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Query the Cook #2: Chef Luke Kennedy of Bannock

As part of our 2011 Dining Guide, we asked a few of the city’s chefs about their work, and what dishes to expect from their kitchens this season. Luke Kennedy is Chef de Cuisine at Bannock.

Bannock offers regional Canadian cuisine in a casual environment. Why do you think this style of cuisine and dining have become so popular in recent years?
Casual is popular right now because of the economy. The restaurant industry always ebbs and flows with the economy. Also, diners are more educated and the magic show of ultra-fine dining doesn’t play out as well as it used to. Why is Canadian cuisine popular? Because we have a young generation of chefs exploring their own country.

What’s the secret to making good bannock?
There is no one true recipe; there are hundreds to choose from. The key is to find a recipe you are comfortable with—and don’t overmix!

What are the dishes you’re most excited about serving in the coming months?
Braised meats all the way! Working in a comfort food restaurant, I’m going to get to serve some heavy, cold-weather meat dishes.

Do you have a signature dish when you cook at home?
It used to be sushi. I’ve recently purchased a pressure cooker to play around with so I’m going to try doing a whole chicken stuffed with rice that my old chef in England used to do for his kids.

What’s the best piece of restaurant advice you’ve ever received?
Push yourself. Hire people who are better than you.

Are there any chefs whom you particularly admire?
Basilio Pesce at Biff’s is a very good cook. Robert Belcham (of Vancouver’s Refuel and Campagnolo) is the one chef who’s shown me how much there is in the world, cooking-wise; how many opportunities there are, how big it is out there. Oliver & Bonacini executive chef Anthony Walsh has an admirable work ethic. He’s very hard to keep up with.

What do you do to keep yourself inspired as a chef?
Eat! Eat! Eat!

What is your favourite restaurant in Toronto?
I honestly think Biff’s is fantastic. Basilio is such a natural cook. I think he’s a bit of a secret in the city.

What can diners do to ensure they get the most out of their experience at your restaurant?
Share and eat family-style. Have the duck poutine pizza as a shared appetizer—it’s over the top. Or order something on the menu that you used to eat as a child, like tourtiere, pea soup or chicken pot pie.

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