By Waheeda Harris
Newfoundland is not known for its culinary prowess. The “Rock” is more often associated with its own distinct variety of caloric comfort foods like cod tongues, scrunchions (pork rind topping) and jigg’s dinner (salt beef boiled with vegetables) than with anything cutting edge.
Enter Chef Jeremy Charles, who is changing the face of Newfoundland cuisine. His Raymonds restaurant in St. John’s is imagining local mainstays in new ways: you might find smoked moose tongue on the charcuterie plate, for instance; and rather than fried with chips, cod is pan-seared and served in cassoulet with mussels, white beans and fingerling potatoes.
Raymonds was named Canada’s best new restaurant of 2011 by enRoute magazine, and Charles won second place in the 2011 Gold Medal Plates national championship. He opened Raymonds with general manager/sommelier Jeremy Bonia in 2011.
What specialty dishes or local items do you recommend to visitors of St. John’s?
Local wild game and seafood such as skin on cod, rabbit and moose.
What do you love to eat that is simple to make?
Spaghetti and meatballs.
Is there a food style or trend that you would be happy to see disappear?
I call it “food confusion”—using too many ingredients without a focus.
What culinary trend are you happy to see has become popular?
Going back to the basics with cooking and using “old-school recipes”.
What’s your ideal thing to do on a day off from the restaurant?
Fly-fishing with my family and a glass of Chardonnay.
What are three Canadian restaurants you would recommend and why?
Canoe [in Toronto], because it showcases some of Canada’s finest ingredients, has great service, a wonderful wine list and offers guests a breathtaking view of downtown Toronto.
Mas Cuisine—it’s a quaint neighborhood restaurant in Verdun [Quebec, near Montreal] with creative and delicious market cuisine, an approachable wine list and friendly service.
Restaurant Au Pied De Cochon [in Montreal], which has a wonderful atmosphere and food that speaks to the Quebec culture—and the chef has a passion for pork.