Chef Scott Bailey’s resumé must sport some pretty impressive credentials:
A year and a half spent furthering his management skills at Oakville’s busy and buzzworthy Compass restaurant;
Eight years of apprenticeship, working his way up to Chef de Cuisine in the kitchen of Ancaster’s Old Mill, under “farm to table”, seasonal food guru, Jeff Crump;
A stint at The Fat Duck, a Michelin-rated, three star restaurant outside of London, England, famed for its molecular gastronomy;
Being named one of the Ontario Hostelry Institute’s “Top 30 Under 30” best young talent in the food and beverage industry across Ontario, at the age of 24.
And now, Bailey, who is still under 30, has achieved an important goal. About four months ago, he began to set up the kitchen for his very own catering business in Hamilton at the corner of King and Locke. Called City Farm Catering, Bailey says that the business will plan and customize all sorts of parties or projects — from dinner parties for people in their own homes to weddings or baptisms or banquets.
Bailey says, “I want the company to work as a convenience for people. They can pick up meals certain nights of the week so that it’s fast, but it will still be a healthy meal. Right now it’s very much a one man show — I don’t want to keep a staff in the kitchen but will bring people in if I need them. Of course, if it’s wildly successful and I become a millionaire …”
City Farm Catering is so new that it has not, as yet, set up its own website, so anyone wishing to contact Chef Scott may do so by phoning him at 905/512-1959 or emailing at email@example.com.
Customers can be assured that the food will reflect Bailey’s belief in local produce and seasonal menus. Not surprisingly, for a protegé of Jeff Crump, Bailey insists upon “working with what we have.” It’s just sensible, he says, when food is in season, it not only tastes better, it is also less expensive. And his cooking philosophy embraces a precept of simplicity.
“I really have no specialties. I’m more interested in the basics of cooking. Doing simple things really well. It’s not necessarily ‘fine dining.’ For example, I like to make basic fried chicken, with a perfect buttermilk soak and a perfect flour dredge. Or, making a fillet of fish with a really crisp skin.”
Bailey has been working in kitchens since he was fourteen — by the time he was seventeen he was managing Attic Pizza in Stoney Creek — and that was before he went to Niagara College to get his chef’s diploma. And he still likes to cook at home!
I ask him my standard interview question: “What is the worst mistake that home cooks make?” And he quips, “Cooking at home …”
But later, he suggests that time management is crucial — getting everything on the plate at the same time without overcooking or undercooking, is a really important skill — and, no doubt, one that he will be demonstrating in our Go Cooking session on Monday, July 20th. He has had lots of teaching experience, conducting classes for the LCBO, and is looking forward to interacting with our Go Cooking audience.
His menu for that evening is like an ode to Ontario summer. The centrepiece is fresh pickerel, perfectly pan seared. (From Lake Huron, he explains, betraying his attention to detail, because the pickerel from Port Dover will be out of season by then.) It’s a substantial yet light meal, with a beautiful balance of sweet and sour — tangy lemon ricotta with honey-braised grapes; the sweetness of local strawberries playing off against the tart flavour of Ontario rhubarb.
We hope you will be able to join us.
And since the chef is still fine-tuning his recipes, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite ways to use those Ontario strawberries that are finally at the market.
Strawberry and Orange Soup
adapted from Lucy Waverman’s “Seasonal Canadian Cookbook”
juice of one orange
1 tsp (5 mL) icing sugar
3 tsp (45 mL) honey
1 (259 mL)cup plain yogurt
1/2 (125 mL)cup milk
1- 5 and a half can (156 mL) apricot nectar
1tbsp (15 mL) peach schnapps (optional)
1) In a blender or food processor combine 1 and a half cups strawberries with the orange juice and icing sugar. Purٞée until smooth.
2) Add the honey, yogurt milk, apricot nectar and liqueur. Combine together.
3) Transfer to a large bowl and garnish with the remaining strawberries. Serves 6.
This is not really sweet, in spite of the honey and sugar. It’s very refreshing served ice cold as an appetizer for a summer lunch.