuring, and discovering to be had at Viamede.  Don’t miss out!


An Exercise in Reverence

by Ben Samann

Recently, on a beautiful rainy Sunday, I resolved an issue that has weighed on me for years.

I ran into an old friend of the resort, Cathy, who is currently in a seminary school. Cathy is lovely, passionate, and very respectful, so I asked her a favour: help me sort out the assortment of religious and antique items in our old chapel.150523-tk_viamede_selects_00401

 

For a bit of context, in 2001, the previous owner of Viamede relocated a little chapel to the property. It had been built in 1877 as St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Haultain, about 10 minutes up the road from us. When this was moved, it came with a huge assortment of religious items, from crosses and bibles to bits of fabric and wooden plates. I’m not a religious man, and so I had little understanding of which items hold meaning, and for what reason.

Cathy and I spent time looking at, through, and into box after box of items. Her respect of both religion and the world came through over and over, as she described the significance of items both as religious symbols and their meaning to the community. The kneeling bench, of a rather odd design, she suggested would be more valuable to us than to another church. “How many people knelt on this during the most important times of their lives?”

We found countless linens, candle holders, and plates, each with their own mysteries, and each with a clear connection to the region. Some were donated by the community, with names and dates, others with limited context except to show a general purpose. And as we unraveled a green linen, to signify new life, we discovered a mother mouse with 3 babies trying to escape the plastic tote it was stored in.

Some quick reactions (and mediocre pictures) later, she was running off into the bushes behind the chapel, carrying off one baby after another.

Cathy left with an assortment of crosses and other items. I left with a much better understanding of the respect the remaining items deserve. My task has grown monumentally – find a way to showcase and respect the human history intertwined with the countless items that remain.

chapel


Calvinisms to get us through

Summer is upon us!

….well, “summer.”

Despite doom and gloom forecasts by foreboding dogs named “Storm“, Viamede is getting all the sun it needs.

Plenty of guests are getting out in the boats, 1and most aren’t getting soaked. And let’s be honest, it has its upsides.2

Character-building aside, we’re having one of the least buggy summers in years.3

Right now, we have a few avid fisher-kids here, and they’re having a great time. I have never seen so many sunfish caught off our dock, and some kids have even stopped using worms. Except sometimes – as John said, “suddenly the small ones stopped biting.”

giant-fish

 It comes down to packing –

4

bring the sunscreen and bug spray, but also the raincoats, quick-dry underwear, and lightning-proof iPhones.

Ultimately, everyone’s having fun – when the sun comes out, the beach fills up, the water trampoline gets used (even by a surprisingly athletic fawn), and we have a line-up of kids to go tubing. We’re building memories5

and friendships.

6

No matter what the weather, the kids are having fun.

As the sun sets on another glorious day on Stoney Lake, we’re all thinking the same thing.

calvin2


Welcome to Viamede: The First Week on the Job

Welcome to Viamede:  The First Week on the Job

By Alyssa Joynt

 

My very first interaction with Viamede was a few years ago, when my parents decided to treat us to a nice meal at Viamede’s 1885 restaurant after a summer of BBQs.  I was maybe 12 at the time, and I started fantasizing about Viamede weddings.  As I got older (and slightly more realistic), I started thinking about working at Viamede.  I had an interview in January, and, well, you know the rest.

My first day was a whirlwind.  I worked breakfast, Front Desk, and housekeeping, all in the short span of 6 hours…and it was great.  I left work looking forward to the next day, and that hasn’t really changed.

The great thing about working at Viamede is that it doesn’t always feel like work.  The staff are all lovely, and there is a real sense of friendship amongst the Viamede team.  I’ve only been here a week, but I know people and people know me, and it’s easy to share a laugh.  The light-hearted conversation makes the day fly by.

The same can be said for the guests.  Everyone who stays at Viamede is happy and patient, which is especially great when you’re new and have no idea what you’re doing.

The best part about Viamede, though, is the environment.  It’s beautiful and comfortable resort feel is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, and I get to enjoy it every day.  On top of that, I am working in cottage country.   I get to wake up and watch the mist drift off the smooth glassy surface of the lake as I eat my breakfast, and I get to enjoy the beautiful views of rural Ontario as I work.  I am literally forced to stay on the lake all summer.

