We’ve had an incredible Harvest Wednesdays season so far! From local food fairs in the gallery to Harvest Table dinners, we’ve wined, dined and connected further with Ontario’s growing season.
And behind the success of each and every Harvest Wednesdays event is the Gladstone’s very own chef de cuisine: Katie Venables Lloyd. Leading the Gladstone’s kitchen for the past three years, Katie has invigorated our menu with local and organic ingredients long before we decided to bring the beloved Harvest Wednesdays series back. Katie’s motto is that simple food doesn’t have to be overly complicated to be delicious: “Quality ingredients will always shine through.” She’s championed the Harvest Wednesdays series, bringing Sherry’s veggies from farm to table and crafting fresh and delicious dishes that celebrate Ontario produce.
(Chef Katie with the Garab from Tibet Kitchen right before our Taste of Parkdale Food Fair)
We sat down with Katie to hear more about her passion for local food, cooking with Sherry’s veggies from Chick-a-biddy acres C.S.A. and what it’s been like to collaborate with guest chefs over the season’s harvest. Don’t forget to snag your tickets to the Friendsgiving Harvest Table to taste Katie’s spin on a local, thanksgiving feast with chocolates from CXBO, cocktails from Collingwood Whiskey and wine from Château des Charmes. (Tickets are available here).
What’s your fave seasonal ingredient to work with right now?
Definitely tomatoes. With seasonal tomatoes, you can instantly taste the quality and freshness. The flavour is so intense and it’s easy to savour the difference between the varieties–from a hothouse tomato to a field tomato. Sherry’s tomatoes from Chick-a-biddy Acres are definitely the sweetest tomatoes I’ve ever had!
When did you realize you loved cooking?
As a child, I was obsessed with my Anne of Green Gables cookbook. Instead of fake tea parties, I would make the real deal: sandwiches, cookies and tea. The kitchen was never off limits growing up and my parents are great cooks so I enjoyed food and loved cooking from a young age. It was a big change for me when I realized that what I loved doing at home could be done professionally. After graduating from the Institut de Tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec, I worked at some really amazing, classic French restaurants in Montreal, which formed a great base for cooking in any style. Then I worked as the sous chef at Down the Street restaurant in Stratford before coming to the Gladstone Hotel three years ago.
Why is cooking with local food important to you?
I think it’s important to cook with local food so we can stay connected to what we have around us. We need to eat what’s produced nearby and strengthen our relationships with local farmers to really understand the beauty of the produce in our backyard. Plus, it tastes so much better! No matter the quality originally, if food travels thousands of miles to get to you, it will not taste the same when it arrives.
Cooking local has always been part of my mandate. There’s a huge focus on it in Stratford where local food is right on your doorstep, literally in your backyard. Even though it’s less accessible in Toronto, staying connected to the harvest is something I’ll always bring to my kitchen.
What do you love about cooking with Sherry’s ingredients?
Sherry’s produce is special. It’s incredibly fresh and there’s a huge variety. You can tell that a ton of care has gone into how it’s planted, picked and delivered. By eating her food, you really get the farm to table experience. I love seeing what veggies we have to work with from our C.S.A. box each week.
What are some ways you’ve incorporated Sherry’s produce into your main menu?
In addition to making the veggies that are the highlight of our Harvest Table dinners and Sip and Savour events, we love to incorporate Sherry’s harvest across our entire seasonally focused menu. We’ve enjoyed using Chick-a-biddy’s kale this summer in our popular kale caesar salad dish. We also have a fabulous BLT with fresh baked bread, bacon, really fresh ingredients–Sherry’s tomatoes bring it to the next level.
Through the Harvest Wednesdays series, your kitchen has become a very collaborative place. So far you’ve opened your kitchen to Newcomer Kitchen, Suzanne Barr of Saturday Dinette and Food Network host Bob Blumer and soon Jamie Kennedy. What has this experience been like?
It’s been an amazing experience having different chefs come into our kitchen. We love seeing different techniques and being able to show guest chefs what we do here. A highlight so far was our day with the cooks from Newcomer Kitchen. These are women who have a passion and love for cooking and it was inspiring to make a meal where the joy of food was really at the heart of it.
What do you hope guests will experience when they come to a Harvest Wednesdays event or enjoy local food on your menu?
Just like I’m always surprised by what’s in the C.S.A. box that gets delivered to my kitchen each week, I hope guests will be surprised by what the seasons have to offer, feel a connection to the harvest and enjoy incredible local food.
Taste Katie’s passion for local food at the next Harvest Table Friendsgiving dinner on Oct 5! Your $70 ticket includes 4 courses of Thanksgiving-inspired cuisine, 2 glasses of wine, 1 cocktail, and dessert from Chocolates by Brandon Olsen. Tickets are available here.