By Waheeda Harris
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island chef Thomas Carey began his culinary journey in his native Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, with culinary trade programs. From there he worked his way into some great kitchens, including Spring, in Stockholm, and Chicago’s Tru, under Rick Tramonto.
He recently made Charlottetown his home and became chef of new restaurant Redwater Rustic Grille.
What specialty dishes or local items do you recommend to visitors of Charlottetown, PEI?
Having a close relationship with fishermen is a must as a chef on Prince Edward Island. One of my favourite items is Malpeque oysters, so fresh you can taste the ocean’s sweet brine and the delicate meat of the oyster. Paired with a glass of Prosecco they can make anyone’s troubles melt away.
What do you love to eat that is simple to make?
Four words: salt cod fish cakes—with Island potato, summer savoury and red tomato chow brings me back to the simpler days of my childhood. Cape Breton taught me a lot about tradition and island living.
What’s your favourite seasonal ingredient?
Chanterelle mushrooms. They are fantastic to cook with during the season because of their naturally nutty flavour and meaty texture, which enhances any dish. One of my favourite ways to use chanterelles is in pasta carbonara with fresh herbs, double-smoked bacon and sautéed chanterelles added to an egg sauce. Pour yourself a nice glass of Pinot Noir and call it a day.
Is there a food style or trend that you would be happy to see disappear?
Fast food would be at the top of the list but I do like a good cheeseburger with bacon, extra pickles and secret sauce after a good night!
What culinary trend are you happy to see become popular?
Being a locavore: eating products that come from within a small radius. There is a trust among the community and farmers to have the best products, full of nutrients and flavour. This kind of cooking brings us back to times where you cooked within your means and food was simple, which reflects my rustic style of seasonal cooking.
What’s your ideal thing to do on a day off from the restaurant?
I enjoy cruising local markets, having a glass of wine with a light lunch, catching up with friends, indulging in a little live music, and, of course, a few pints would be on the agenda.
Name three Canadian restaurants you would recommend and why.
Susur in Toronto was a favourite of mine. Chef Susur Lee’s ability to display creativity through his well-thought-out dishes exemplifies the passion and artistry that goes into every dish. He has an undeniable talent for combining French and Asian flavours with technique and precision.
C Restaurant in Vancouver: executive chef Robert Clark’s thoughts on food—his ability to inform the public with his knowledge of sustainable fisheries—means he is creating smart menus to cook for futures to come.
Gio in Halifax: I worked there as a young cook and developed a lot of my skills. It has a fantastic young chef and colleague, Vince Scigliano, and a great balance of impeccable service and food.