In the Kitchen: Steve Vardy, The Adelaide Oyster House

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Acclaimed Canadian chef Steve Vardy describes his new restaurant, The Adelaide Oyster House in St. John’s, Nfld., as being “like a house party every night — a really, really busy house party. [It’s a] ‘be-kind-or-leave’ sort of approach, with food and vibe heavily influenced by the places I’ve been.”

His culinary style, he says, is intensely personal. “I cook what I love to eat and from the influences of my travels,” explains Vardy. “It’s all over the map, but has to be sexy and vibrant. I believe a chef’s style is a reflection of who they are.” A joint venture between Vardy and his two partners, Peter Quintin and Peter Brushett, The Adelaide Oyster House opened to rave reviews in 2014 and has been generating buzz from coast-to-coast. In 2015, the seafood-centered joint was number seven on enRoute Magazine’s Best New Restaurants in Canada list.

While the menu is constantly being refreshed, some of the current features include Albacore tuna sashimi with lemon, truffle oil, Newfoundland honey, popcorn and almond crumble ($14); Wuxi pork belly with fresh egg noodles, ginger-scallion sauce, red chilies and nuts ($18); broiled oysters Adelaide served with house-made bacon, cream cheese, jalapeño, panko and parmesan ($19); and Torched Tuna Tataki with house-made wakame (edible seaweed), Chinese black mushroom salad and ponzu ($15).

Vardy didn’t start at the top in Canada’s culinary world — cutting his teeth by learning the restaurant business from the ground up. “One of the first jobs I had was as a dishwasher at the age of 14 and I haven’t left the kitchen since,” he says. “[I] really couldn’t imagine life without it; it’s given me almost everything.”

After graduating from Algonquin College’s Culinary Management program, he honed his skills working with some of the best chefs Canada had to offer, including world-renowned chef Michael Smith. He’s taken home four consecutive CAA/AAA Four Diamond Awards, as well as Ottawa’s inaugural Epicurean Chef of the Year award in 2006 and a third-place finish in Canada’s Gold Medal Plates — dubbed Canada’s unofficial Culinary Olympics.

Vardy’s skills are in high demand among celebrities. During the course of his career, he’s prepared meals for A-listers such as The Rolling Stones, Counting Crows, Robert Plant, Joni Mitchell, Diana Krall, Journey, Liam Neeson, Kate Blanchett, Wayne Gretzky, Tori Spelling, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger, Rick Mercer and “too many NHL’ers to list,” he says, adding Prime Ministers Jean Chrétien, Paul Martin and Justin Trudeau (before he was PM) have all been clients.

While the Adelaide Oyster House is still new to the scene, Vardy is already looking ahead — his dream is to settle in B.C. “My only goal is to live in Tofino one day soon,” he says. “[It’s] my favourite place on earth and the only place that feels like home to me.”

Volume 49, Number 6

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