At One restaurant, in the hear of Toronto's five-star Hazelton Hotel, Mark McEwan knows the value of happy cooks and healthy recipes.
Cooking with fresh seasonal ingredients makes one happier where it counts most: in the kitchen. At One restaurant, in the heart of Toronto’s five-star Hazelton Hotel, Mark McEwan knows the value of happy cooks and has worked hard to develop a strong culinary culture since the restaurant opened in August 2007.
“You create a culture within the walls of your kitchen. And if the cooks start with great product and open communication, that goes a long way toward making them happy, which is good, because happy cooks are good cooks,” explains McEwan, award-winning restaurateur and star of The Heat on Canada’s Food Network. His two other restaurants, North 44 and Bymark, carry the same ethos.
One’s executive chef, Drew Ellerby, has worked alongside McEwan for more than six years and is perpetually buoyed by his multi-dexterous mentor’s philosophy. “Our style at One is very much founded on simplicity, delivering the goods with a minimum of fuss and a maximum of flavour. When you can’t hide behind garnish or under a heavy sauce, you really need the freshest ingredients. They definitely get the cooks excited. They want to see the organically grown local stuff.”
“We do as much as we can to work with the local suppliers, especially in spring and summer,” says McEwan. “Our food cost is definitely higher, especially when we are into organic heirloom vegetables and other heritage products, but that translates on the plate. The vegetables can cost almost as much as the protein. It’s important we use it, though.”
Targeting exquisite but recognizable cuisine, One changes its menu monthly to reflect the seasonal progression of product and business acumen for which McEwan is equally renowned. The restaurant serves not only its own guests, but also the Hazelton Hotel’s entire food and beverage requirements; the goal is a five-star experience minus the bone china and tuxedos.
“Ultimately, the food should speak for itself,” explains McEwan, who eschews the stiffness of the fine dining mantle. “I really believe that simple food is the most difficult to produce but the most enjoyable to eat. It relies entirely on the integrity of the base product.”
In July, that translates into a wealth of berries, tomatoes, spring greens, foraged mushrooms, and wild leeks (ramps). They excite Ellerby and McEwan, who try their best to harness the explosion of fresh offerings.
“The Ontario season arrives like a freight train during the summer,” says McEwan. Roasted ramps is a favourite, and he recommends cutting the greens for either blanching like spinach or incorporating into a mash before boiling and roasting the bulbs like a small potato.
With a strictly Canadian cheese board boasting bites of the country’s 300 or more artisan cheese makers on a rotating schedule and a policy of encouraging access to the surrounding seasonal bounty, One is a testament to conscientious yet comfortable dining.
Next on the plate for McEwan is a 23,000-square-metre (248,000-square-foot) food emporium slated to open in the fall of 2008 replete with the freshest ingredients–and a signature line of ready-to-go creations.