By Mary Luz Mejia
Chef Jon Kennard of Calgary’s Cibo isn’t following food trends to win fans, he’s following his palate, creating dishes such as thick and crispy wild boar bacon pizza with fennel salami, smoked pancetta and house-made sausage ($22). F&H talked to him to find out the secret to his success in Italian cooking.
F&H: Cibo doesn’t serve Neapolitan pizza, despite its current appeal in Canada. Why not?
Jon Kennard: We wanted to do something different from what folks are doing in the industry. Pizza and Italian food in general have become a big trend — thin crust is big — so we did something different. Luckily, we are as busy as ever.
F&H: Do any trends dictate your menu?
JK: At Cibo, we’re not really looking at trends. We feel that if you’re always looking at trends to guide you, you’re always behind the eight ball. Everything that’s a trend has been popular before and comes back around.
F&H: So, what inspires you?
JK: We look at traditional dishes we know work, and [then we] put our twist on them. We’ve got a solid group of people within our restaurant group who are good at saying “this works and this doesn’t” in terms of flavour profiles. Before we put something on the menu, we run it as a featured dish for five months, after it’s been tested by our chefs and management team. We look for feedback from customers, too. We’re not trying to find the next big thing; we’re trying to find things we really like and share them with our guests.
F&H: How do you source locally when you cook Italian-inspired food?
JK: We support a lot of our local farms here, in the summer especially. We try and stick with the seasons and use preserves during colder months. Things like sun-dried tomatoes make it onto our menu in winter, whereas, in summer, it’s all about local, fresh tomatoes. People are always looking for “new old things.” We use traditional ingredients that work in new ways.