Chef Todd Perrin looking rather happy with a recently caught fish.

Chef Todd Perrin looking rather happy with a recently caught fish.

This year Savour Stratford Perth County Culinary Festival has moved forward a couple of months to take advantage of the glorious summer weather, with celebrations taking place on July 19th and 20th.

On Sunday the 19th of July at Noon on the Toronto Star Culinary Stage, Newfoundland Chef, Star of the first series of Top Chef Canada, and all round good guy Todd Perrin will be presenting a demo where he’ll be making an unconventional Boudin Blanc with Newfoundland Cod.

Last week we sat down with him for a chat…

Good Food Revolution: Stratford is a very special place for all of us here at Good Food Revolution. What makes Stratford such a special place for you?

Todd Perrin: Actually Stratford was the place I had my first job during and after Culinary school. I worked at The Church Restaurant at the very beginning of my career and I owe a lot to my couple of seasons there. It’s always had a special place in my heart and mind and I am really looking forward to returning to see some old friends.

GFR: And what will you be doing at Savour Stratford this year?

TP:We are planning a couple of demos – we’ll be demonstrating our version of Boudin Blanc which we make with salt and fresh cod. Our second demo will be a more intimate talk on pickles and preserves, things that show up all over the menus at Mallard Cottage.

GFR: Will you be utilising any of the bounty of local Perth County ingredients during your presentation? Do you have a favourite local and seasonal ingredient?

TP:I am certain that you’ll see some great Perth County products appear during our presentations. Once I arrive on the ground there we’ll take an opportunity to scout for something we can incorporate for sure. In terms of a fave ingredients, it’s hard to look past sweet corn for me. It’s something that is very tough to grow here in NL and I still remember when I first arrived in Stratford almost 20 years ago and tasted it for the first time – blew my mind!

GFR: How is the dining scene in St. Johns, and how does it compare to the many other places you have worked/visited?

TP: It is just bursting right now with some great restaurants and chefs and a renewed focus on our local bounty. The city has a very thriving economy at the moment which makes for favourable restaurant environment of course. We are seeing the best food that has ever been offered. Having one of the continents best restaurants – Raymond’s – doing their thing has been a tremendous boost to the entire St. John’s scene and Newfoundland generally. It’s a fun place to be a cook right now.

GFR: And when you speak about local in St. Johns, what kind of ingredients are we speaking of?

TP: Of course fish pops to mind first, cod, lobster, crab, halibut, flounder, turbot. Also we have great local lamb, goat, pork. We are lucky that we get to work with wild game, moose, rabbit, partridge, seal – so we have a lot on our plates so to speak.

GFR: Speaking of seal, you recently garnered a lot of press regarding your use of seal in your menu. Tell us a little about seal, why you choose to use it, and your favourite preparations of it? I’m guessing that you may be tired of speaking about it now?

TP: Not tired of speaking about it yet, but I do wish we could just look at it as another ingredient. We treat it no differently than any of the other animal protein we have access to. We use it nose to tail, in season, because we can – no political or PR agenda. People like it, so we serve it like we do rabbit, moose, pork or lamb. I think it’s important to take advantage of what we have around us and seals are around us – lucky for us they can be delicious

GFR: Did you always want to be a Chef? Never an Astronaut or a Pirate? Or a Fisherman?

TP: I kind of fell into it. Always liked cooking and came from a cooking family, but was headed to do business at University. Realized very early that suit and tie and office job was not exactly where I wanted to be. Cooking school was my answer and I haven’t been sorry since.

GFR: Who were the most important influences in your career as a chef?

TP: Not because I am going to be in Stratford, but my first chef and sous chef and CDP, Sheldon Russell, Mr. Will and Kevin Gormley at The Church, instilled something in me that I still carry.  They were and are consummate professionals, tough, fair, and hard working. It impressed me then and still impresses me what they were able to do what they did there with a rag tag bunch of culinary students and a couple of recent grads. I try to emulate them in my management style today.

GFR: And then of course there is your Top Chef Canada experience… looking back at those times please tell us about the highs and lows of being part of such a show? I guessing that so many folks much recognise you from the show? Do you have groupies?

TP:I had a blast! Was a great time, met some great folks that I maintain personal and professional relationships still. People do recognize me from time to time – that’s cool too. Overall, it was a life changer for me. There’d be no Mallard Cottage without it – that is certain.

GFR: Do you feel that Food Television gives a rather warped view of how restaurants actually work?

TP: They probably do! I mean TV is TV – never forget that. I think that the curtain has been pulled back on what a back of house at a restaurant looks like through these shows, but they all paint a picture based on the needs of the particular show. 

GFR: On the show I seem to remember you being painted as being cool as a cucumber… but obviously so passionate about your hometown? Was this an accurate portrayal of the real Todd Perrin, or was that all simply the “magic” of television?

TP: I would say it’s pretty accurate. I recall chatting to the other cooks on the show in our season and I was very cognisant that my friends and family would be watching. I believe that if you don’t act like an ass, no one can make you look like one – TV “magic” or not. I think what you saw of me on TCC was what you get.

GFR: For people that haven’t had the opportunity to try your food before, can you describe a dish that you think reflects what your restaurant is all about? What characteristics and ingredients distinguish the cuisine of Todd Perrin?

TP: We try to make “solid” food, food that makes you feel warm and comfortable, maybe brings your mind to a time around a family table with your grandma – something like that. Comfort food? Family style? It’s basically whatever we feel like making, based on what we have found that day or week and we just try to make it taste as good as we can. Sounds a bit simplistic, but that’s what we do – or at least try to!

GFR: Which dish or ingredients would we NEVER find on a menu of yours? Your pet peeve(s)?

TP: Grilled Pineapple – nuff said.

GFR: Stratford has always been one of my favourite culinary and cultural destinations. As well as presenting your session at Savour Stratford what else do you hope to do with your time there?

TP:See some friends, stroll the lake, eat, and likely a pint or 2. Can’t wait, it’ll be a blast!

GFR: Thank you for your time Todd, we look forward to seeing you in Stratford!

Jamie DrummondEdinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution
… And he remembers the first time he met Todd and telling him some rather unsavoury jokes.