Some people dread going to work in the mornings.  I am glad to say that I am not one of those people.  My first week at Viamede has been busy and eventful, but it’s also been a lot of fun, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the summer has in store.


Apologies for any unprofessional e-mails

Apologies for any unprofessional e-mails

By Ben Samann

 

Spring is here, and with spring comes putting in docks and other outdoor work. Yesterday, the team and I were working on several docks. The resort dogs, Toby and Daisy, were around as well, being their usual rambunctious selves.

Over the course of the day, shirts and sweaters would come on and off, and invariably, Toby would steal mine. It’s kinda his shtick – “if you won’t pay attention to me, I’ll hang out with your stuff.” Retriever indeed.

At the end of it all, I noticed my phone was missing from where I thought I had left it. I looked, but it was nowhere to be found. Calling it didn’t help, since it’s always on silent. I finally realized that Toby must have run off with it.

I went through most of the day without it, and warned the staff that I wasn’t getting text messages. More importantly, any requests for treats or belly rubs should be verified with me.

At around 10 pm, I called the phone and looked for the light. I found it in the tall grass, most of my data used up on pictures of tennis balls and new dog beds, but luckily, I don’t think he figured out how to write e-mails.

If, however, you received any suspicious messages from me, please let me know. I will be forwarding any Amazon orders to Toby as well.


Preview to the Weekend – Forage Better or Worse

 

Preview to the Weekend – Forage Better or Worse

By Ben Samann

On Thursday, I have an exciting afternoon planned – taking our kitchen apprentice Jenny into the woods to eat whatever we find. Some, we find and use often, from wild leeks to cattails. Others we use more sparingly, like garlic mustard. And some we never use, because…. well, in theory it’s edible, but if it’s all you have to survive on, consider starving. Seriously. Lookin’ at you, lamb’s ear.

Regardless, it will be a great time to make Jenny decide what she likes on her own.

This means that Chef Jay will have an interesting chore –  everything we forage will end up on the menu. (In order to get him to agree to this, I had to promise no lamb’s ear.) So this weekend, Forage Better or Worse, there’s gonna be a lot of this on the menu.

Watch our Instagram for updates on Thursday on what Chef Jay gets to work with.


The Dangers of Food Tasting

by Ben Samann, General Manager

image1I have an annoying, but useful, habit – whenever I pass through the kitchen, I take samples of anything in front of me. Half a spoonful of butter (in Chef Jay’s words, “with good butter, bread is just a courtesy to the other guests at the table”), a piece of carrot, a slice of fresh fruit, and just about anything else is fair game to steal right from under the Chef’s knife.

That’s a dangerous game, but I’m willing to take that risk for delicious foods.

Today, my habit backfired on me. On a tray, fresh from the oven, lay tasty looking croutons/soup crackers. No one was around, so I took one. It wasn’t very good. Dry, powdery…. I made a mental note to mention it to Chef Jay.

A while later, one of the other kitchen staff approached me with a jar of the same croutons.

“We’ve been experimenting with dog treat recipes. Do you want to take some home for Toby and Daisy?”

….

Ah, kitchen humour.

 


It really CAN be that simple!

By Ben Samann, General Manager

Over the past few years, we have been working on making the guests’ experience easier to access, simpler, and more intuitive, and recently, have committed to a few of these fully. Ideas like going tip-free to make our pricing more transparent, or building a corporate package that just includes… everything, or putting the tennis rackets by the tennis courts (mind-blowing, I know) for easy access have become our new standard.

On the surface, it seems like the easy choice – if we want everyone to go kayaking, why make them run around the property signing waivers and collecting equipment? If the standard is to tip staff 15%, why not build that into the pricing? If every meeting that books with us needs a projector, why charge for it separately?

None of these things cost us anything. It’s just a way to take a bit more thinking out of the process. But for now, it seems to be confusing to guests.

I have been working with several meeting planners recently who are having a hard time understanding that our package includes everything. We put the pricing on our website for people to see, and try to explain that just about everything is included. But I have now been asked about the following items, and whether it’s included:

  • Pop with meals (yes)
  • Our hiking trails (yes)
  • Parking (yes)
  • Wifi in the meeting room (yes)
  • Rental on a break out room (yes)
  • Printing an e-mail (yes)
  • Using a laptop in case theirs can’t connect to a printer (yes)

The issue here isn’t the meeting planner, the issue is the countless other places that sneak in 10% resort fees, $500 meeting room wifi, and labour costs to connect projectors. We’ve all gotten to expect all kinds of costs that are never discussed but impossible to avoid.

