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Bringing It On Home

Chef Kyle Panton brings his vision to Sim’s Corner

Chef’s Table
by Luke Arbuckle

Kyle Panton (photo: Luke Arbuckle)Born and raised in the Island community of Belfast, executive chef at Sims Corner Steakhouse and Oysterbar, 26-year-old Kyle Panton has big plans for the restaurant, his future, and the Island food industry.

Kyle started cooking at 15, when his mother opened Christine’s Country Cupboard near Belfast. “It was straight into the dish pit,” says Kyle. “But I worked hard and liked what I was doing.”

Kyle didn’t waste any time and enrolled at the Culinary Institute after completing high school. He graduated from the institute in 2008 and left to explore the industry. “After graduation, I wanted to try something a little different and left for Toronto,” says Kyle. “I landed at job at Splendito, it was ranked the number one restaurant at the time and I learned a lot about fine dining.”

After a year or so in Toronto, Kyle returned to the Island and began working his way up the ranks in the kitchen at Sims. “I spent most of my time on the grill,” says Kyle. “I worked on anything steak for a long time.”

As happy as he was at Sims, Kyle still wanted to see the country. When an opportunity opened up at the chalet restaurant Grappa in Kananaskis, Alberta, he was excited to try something new. “It’s beautiful country out there,” Kyle says. “I was an amazing experience and I learned a lot.”

An Island boy at heart, Kyle moved back to PEI in 2012 and rejoined the team at Sims, this time, as head chef. In his first year back, Kyle won the 2012 Savory Food Award for his striploin and lobster bearnaise. After winning the award, the dish was added to the Sims menu.

In 2013, during an invite-only event, Kyle matched his culinary skills against chefs from across North America and took first place at the International Seafood Chowder Competition. “Being from PEI and bringing home an international award for seafood is something I'll never forget,” says Kyle. “There are so many talented chefs out there, I’m just happy to bring the award home.”

He’ll defend his title in September 2014, but in the meantime, is working on a different project.

Kyle’s culinary vision is not limited to the kitchen. With the help of his cousin, he started his own farm in Belfast and in 2014, plans to provide Sims with produce grown from the gardens at One Vision Farms. “It’s always been a dream of mine to run a kitchen, but for me, growing the produce we use in the kitchen was always part of that dream, so that’s what I’m trying to do,” says Kyle. “I think it will be a great learning experience for me and a good business opportunity for the restaurant.”

Kyle says the farm’s name came naturally. “One Chef, one farmer, one vision—The plate.” It’s a mantra Kyle hopes to live by for years to come.

A Bright Idea

Chef James Oja fills the Orange Lunch Box

Chef’s Table
by Luke Arbuckle

Chef James Oja, owner of the Orange Lunchbox in Charlottetown displays two of his culinary inventions, the Wake & Bake and the Squeal Piggy Squeal. James says none of the menu items were named before they were tasted. “We let them name themselves.”Many chefs will tell you it’s their dream to one day own their own restaurant, even more will tell you how difficult it can be. For chef James Oja, the journey’s been one of highs and lows, but at the end of the day he’s accomplished what so many other have dreamed of.

Shortly after graduating from the Culinary Institute in 2010, James spent a few months working odd kitchen jobs in Charlottetown and helped local restaurants iron out their service and menus. He spent some time with Famous Peppers working on their pizza menu and helped the folks at Black & White revamp their kitchen.

James says he was privileged to work around town in different capacities and really go t to know what Charlottetown has to offer. “It was a great learning experience and really got me out there working with other local chefs,” says James.

“It was around that time that I realized what my next steps were going to be.”

By the summer of 2011, James had purchased a bright orange food truck and was parked in various locations along University Avenue. His idea was to provide gourmet street food to anyone interested enough to stop by and he made sure build a menu the likes of which Charlottetown had never before seen.

