We share a commitment to social activism, and I admire his keen support of communities in need through “Chefs for Change” and countless local charity events. He’s been a fixture of the prairie food scene participating in events like Raw Almond in Winnipeg and the Prairie Grid Dinner Series. His cooking and affable personality won him the admiration and respect of his peers and the attention of national and international food media.
Not long ago he sent me a note to say he was accepting a position with the Calgary Fire Department. We met for lunch over Christmas to talk about the realities of the Canadian restaurant world, and the future he was looking toward. There was a lump in my throat the day he posted a selfie on social media in his new uniform.
I'm happy for him and fully support his new life. I'm proud to know him and to have his trust. My respect for him grows knowing he's making family and quality of life a priority.
But I also need to speak of the small crack in my heart left by his departure, and to register the loss of a great Canadian chef.
In culinary schools and restaurants in Canada, we train the young, to replace the young. We voraciously chew through talent. That's the sum of our culture. The lofty talk of a new order falling from the lips of chefs on the "cool" conference circuit is hollow. We lap it up without asking hard questions. The reality is most chefs and restaurateurs lack the will and stomach to do the hard work of changing. When pressed, they drag out the tired, worn-through argument of tight margins. We don't pay chefs with experience their value, our demands on them are relentless, and we think nothing of interfering in their private family time.
The Calgary fire department is lucky to have you, Jamie. Maybe one day soon my knees will be under the table in a firehouse kitchen when you're at the stove. I hope there’s still stuff for us to talk about for a long time to come.