Similarly, I routinely have conversations with families in the summer as they plan their vacation that go like this:

Guest: “We’re coming next weekend, and I’d like to rent some kayaks on Saturday.”
Ben: “Rent? You mean borrow? They’re free, you just get them at the beach.”
Guest: “Cool! So how do we register?”
Ben: “You don’t. You just go to the beach, and they’re there, along with life jackets, paddles, and other toys.”
Guest: “Really? How do you know someone won’t steal a kayak?”
Ben: “………..”

Again, this comes about because of the countless stories of hotels having guests fill out waivers each time they want to have fun and sign out everything lest someone run off with a soccer ball. It seems strange in this age to not worry about guests being thieves, so much so that guests actually are surprised when they’re not treated that way.

Despite all the confusion that this simplicity causes, we are moving it forward. We continue to ask ourselves why certain rules exist, and make it easier for guests to get the full price and experience of their stay.

 


The Gathering: All Weekend Long

What if you could take our quarterly dinner party, The Gathering, and stretch it allllll weekend long? Food coma aside, you’d be sure to come home feeling thoroughly nourished in heart, soul and body.

Well, that’s exactly what we did the weekend of March 24-26. 16 brave gourmands joined us for a weekend long exploration into Viamede’s culinary philosophy: what can be sourced from the land around us, is complemented by ingredients from our partner farmers and food producers.

Friday Night

The adventure began on a rainy Friday night at The Boathouse, where Chef Jay served up platter after platter of elevated pub grub favourites: sunfish and chips, beef tongue pastrami, and sous vide porchetta with a side of wild leek pesto. Our Open Kitchen concept was kicked off, with guests joining the culinary team stove-side to pick up some cooking tips.

Saturday Big Breakfast

On Saturday, attendees rolled in for our Big Breakfast buffet. Sun streamed in through the verandah as we sampled blueberry pancakes, traditional bircher muesli, sausage, smoked salmon, crispy potatoes, eggs, bacon, pastries and more. Espresso, cappuccino, tea and hot chocolate were the beverages of choice.

Open Kitchen & Chef’s Table

At noon, Chef Jay threw open the kitchen doors and invited our guests in for the signature Open Kitchen / Chef’s Table event. The group formed teams to prepare a home-made lunch fit for kings and queens. Under Chef Jay’s tutelage, the groups prepared mushroom soup with scones, sous vide brisket and potato salad, and blueberry crumble with earl grey ice cream to finish. When the cooking was done, everyone enjoyed the fruits of their labour, family style, around a long table right in the heart of the kitchen.

Tapping and Green Thumbs

Those who weren’t still lingering over scones and wine in the kitchen, joined our head groundskeeper, Jarrod, for a walk through the forest on Saturday afternoon. Jarrod showed the group how to identify and tap maple and birch trees for sap, and discussed our kitchen garden program. We’re guessing you can find at least a few of our guests in their backyards this week, contemplating which of their own trees they want to test out!

9 Courses To Heaven

After a few catnaps and probably some more caffeine, our guests met at Mount Julian for a lively cocktail hour before dinner. With appetites roused, we sat down at a long table in the century old farmhouse, just as the sun was setting over Stoney Lake. A 9 course feast was brought out from the kitchen, dish by dish, each course paired with a unique Ontario wine, beer, or spirit. General Manager Ben Samann recounted a personal story with each pairing, and his love of exploring the province for rare, unusual and delicious libations became clear! Dinner went late into the night, accented by the live guitar playing of Mike Graham. When the feast was done, guests continued the after-party with classic rock on vinyl and their favourite wines from the evening.

Recovery Sunday

A recovery brunch on Sunday morning was a nourishing farewell to new friends, great food and delicious beverages. We hope to see you for the next Gathering Weekend!


Tips? No Thanks!

Here’s a tip for your trip: don’t tip.

On April 1st, Viamede is going tip-free. The reasons for this are many and various, from fairness across departments to a more consistent and transparent price for our guests.

When we get great service at the dentist, the mechanic’s shop, or from an accountant, we don’t tip. We tell our friends and use that business again and again in the future. We think the same should be true of hotels and restaurants – we want you to tell everyone how great of a time you had, and to come back.

