Meet Chef Jeremy Hayton from The Mill Stone Restaurant & Bar. Jeremy grew up in Stratford where he fell into a culinary career more so than pursuing it. He ended up staying because of his new-found passion for food and cooking. When speaking about Stratford's culinary landscape and how it has influenced his cooking, Jeremy says, “the best part of being in this industry in this area is the plethora of amazing farms and producers so close to us.” When it comes to Jeremy’s favourite dish to cook, he enjoys making the Crispy Chicken Sandwich the most!
|Question||Where did you grow up?|
|Question||What or whom inspired you to pursue a culinary career?|
I actually fell into a culinary career more so than pursuing it, but I stayed because I have a passion for food. The passion is definitely a product of my parents; our dining room table often went unused as we spent most of our time cooking and picking away in the kitchen, not letting the food get much further than the pans much less on to plates and into the next room. Whether it was a regular evening or a 1:00am summer BBQ, 90% of my memories at home growing up revolve around food in one way or another. That has ingrained a level of joy in cooking for me that, even during the most stressful summer nights, make me really enjoy what I’m doing every day.
|Question||How has the culinary landscape of Stratford and area influenced your cooking?|
The best part of being in this industry in this area is the plethora of amazing farms and producers so close to us - heritage breeds and heirloom varieties of almost anything you can think of. Amazing cheese, delicious farmed fish and even some of my favourite beers are all accessible within a 15-minute drive, at most! Working with the smaller local suppliers allows us to develop more meaningful relationships and learn about the products on a much deeper level. This results in the food I serve being a reflection of the season, with menus being updated on a weekly basis and completely overhauled with each new season; everything being so close and contained really allows for a genuine interaction with the environment and with our area - past menus become a sort of archive for that year’s growing seasons.
While the size of our area definitely has some wonderful advantages, such as the examples outlined above, there are some drawbacks. With most of the traffic in the busy summer months coming from tourists visiting the Festival, it does create a slight lack of variety in demographics; putting more of an emphasis on certain traditions and expectations. Certainly, much creativity can be born from restrictions, but it does sometimes mean that ideas have to be “pulled back” a little bit in order to sell, whereas they may be able to be pushed farther in a larger, more diverse market. This past season was quite interesting though, with the play bill bringing in a bit of a different and more energetic crowd the average diner was noticeably more adventurous and engaged with the whole experience than I have seen in past seasons.
|Question||What dish are you most proud of creating?|
I'm tempted to give a more complex dish as my answer, but this past year my Crispy Chicken Sandwich has been a standout and I am quite proud of the creativity held in a familiar and approachable package.
For some of the reasons outlined in the last question I wanted a comfortable staple on the menu, but I get a bit tired of the same "southern style" iteration of chicken sandwiches and wanted to play with it a little - I love the crunchy cornmeal coating of southern fried chicken, though, so that definitely had to stay! I took influence from Korean cuisine, another area I personally associate with fried chicken, to finish the sandwich:
Buttermilk-marinated chicken thigh, dredged in masa & cornmeal and fried. Topped w/ kimchi, cucumber, cabbage & pepper slaw, Korean BBQ sauce, pickled onions, soft poached egg (The soft poached egg adds some necessary fat to balance all the acid in the various toppings, and also some interesting theatrics and engagement as it is served open faced).