Newfoundland’s Jeremy Charles sets course for a long illustrious career.
Jeremy Charles is at the heart of Newfoundland cuisine, making enRoute magazine’s Best New Restaurant list twice in less than five years, while championing the East Coast local food movement in between games of hockey with his dad on Sundays.
The Newfoundland native’s passion for food began in his mother’s kitchen. By the time he was 16, he was working at a local bakery; three years later he moved to Montreal and enrolled at St. Pius Culinary Institute. “I just showed up, and from day one I never looked back. It was just something that fit me,” he recalls.
After graduation, the newly minted chef landed a gig working under Claude Pelletier at Montreal’s Mediterraneo (now Med Grill) before moving on to work with Michel Ross — his lifelong mentor. Soon he was applying his skills in private kitchens from Godbout, Que, — where he cooked for the Molson and Bronfman families — to Los Angeles and Chicago.
Favourite Ingredient: Jerusalem artichokes
But The Rock was calling, and, in 2006, Charles returned home to open the Portugal Cove-based Atlantica restaurant, which earned enRoute magazine’s 2007 nod as Best New Restaurant, shining the spotlight on local cuisine.
And, last year, the toque’s latest project was born in St. John’s, N.L. The new restaurant, Raymonds, was named after Charles’s grandfather, Raymond Baggs, and his GM, sommelier and “best buddy,” Jeremy Bonia’s father, Raymond Bonia.
“I had the opportunity to [open] my own place here in St. John’s, so I took a year off,” and we worked on the project for a year before opening, Charles says. With 50 seats, a 15-seat bar area and a private dining room, Raymonds offers rustic regional cuisine with a city-inspired menu, which earned the chef his second Best New Restaurant nod from enRoute.
Favourite Cookbook: “Paul Bertolli, Cooking by Hand. It’s just simple, technical Italian food — beautiful.”
Together, Charles and Bonia, introduced a seven-course tasting menu with wine pairings, similar to the type of menu that catapulted Atlantica to national acclaim. “It was probably fairly common in places like Chicago and Toronto, but nobody was really pulling that off at the time, so it really put us on the map,” Charles explains. At Raymonds, the focus is “fine dining — but it’s very approachable and uncomplicated.” Expect dishes such as pan-seared cod, mussel and white bean cassoulet, bacon, zucchini and fingerling potatoes ($39) or the seven-course tasting menu for $115 with a wine pairing ($70).
Charles is dedicated to creating regional cuisine. “I hate to use the word local,” he emphasizes, “but we have a guy who’s churning fresh butter for us; we are using local eggs. We are sourcing as much Newfoundland product as possible, every day.”
Favourite kitchen tool: “[The] Thermomix — it’s just so efficient, and it makes beautiful purées.”
It’s clear where this chef gets his inspiration for a rustic Atlantic menu. His weekends are spent outdoors moose hunting and fly fishing. And, although Charles appreciates the simple things, he has big aspirations. He’s planning to pen a cookbook about food inspired by the province’s seasons, with an emphasis on farmers. “The wheels are turning,” the chef says excitedly of the book that promises to have a lot of heart.
image courtesy of Ned Prat/Klixpix
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