“I wanted my food to stand out, to bring something completely different to the area, offer choices and flavours from outside the box,” he said. “It was a very successful summer, I learned more about cooking and managing kitchens, especially how to deal with kitchens on wheels.”

With summer wrapping up and encouraged by the success of the Orange Lunchbox, James set his sights on a more permanent venue for his gourmet hamburgers. He parked the mobile kitchen and moved into a new location on University Avenue.

Since then, James says he’s had his fair share of highs and lows. “The business end of things is great, we get a lot of support from locals and still focus on giving people something they normally wouldn’t think of. The Howie and the Porky Pig are two of our most popular dishes,” James said. “The Porky Pig took third place in the Great Grilled Cheese Competition last year and we’re really proud of it.”

James admits as dedicated a chef as he is, owning his own restaurant can be difficult at times and public relations has never been a strong point for him. “I got us in a little bit of trouble a couple of times early on,” he said. “It wasn’t big deal, but social media is an important tool for business owners and I took a few lessons from that.”

James had tweeted a reply to a local foodie who was trying a new restaurant in town. The tweet was picked up by local news stations (making a fuss over what they called “Burger Wars”) and received over 300,000 views in two days. “It wasn’t great PR, but lessons were learned and we’ve moved on. We still have a lot of local support and are thankful for the experience,” he said.

“All in all it’s been an amazing journey, something I can look back on in the years to come and feel proud, I took the chance, gave it my all and hope to continue to do what I love.”

In addition to the restaurant, James plans to have the mobile lunchbox up and running again this summer.

Colour Code

Talking Bands
by Luke Arbuckle

Colour Code in the basement of Hunter’s Ale House the evening of their EP release. The band is, Emilee Sorrey, Sam Rayner, Morgan Wagner, and Mitch Gallant. Bassist Evan McCosham was on stage at the time of the photo. (photo: Luke Arbuckle)No strangers to the pages of The Buzz, the Island alternative pop group, Colour Code is back to provide a little more insight into who they are and what they’re all about.

Together since 2011, Colour Code is a young five-piece band from Charlottetown who combine orchestral textures with light, indie-pop sentiments.

This year, Colour Code was nominated for three PEI Music Awards, Group Recording of the Year, New Artist of the Year, and Pop Recording of the Year for their debut album release, Houle EP released on January 10.

The band is Sam Rayner on guitar and vocals, Emilee Sorrey on guitar, vocals and keytar, Morgan Wagner on violin and keys, and Mitch Gallant on drums. Until recently, the band played with Jon Millington on bass, but when Jon took a job in Ontario, local bassist Evan McCosham stepped up to fill in.

Sam says it was sad to see Jon go, but Evan's been a great help keeping the band focused on a busy season as the PEI Music Awards and ECMAs come to town. “He’s really helped us out and we're glad to have him on board,” said Sam.

On January 10, the band released their first EP, Houle. Mitch says the band was stoked and the album is an accumulation of hard work over the last few years. “We did our recording in a few different places and a couple of tunes at a time,” Mitch said. “It’s been a real learning experience, but we made some pretty awesome memories too,” he added.

One of the bands favorite recording sessions took place at Sam’s cottage in North Rustico. “We had Adam Gallant and Colin Buchanan come out and set everything up, it was a lot of fun and we learned a lot about getting the exact sound we’re looking for,” Sam said. “The main reason we wanted to record at the cottage was because there are no distractions and it’s easier to focus.”

The name Colour Code came from a sticky-note party the band held shortly after they got together. “Sam likes alliteration,” said Emilee. “We weren’t set on it but played a battle of the bands for our first show and used the name, as it turned out, we won the battle and the prize was a showcase at the ECMAs. Before we knew it, the name was printed all over the place, I guess it was just meant to be,” she said.

Morgan says the band plans to keep touring throughout the spring and summer and hope to make it back to some of the festivals they played in the Toronto area. “We’ve toured the Maritimes a bunch and played the North By Northeast festival in other years, it would be awesome to make it back there or play some other festivals,” said Morgan. “We’d like to tour this album a little bit and take it as far as we can and we want to thank Charlottetown and our fans here for being so awesome.”

