Rob Arthur squeezes out a living at The Juice Box
The Chef’s Table
by Luke Arbuckle
Organic farming practices have become a common theme among Island chefs in recent years. More now than ever, head chefs are looking for local organic suppliers to fill their menus and none more than executive chef Rob Arthur at the Juice Box in Montague.
For over 40 years, Rob has been building his recipes around his access to organic products. At times, it’s proven to be a difficult task. “I started in the kitchen at Ponderosa when I was 16,” Rob said. “We didn’t really have anything very organic back then, but over the years it’s become a more viable option.”
Rob said it was fate that he end up on PEI. Originally from Britain, Rob moved to Ontario at age 11. By the time he was in his 40s, he’d received a degree geological exploration (gold), worked in kitchens across Canada, owned an organic farm and opened his own 40 seat restaurant. “I’ve tried to do as many things as I could,” he said.
“Last February, I sold the restaurant in Newfoundland and was on my way back to Ontario. I must have been looking for something a little different, I just turned around and decided to visit PEI.”
A few days later, it was decided. Rob was making the move. “I fell in love with it and saw the potential,” he said.
“I knew right away I was going to live in the Cardigan/Montague area.” Last summer, while visiting the Cardigan Farmer's Market, Rob ran into Jana Furness, Owner of The Juice Box, a small, organic juice, soup and sandwich shop at the market. “She mentioned that she was expanding her business and was looking for an organic chef,” he said.
“I told her a little about my history and intentions on PEI and we’ve been a team ever since.”
Now, from their Main Street location in Montague, Rob specializes in gluten free cuisine, organic soups, salads, sandwiches and baked goods. He uses as many local producers as possible and makes everything on the menu from scratch. “Recipe development and creativity are interchangeable to me,” he said. “I like to try different things, many chefs put too many constraints on their flavours, I try to keep things a little more free. Berries in a sandwich, ham in a gluten free, savory muffin. Healthy food is really exciting.”
Rob said he’s here to stay and soon hopes to have another organic farm in the works. “I want to start it up and supply local establishments with their produce,” he said. “It’s a growing market, one I’m already experienced with and I am passionate about it.”
The soup menu alone at The Juice Box is enough to convince most people of Rob’s outside-the-box take on traditional cuisine. Ranging from Caribbean Curry, to Carrot and Lentil, Parsnip and Pear, Kale and Garlic, Rob offers a wide variety of healthy options and delicious flavours.
“If we can get it from PEI, we do. If we can get it organic, we will,” he said.