You see, there is a whole team of people who contribute to your experience, but you may only meet your server. Consider the cook who made your meal, the dishwasher who made sure your wine glass was sparkling, and the runner who helped bring plates to your table. These wonderful people play a part in ensuring your meal is amazing, but tips are usually heavily influenced by the performance of the server. The earnings of the behind-the-scenes staff is somewhat reliant on a part of the dining experience that they don’t have much control over. And that’s not really fair.

Tipping also isn’t really fair to the guest – when a price tag says $10, it should cost $10. (Well, except taxes, but I’m not sure Viamede’s ready to stand up to the CRA. We love you, auditors!) Guests shouldn’t have to get out slide rules and actuarial tables to figure out our staff’s income.

So, we’re getting rid of all that. Any price you see, just add the tax and that’s your total. The sticker prices are going up a tiny bit to make up the difference, but since there’s no tip, it works out about the same as before. As part of this change, we are raising the wages of all staff by several dollars per hour.

No tipping means a fairer system to our servers, our other staff, and to our guests. Happy staff, happy guests, happy vacation!


Get to Know Chef Jay: For Fun

The final part of the “Who is Chef Jay?” puzzle is right here, folks. Read on for the little details that round out the man behind the food.

Get to Know Chef Jay: For Fun

What do you do for fun?

I have 2 dogs that require lots of exercise. One is a 3 year old beagle who is like the energizer bunny and the other is a rescue dog who loves to participate but due to medical conditions can’t be as active as the beagle. We converted a jogging stroller into a dog walking stroller. The three of us go up and down our country road and wave at people going by, who give us double takes in turn. In the winter I snowshoe. I also love to canoe, I’m an avid reader and I amuse myself with sunset pics on social media – but I’m not sure if I amuse anyone else anymore.

What would people be surprised to find in your fridge?

Spicy sandwich saver pickles.

How do you find balance?

I have to be disciplined about knowing when to stop working. My commute is 25-35 minutes so I use that time to prepare on my way in, and listen to music, sports and comedy on the way home to decompress. I try to be at least aware that in the grand scheme of things, my job is pretty fun. I’m not in healthcare or emergency or triage. Most people who are coming to see us are looking forward it. It’s a good energy.

Tea or coffee?

Decaf coffee in morning and tea in evenings.

Where in the world would you most like to visit? 

The arctic circle. I’d love to see the northern lights, wildlife, and Baffin Island.

Favourite album? 

Tough call. I’m a whatever is on the radio kind of guy. As long as it fits my mood.

Who would your dream dinner party guests be? 

Julia Child because I adore her laugh. My great aunt Jo because she was the one to first introduce me to good food as a child and she was entertaining and charming and wonderful. Edward Abbey was an early environmentalist and nature writer – one of the founding members of the Sierra Club. I imagine he was a pre-hippy version of Ernest Hemingway.

Favourite Film?

I’m gonna say Big Night. It is a restaurant themed movie, about two Italian immigrant brothers struggling to realize their dream of running a restaurant in 1950s New York. In between the story lines there are some fantastic food shots, and as a food person, restaurateur and entrepreneur, there are a lot of personal notes it touches on for me.

 

Thanks so much to Executive Chef Jay Nutt for his candid answers! 2017 is going to be a big year and we are so excited to have Chef Jay on board!


Get to Know Chef Jay: The Industry

Here’s part 3 of our blog series introducing Chef Jay Nutt. This is your inside peak into the industry!

Get to Know Chef Jay: The Industry

What is an average day like for you?

An average day at the resort would start with me coming in through the kitchen door and saying hello to the staff already on. I first double check that everything on the board is accounted for, in process or in prep. Then I check clipboards, emails, voicemails, and the schedule so I know who is in and when.

Depending on what role I’m playing that day (whether I’m in Club 1885, The Boathouse or Mount Julian), I start doing a mise en place list. I need to make sure we have all the ingredients, check the fridge and freezer to make sure everything is labelled and structured.

Next I look at upcoming reservations and events to see if we need to order anything and make phone calls. In the growing season I also check with our farmer and forager on-site to see what’s coming out of the garden in next day or two so we can use it in our soups, garnishes, etc.