A Lifelong Pursuit

Executive Chef Dominic Serio, The Brickhouse

Chef’s Table
by Luke Arbuckle

The newest addition to the Brickhouse team, executive chef Dominic Serio is changing things up. Here he serves a newer menu item, the smoked peameal bacon sandwich with signature garden green salad, smoked ketchup with lettuce and tomato on a soft pretzel bun. Domenic says it’s their take on a BLT. (photo: Luke Arbuckle)One of the Island’s best young chefs has recently become executive chef at the Brickhouse. With him comes a revamped menu and a list of credentials and accomplishments a mile long. As national vice president of the Canadian Culinary Federation, Dominic Serio is the youngest chef to ever hold a position on the board.

Only 31-years-old, Dominic has spent almost half his life in kitchens across North America and six of those years enrolled as a student the Culinary Institute in Charlottetown.

Dominic knew when he graduated from high school he was going to pursue a career as a chef, but wondered where he’d further his education in the field. He researched his options and was soon on his way to PEI.

Graduated from the Culinary Institute in 2006, Dominic returned the next fall and enrolled in the pastry chef program. After graduating as a pastry chef in 2007, he went back for his applied degree. “I was a lifelong student at that school,” he says.

Since leaving the Culinary in 2009, Dominic has worked with several of the Island’s best, including, Marc Gregory at the Delta Charlottetown and Jeff McCourt at Red Shores. Dominic went on to work as sous-chef for Sims Corner Steak House. He worked in Nantucket at the Westmoore Club, a private members club, and spent three years in the kitchen at the four diamond Inn at Bay Fortune.

He says he’s excited to open a new chapter and take the reigns as executive chef at the Brickhouse. “I swear, this place has the best staff in Charlottetown and I couldn’t be happier about being a part of the team,” says Dominic. “Not only is it an awesome environment, but the food was good before and we’ve done a lot of work dialing it in lately, the menu is unlike anything else you’ll find around.”

The revamped Brickhouse menu includes a new menu layout and more items. “We want to try something a little different, new flavours and different meals.”

One of Dominic’s specialties is the Bolognese, named for Bologna, Italy where it was created. It’s a secret family recipe passed down to his grandmother and now to him. “It’s pasta and brazed meat simmered in red wine and tomatoes,” Dominic says, “but the exact recipe is a family secret and anyone who wants it will have to ask my grandmother and I don’t think she’d tell.”

Dominic says he has a lot of fun with the open-kitchen concept at the Brickhouse. “It pushed the levels of our professionalism and engage customers directly, it’s actually a lot of fun,” he said. “I’m not a yeller, but I might yell. I’m not a pot thrower, but I might throw a pot.”

A huge advocate for Island ingredients, in 2012, Dominic, then head chef at the Inn at Bay Fortune, won the Taste Our Island Award for taking their menu above and beyond supporting local.

It’s a focus Dominic said he’s going to continue at the Brickhouse. “Supporting local producers and even distributers is really important and I make the ingredients used in our menu are as locally grown as possible.”

“This Island’s treated me well and I want to return the favour as best I can.”


Talking Bands
by Luke Arbuckle

Charlottetown band Vanquisher are heating up the Island music scene with their Bay-area thrash metal sounds. In this promotional shot taken last summer, the band is, from back left, singer Chalen MacPhail, bassist Walker MacDonald, drummer Mike Haywood, guitar players Anthony Gautier and Ross Ellis. Note the absence of tattoos. (photo: Luke Arbuckle)Tucked away in the darkest corners of the Island’s music scene is a band who have latched onto the essence of metal and the dark side of rock. They’re inspired and hellbent on taking PEI's metal scene to the next level.

