Inspired by his grandmother and leisurely Sunday afternoons in the kitchen, chef JW Foster has always been passionate about food. Named for the first letters of his father’s and grandfather’s surnames, the chef started his cooking journey in Ontario.
Throughout his culinary career, Foster has always been a supporter of Ontario farmers and producers. After working in different parts of North America, as well as internationally, he says he has a deep appreciation for Ontario’s unique seasons and all the gems that are available for short periods each year.
“My guiding philosophy has always been to provide an authentically local food experience, as food is a powerful way for us to connect to where we live.”
Since joining Fairmont Hotels & Resorts in 2003, Foster has held executive chef positions at Fairmont Dallas, Fairmont San Francisco and Fairmont Banff Springs. He also had the opportunity of a lifetime when he took on the role of executive chef at the Fairmont Peace Hotel in Shanghai, China. He says the experience was a life-changer that remains with him today.
“My time there was extraordinary and it humbled me as a chef,” says Foster. “I had to rethink things, understand [a new culture] and explore [cooking] as if I was an apprentice again. I was trying everything and, even though you may not know what it is, you give everything a chance. It was almost like a rebirth — a great opportunity for me to see things differently, have a very open mind and learn.”
Now Foster is back where it all began as the new executive chef of the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto — using those experiences in his approach to his current role.
The Fairmont Royal York is currently undergoing a massive renovation, which is expected to be completed by the summer of 2019. As the driving force behind the property’s new menu — from which Foster and his team of approximately 120 prepare 4,000 to 6,000 meals on any given day — the grand reopening of the hotel represents a new challenge for the experienced culinarian.
Foster also oversees the hotel’s rooftop garden, apiary, and culinary apprenticeship programs.
As the creative culinary director, Foster looks to infuse imagination into the hotel’s four new dining concepts to now oversee a total of eight venues along with banquets, in-room dining and the new Fairmont Gold Lounge offerings. Foster says his guests can expect a bold, modern and authentic experience as he honours the hotel’s rich history with a focus on sourcing local, seasonal ingredients from local producers.
“As a chef, the number-1 thing we have to do is remember we’re there to nourish people. I want to make something approachable that people will enjoy and remember,” he explains.
“[Toronto is] more than just a steak city,” says Foster. “Tapping into the diversity we have in Toronto and the range of suppliers we’re planning to work with in Ontario and Quebec, to name a few — that’s what I want to showcase.”