A typical day also has me answering questions from staff, event planners and the occasional customer. I provide ongoing support to the kitchen staff and communications to our front desk. Finally, I’m on the line at some time during day, preparing food. It might be that I’m expediting during a busy moment in the Boathouse – lunch rush for example. That’s a short day…

What chefs inspire you?

My original chef David MacGillivray, and I’m a big fan of Thomas Keller in his early French Laundry days – classically inspired but simple.

How does dining in rural Ontario compare to the worlds big cities?

On the one hand its very different. The pace is different. When you’re dining in small towns and cottage country, you’re there to relax. The next thing on the agenda just happens whenever you get to it. In current times, people are more willing to put their phones down when they’re on vacation.

What rural Ontario dining has in common with the big cities is that it has a sense of place. Last spring I was in NYC and stopped at a little diner for breakfast, and it felt like NYC. In Paris, you actually see people on bikes with baguettes in their baskets, and you get a sense of Paris. Here at Viamede, you also get a sense of place – you’re in 100 year old buildings, you walk by the place where pigs are raised and carrots are grown. You get a sense that rural Ontario is timeless – you have all modern conveniences, but there is the post office and clock tower and bank in the centre of town. I love that feeling.

What projects are you excited to roll out here at Viamede?

I like the challenge of reimagining the menu at Mount Julian with my own take on forest to table dining. I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to build a team and helping them grow to represent the resort and the region. Take a jazz analogy: just like the previous chef, who had a fantastic style of jazz, I’m excited to continue playing jazz, knowing that with my leadership it will be a slightly different flavour of jazz. But still fabulous, imaginative, delicious jazz.

 


Get to Know Chef Jay: The Food

Welcome to part 2 of our blog series introducing Chef Jay Nutt. If you already know Jay, you’ll probably learn something new here, and if you don’t know Jay, well, you’re in for a treat! Today’s questions are all about the food!

Get to Know Chef Jay: The Food

What’s the most rewarding thing for you to cook these days?

I’m a big fan of comfort food. If I can do comfort food in a fine dining style, particularly in the winter time, I’m a happy man.

Most underrated ingredient?

Potatoes. I worked in PEI, so no surprise there. We did a chocolate potato cake for dessert – made with mashed potatoes. It was fabulous.

Best culinary tool?

Simple chef’s knife. And good shoes.

What is your food philosophy? How has that changed over the years?

I think my philosophy has been pretty consistent over the years. I’m a long standing fan of local and slow food. My presentation style has changed – I’m not trendy but I stay current. I like exploring new cuisines and flavours, but I’m not always a fan of what’s termed fusion cooking. I like a sense of authenticity.

Where do you like to source your ingredients?

Locally as much as I can! McLean Berry Farm is wonderful. They are a next generation farming family – smart, good with resources, savvy business people and good farmers. I use Wren Lane Honey, local cheeses, local meats. And of course our own Viamede produce and meat – especially our turkeys and pigs!

What go-to dinner do you cook for friends or family?

In the winter it would be veal osso bucco. The first time I ever had it, it was cooked by my mother in law, who was one of the best cooks I’ve ever known. It gives that sense of comfort and warmth and family and it has a sense of place, as well as a memory of time and people.


Get to Know Chef Jay: The Man

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.


First Steps of a New Culinary Journey

Chef Kevin McKenna has decided to venture out, launching a project of his own. We are proud of the great work we have accomplished together at Viamede Resort and wish him all the best.

In the interim we welcome Jay Nutt as Executive Chef. Jay is a long-standing friend of the resort and the recently retired chef and former owner of Nuttshell Next Door Café. Jay has cooked in hotels and resorts across Canada, focusing on local foods and building community partnerships. He is also a cookbook author and food columnist, writing with his wife Jenn.

Viamede Resort will stay the course with our focus on incredible forest-to-table cuisine and Jay’s demonstrated commitment to local foods will be showcased here.

In the coming months, Viamede will hire a new chef for the long term who will build on our renowned forest to table philosophy. We are looking forward to what 2017 will bring!

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Wishing you a Merry Christmas

It’s been another fantastic year here and the memories just wouldn’t be the same without all of you in them! From hitting the trails, to walking the golden retrievers, and opening the doors to our brand new pool, this has been a year to remember. Cheers to you and yours!


Oh to be a Golden!

Sometimes Tobi’s ears turn off. Enjoy this snippet of our big day out after a huge storm. It reminds us to take joy in the simple pleasures. Bring on the snow!