Known as Vanquisher, the five piece bay-area thrash metal band features vocalist Chalen MacPhail, Ross Ellis and Anthony Gautier on guitar, Walker MacDonald on bass and Mike Haywood on drums.

The group came together in 2010 shortly before playing their first show at an anti-bullying rally at a local high school. The performance was recorded and the band played it back after the show. Walker says no one was impressed.

“I think that was the moment we realized that metal sounds good when performed with some-kind of technical skill,” says Walker. “We used that experience to build our desire to play well and have been consciously developing our sound ever since.”

The band is in the process of recording their first EP, which they plan to release on cassette. Mike says the band wants to keep things traditional and working with cassette ribbons is more fun anyway. “We like the feel of cassettes,” Mike said. “We’re working on some of our own recordings and trying to keep those old school too, it’s kind-of a theme I guess.”

Regulars at Baba’s Lounge, The Guild and the all ages shows at the Cody Banks Area in Charlottetown, Vanquisher strives to deliver heavy hitting beats, technical riffs and raw emotion.

Walker says the hardest part of playing in a young band is that getting to play a legitimate gig isn’t as easy as just booking the gig. When some band members are under 18, just getting inside the bar can be a struggle. “So a couple of us aren’t legal yet, but that just means we have to have our papers signed, it’s a little extra work, but it’s worth it to play the show,” Walker says. “We’ve been kicked out of a few places for not having them signed, but that’s our fault.”

Anthony said the last two years has been a learning experience for the band and aside from a rowdy show every now and then, their shows both on and off PEI have been the best part of the experience so far. “The venues around Atlantic Canada are fantastic and really supporting of the metal scene, they understand that we’re not out to light fires or burn effigies, we just like our music with a little more rage is all,” says Anthony. “But we’re not monsters.”

Vanquisher says they’ve been writing a lot more music recently and are planning a tour around the Maritimes beginning in March. “It’s a good step for us and we hope to make more connections, both on and off the Island,” said Walker. “A couple of tours under our belt, some solid home shows and cassette sales and we’ll be on our way.”

In 2014, Vanquisher is riding a dark wave of heavy metal across the shores of Eastern Canada.

Dylan Menzie

Talking Bands
by Luke Arbuckle

Dylan MenzieNormally the Talking Bands article is reserved for exactly that, bands, but every so often, a solo artist rises to the scene with such presence and passion they can’t go unnoticed as they climb the ranks in the Island music scene.

Raised being told to follow his dreams, PEI musician Dylan Menzie has taken the advice to heart and is making his first marks on the Island scene. Only 19, Dylan has discovered a talent for music, worked hard to develop it and is taking the next steps in pursuit his passion.

A few weeks ago Dylan released his debut, six-song EP titled Heather Avenue and has been busy performing around the Island. “I’m playing fairly often in Charlottetown and have been out the Trailside in Mount Stewart. I hope to keep playing and visit some more Island communities,” Dylan said.

Recorded with Jon Matthews in Emyvale, the album is a mixture of styles grown from folk-rock, Island inspired roots. “I tried really hard to keep each song a little different without straying too far from the sound I was looking for,” Dylan said. “I started it as a demo just to get myself out there, but as I worked on it, it developed into an EP. I wanted everything to be just right and I’m really happy with it.”

Dylan grew up surrounded by music and watched his older brothers learn to play guitar, drums and any other musical instrument they could get their hands on. “I grew up around a lot of music, and watched my older brothers teach themselves how to play for most of my life. I looked up to them and did what they did and over time started to develop my own style,” Dylan said.

He chose the title Heather Avenue for his recording project because each of the songs on the EP was written in the basement of his current residence on Heather Avenue in Charlottetown. “The house on the album cover is actually the house I live in right now,” Dylan said. “I want to look back at the album some day and be reminded of where it all started.”

Currently a solo act, Dylan mentioned being on the lookout for band members and is working towards releasing his first single in early 2014.

The young musician seems to have hit the ground running and has the next few steps planned out. “The single will be a big step for me and I hope to have it released early in the new year, hopefully February if everything works out,” he said.

