Jamie Kennedy: Good food as a way of life

Jamie Kennedy's first cookbook in more than a decade.
Jamie Kennedy’s first cookbook in more than a decade.

J.K. The Jamie Kennedy Cookbook is much more than a cookbook. It’s a warm and personal memoir by one of Canada’s most influential chefs connecting a collection of 121 of his favourite recipes—with appealing reportage photography rather than the highly stylized photos usually seen in cookbooks.

The new book is very much like J.K. himself: Personable, down to earth, without a hint of ego or pretense, with a vision of good food as a way of life seasoned by four decades at the leading edge of gastronomy in Canada.

Like no one before him, Jamie Kennedy popularized eating and cooking with local, sustainable and seasonal ingredients, a theme that runs through the book.

Official launch party at Gilead Café & Wine Bar last night.
Official launch party at Gilead Café & Wine Bar last night.

For cheese lovers, there are two chapters on cheese featuring a dozen recipes that we cannot wait to try—all using Ontario cheese, of course. Here’s a sampling:

  • Pickled Vegetables with Niagara Gold Fondue
  • Sheep’s Milk Cheese-Filled Squash Flower with Fresh Tomato Sauce
  • Potato Gnocchi with Thunder Oak Gouda Sauce
  • Wild Rice Crackers that are always included in J.K. cheese plates.

J.K. makes special mention of the cheddars from Black River Cheese, the gouda from Thunder Oak Cheese Farm, and Niagara Gold from Upper Canada Cheese. Cape Vessey, a firm goat cheese made by the original Fifth Town Artisan Cheese, is also cited. He gives credit to Petra Kassun-Mutch of Fifth Town and Ruth Klahsen of Monforte Dairy for helping to reshape and revitalize the artisan cheese industry in Ontario.

Those who have been fortunate enough to attend the Gastronomy on the Farm dinners on the Chef’s own farm in Prince Edward County, held in conjunction with The Great Canadian Cheese Festival, will recognize many photos and the anecdote about a sudden summer rain filling champagne flutes before the reception started.

Those who attended the Cooks & Curds Gala at the first two Cheese Festivals will find the recipes for Chef’s famed frites and his braised beef and braised oxtail poutines in the book.

What would a Jamie Kennedy event be without his famous J.K. Fries?
What would a Jamie Kennedy event be without his famous J.K. Fries?

Scattered throughout the book are testimonials and comments by a broad range of J.K. alumni, food writers, family members and other chefs. Michael Stadtlander, with whom J.K. launched legendary Scaramouche, provides the foreword. Three quotes:

Much of the food we enjoy in Canadian restaurants today is the result of Jamie’s work in the local food movement, as he has influenced generations of chefs who share his pioneering spirit and love for real food.

—Chef Michael Stadtlander, Eigensinn Farm and Hai Sai

Now I realize that just about every major trend that would blow through Toronto in the next decade was already encapsulated in (Jamie Kennedy’s) Wine Bar: Small plates. Reasonable prices. Deliberately casual ambiance. Do-it-yourself chacuterie and preserves. Very serious cheese.

Food writer James Chatto

Nobody ever says it, so I will: Jamie Kennedy is possibly one of the most important chefs in Canada in the last fifty years. Period. Ever. You get what I’m saying? What was Canadian food until forty years ago?

—Chef David McMillan, Joe Beef, Liverpool House and Vin Papillon

We obtain the obligatory autograph from Chef.
We obtain the obligatory autograph from Chef.

Much of the credit for the success of the book belongs to Ivy Knight, who helped J.K. write the text, and to Jo Dickins for the marvelous photographs. Ivy Knight says of the experience: “Jamie has been lauded for years, ever since, at age 25, he took the reigns as head chef at Scaramouche. It absolutely boggles my mind that he has never turned into a raging egomaniac, but instead is kind and calm and has his feet firmly on the ground. I can’t think of any other chef who’s been in the game this long who can still be found working the line during a lunch rush. ”

J.K. says it was truly a collaboration that lead to the finished product published by HarperCollins Publishers and sold by Amazon and Indigo.

It’s must-read. Order it online, buy it in a book store . . . or have lunch at Gilead Café & Wine Bar, buy the book there and ask Chef to autograph it.

 —Georgs Kolesnikovs, cheese-head-in-chief at CheeseLover.ca and founder of The Great Canadian Cheese Festival and Canadian Cheese Awards

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