There are many reasons to visit Muskoka: the small town ambience; the pristine lakes; its world-renowned golf courses. These days, there’s another excellent incentive thanks to the tremendous growth of its dining scene. We asked some of Muskoka’s most prominent kitchen captains about their restaurants, their cuisine and the area’s emergence as a foodie-friendly destination. Watch this space for a new chef every week of the summer!
CHEF MICHAEL RICKARD
One Fifty Five, Bracebridge
Tell us about your restaurant and its philosophy.
All of our dishes are house-made from the finest available ingredients using traditional French techniques. We have endeavoured to create an affordable fine dining experience in a comfortable environment—light and fresh at lunch, romantic at night.
The Muskoka region is gaining popularity as a dining destination. Why do you think this is?
As an up-market destination for cottagers and tourists and with the influx of retirees from the Toronto area, there is an ever-growing demand for a better dining experience.
What are your thoughts on the local food movement?
I think the local food movement, as promoted by Savour Muskoka, is a great thing. Supporting our local purveyors is good for the diner, restaurateur and farmer. I find local food and produce to be fresher and tastier. It gives me a great feeling to “buy local”—a feeling of being connected to the life of the land around me. It’s a bit more work as a chef to buy local as you have to be more attuned to the local market, but it’s definitely worth the effort.
What inspires you to cook?
I am passionate about food and I like to be creative. I was raised in the hotel industry and so was lucky enough to live in places like Malaysia, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda and the United States, where I was constantly exposed to a variety of local foods as well as the fine cuisine served in the five-star hotels my father managed. I’ve also travelled and cooked in such places as England, New Zealand, Thailand, Mexico and British Columbia, widening my culinary horizons. My parents are both very good cooks, so I guess you could say that cooking is in my blood.