Chef Rawlings assesses foraged products from Deirdre Fraser-Gudranas of Vibrant Matter.
If the rising costs of rent and the fickleness of food trends weren't enough to keep them occupied during service hours, Toronto restaurateurs Kim Montgomery and Chef Guy Rawlings are looking at the big picture to sustain the success they’ve had with Montgomery's. And it all starts with a radical new approach to sourcing and serving food – one that complements the warm and welcome dining environment customers love.
With a host of experience at Bar Isabel and Bar Raval, plus consulting relationships with Bellwoods Brewery and others, Chef Rawlings has earned a lot of attention for his ability to find innovative ways to use often overlooked ingredients – from leek tops to excess bread starter – which might appear to require too much effort in the kitchen for what they offer on the plate.
And why bother with the extra effort? After all, it’s so much easier to just buy what a kitchen needs on any given day – even if it means only using a fraction of each ingredient for the sake of convenience, or flying in seasonal products from other areas of the world.
The question Montgomery's poses with every dish is, what happens when certain foods become harder to find? Or when others disappear altogether? The impact of climate change and localized economic factors have the power to dramatically alter food supply chains, all while we unwittingly enjoy what seems to be an endless bounty of food without knowing how it could all rapidly change.
1 of 4
Cabbage, Malt Vinegar, Wild Grapes, Mustard Sauce
Cabbage is a winter root vegetable easily cellared throughout the winter months. Montgomery's Malt Vinegar is made from taking waste products (the wort) from Bellwoods Brewery's beer-making process, which is fermented in-house to make malt vinegar. The wild grapes here were foraged and preserved by Chef Rawlings this past summer.
2 of 4
Black mushroom, Buttermilk Soubise, Rye Levain Crisp
Mushrooms are sourced by a local forager and distributor, Marc's Mushrooms, and the Rye Levain Crisp is made by taking leftover levain – excess starter from Montgomery's housemade sourdough bread – and frying it to become a delicious, crunchy treat.
3 of 4
Chef Rawlings ferments food as a method of preserving products at their peak, so they can be edible throughout the winter.
4 of 4
Trout-Fermented Leek Tops
Montgomery's works with local fish purveyor (Honest Weight) to source sustainable, local fish. The sauce here is made from fermented leek tops – the green parts that most people throw away – malt vinegar that's made from the waste product of Bellwoods Brewery's beer-making and leek oil.
Along with their natural drive to celebrate making and eating nourishing food, Montgomery’s has taken on a unique mission to also adapt to a world of possibilities. To help realize this mission, Montgomery and Chef Rawlings are mindful of the following core issues that shape how they express their love for great food.
Attuning kitchen offerings to local, in-season trends is not just an economic advantage but an environmentally responsible one too. Montgomery’s prioritizes working with Ontario farmers to purchase products at their peak form, then using them at their freshest. But Chef Rawlings also leverages methods that allow these products to last through harsher winter months while maintaining or enhancing their health benefits – from fermenting and preserving to dehydrating, salting, drying and aging.
Montgomery and Chef Rawlings seek out partnerships with farmers and small businesses who promote ethical and sustainable food practices. They purchase directly from local farmers as well as Amish and Mennonite communities in Ontario. The organics at Montgomery’s come from Mark Trealout of Grassroots Organics as well as distributers such as 100KM Foods, while seafood is sourced from local businesses like Honest Weight, Hooked and people like Jim Giggie, all of whom work directly with sustainable Canadian harvesters and fisherman.
Wild food products allow Chef Rawlings to explore entirely new possibilities for ingredients and flavours. However, much wild food can be difficult to cultivate and harvest – and some cannot be cultivated at all because of the nature of the plants. But since this food that grows all around us, it's a natural way to showcase what Canadian food really is.
Instead of discarding parts of vegetables, fruits, meat or fish that could initially appear unusable, Chef Rawlings tries to be creative in seeing the potential of the whole ingredient, whatever it might be. Many of us toss out the green tops of leeks, but at Montgomery’s, these are fermented and served with fish entrées. Even the house Malt Vinegar is made from the Bellwoods Brewery's discarded sweet malt liquid ("wort").
With the relaxed dining room, no-frills plating and great music, some customers might not initially notice the sustainability efforts at work behind the scenes at Montgomery's. But that's partly the point. Montgomery and Chef Rawlings are demonstrating that restaurants don't have to choose between a principled approach in the kitchen and lively dining scene out front.
Montgomery's is a NOW Access partner. Check out their current offers on nowaccess.ca.