Award-winning chef Alexandra Feswick has been working and honing her skills in the kitchen since she was 15 years old. Today, her primary focus is on creating gourmet comfort foods that give guests the universally cherished sentiment of a home-cooked meal. “I want my food to hit the same comfort spot in people eating it as the nostalgia of being at home,” she says. “The same place you have to close your eyes to think about and that always puts a smile on your face.”
Despite her early love affair with cooking, Feswick put her culinary aspirations on hold after high school to study sociology at the University of Guelph. Towards the end of her studies, however, Feswick had a realization. “I found myself cooking more than I was actually learning,” she says. “So I finished up my degree and quickly enrolled at George Brown College.”
Feswick entered the culinary industry as an apprentice under chef Jeff Crump at the historic Ancaster Mill restaurant in Ancaster, Ont., before moving on to build a name for herself at acclaimed Toronto restaurants Auberge de Pommier, the Wine Bar, Samuel J. Moore and Brockton General. Since 2014, she’s been chef de cuisine at The Drake Hotel in Toronto.
She draws on her obsession with locally grown ingredients to create dishes that touch diners on a visceral level. “The best meal imaginable would be at a farm next to the crops you are eating,” she says. “When I worked with Jeff Crump, it was mandatory that we worked on a farm in the summer, once a week. One of my favourite memories is being on that farm and eating a harvest lunch of some of the products we had grown that summer.”
Feswick ardently argues that good food comes from loving what you do. At The Drake Hotel, she brings that love to everything she prepares, sourcing fresh Canadian ingredients in simple dishes, which she keeps as scratch as possible. “I was really lucky that [my mom] made everything from scratch, so I started off with that experience,” she says.
With Feswick in the kitchen, it’s no coincidence The Drake has become well-known for its cozy comfort foods that match the seasons in which they’re served. For dinner, current popular entrées include a 10-oz striploin with seasonal vegetables, rosemary butter and jus ($40); rotisserie chicken with Brussels sprouts, mushrooms and polenta ($27); the Drake dry-aged burger featuring a milk bun, bacon, cheddar, Russian dressing and pickle, served with a side of fries ($19); and albacore crudo with avocado and charred scallion ($13).
Feswick hopes to take homemade cooking to the next level by making The Drake’s fare even more local. “We are already doing this in many [ways]. However, I think we could do more,” she says. “What’s better than an apple freshly picked from the tree you’re standing next to, or strawberries still warm from the plant? I would like to offer this type of experience to our customers on a more regular basis.”
Volume 49, Number 11
Written By Eric Alister