Renowned chef brings taste of Newfoundland to Edmonton students

Jeremy Charles is NAIT’s 2020 Chef in Residence, which gives students the chance to learn firsthand from some of North America’s top chefs.

Jeremy Charles will work with NAIT's culinary arts students this week

Jeremy Charles, NAIT's 2020 chef in residence, prepares whelks, a Newfoundland sea snail, with culinary arts students. (Supplied by Bryan Alary)

Culinary arts students at NAIT are getting a crash course in diver scallops, sea urchins and Newfoundland cod under the tutelage of Jeremy Charles.

Charles, NAIT's 2020 chef in residence, is co-owner and chef at the locally sourced fine-dining restaurant Raymonds in St. John's. In 2017, the New York Times called Charles a "visionary chef" and in 2018 he was featured on Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknown TV series.

Through his work at Raymonds, Charles promotes ingredients that are foraged, fished and hunted locally. His hope is to showcase Newfoundland's local ingredients to the restaurant's customers.

"You come to Newfoundland to really get a sense of place," said Charles, who spoke with CBC's Radio Active on Monday.

"We're so fortunate to serve wild game, moose, rabbits and partridge and all the beautiful things from the Atlantic Ocean."

In 2006, Charles opened the now-closed "Atlantica" restaurant in Portugal Cove, Newfoundland. It was all about food you couldn't find in Newfoundland. But since then he's had a change of direction wanting to showcase homegrown ingredients, having said before "You don't come to Newfoundland to eat pineapples."

The recipes Charles uses at his restaurant come from traditional meals he cooked with his mother and grandmother. Many of the recipes were used in his 2019 cookbook Wildness: An Ode to Newfoundland and Labrador.

To work with students in Edmonton this week, Charles brought 10 boxes of seafood with him. Charles and NAIT's culinary arts students will prepare a three-course lunch and four-course dinner Thursday at the school's restaurant, Ernest's.

Charles said a big part of what he does is celebrate things that can be found to eat in your own backyard.

He would like to see chefs in other provinces also use wild game in their ingredients.

"It's a challenging topic," Charles said. "We've been doing it for generations. But I know that a lot of my friends across the country find it quite challenging because there's so many beautiful wild game across the country that can't be put on the table."