Dylan will be playing a number of shows in December including the Food and Warmth concert in Charlottetown on the 19th. “That’s for a good cause and something to really look forward to,” said Dylan.


Sous Chef Andrew Cotton at The Brickhouse

Chef’s Table
by Luke Arbuckle

Andrew Cotton (photo: Luke Arbuckle)Only 24-years-old, Andrew Cotton stands out among the young culinary experts on the Island.

When Andrew graduated from Charlottetown Rural High School, with no real idea what he wanted to do, he took a job in the kitchen at the Rodd Charlottetown. “I was fresh out of school and needed to find a job, turned out I really enjoyed it, I did prep work mostly but started cooking for the dinner theatre they host there, it ran six days a week and we offered a four course meal,” said Andrew.

After a while at the hotel, Andrew decided to leave the dinner theatre and try his hand in a more restaurant-style kitchen. “After a while I realized I wanted more, hotel cooking is fun, but I was anxious to get into a really working restaurant,” he said. “I wanted to try more things, things I’d never done before.”

Andrew took a position as cook at Boston Pizza and spent the next few years honing his craft before enrolling at the Culinary Institute in Charlottetown. As sure as he was about his passion for cooking, he said it was during his internship that he realized the depth of his knack for it.

While under the direction of renowned Master Chef Takashi (Tony) Murakami at the St. Charles Country Club in Winnipeg, Andrew worked hard and learned many of the secrets only the masters can whisper. “It was a private club and Mr Murakami is known for his culinary expertise. A chef at the Culinary suggested I contact him, I did and before long was being taught by one of the best, it was a very rewarding experience,” Andrew said.

Graduating from the Culinary Institute in 2011, Andrew returned to Boston Pizza as assistant manager. After about year, he decided it was time for change and in May, 2012, accepted a position as Sous Chef at the Brickhouse.

Under the direction of head chef Adam Loo, who’s now Head Chef at the Merchantman, Andrew leaned what it takes to bear the responsibility of Head Chef for a few months and prepare food in a completely exposed kitchen.

“When I first started working here it made me nervous, but once I got used to it, I realized it makes me a better chef, I can engage customers directly and I know they have a keen eye on my technique, it keeps us on our game at all times,” he said.

“In this industry, if you’re doing it right, you learn something each day that you didn’t know the day before. Every year you can look back at the year before and realize how little you really knew.”

Andrew was unable to suggest his favourite menu item for fear it could be removed, as the Brickhouse is changing things up. A new Head Chef is due to arrive in early December, Andrew said, and with a new Chef comes a new menu. “I would suggest people come in and try a bit of everything,” he said. “You can even watch me make it.”

Plain Dirty Blues

Talking Bands
by Luke Arbuckle

Simon Moore, Jason Furness, Doug Burton are the Plain Dirty Blues Band (photo: Luke Arbuckle)PEI’s blues group, the Plain Dirty Blues Band is making waves across Atlantic Canada.

Founded in 2005, The Plain Dirty Blues Band have been featured at the PEI Jazz and Blues festival, the East Coast Music Awards, Music PEI awards showcase, and the Red Island Blues Festival. Most recently that band competed in the East Coast Blues Society’s 2013 Maritimes to Memphis International Blues Competition and placed a close second.

The band’s debut album Five Dollar Cover (released January 2010) was nominated for the 2011 Music PEI Blues Recording of the Year and received critical acclaim in the East Coast Blues Society’s newsletter. Their long awaited second album Slow Burn, featuring all original material, was just released in September of 2013.

Plain Dirty Blues is Simon Moore on drums, Jason Furness on bass and Doug Burton on lead guitar and vocals. Each of the members has over 20 years experience on the music scene and have played with the likes of Este Mundo and Scott Parsons. However, it was the love of blues that brought them together to form the Plain Dirty Blues Band. With one foot firm on the blues side of music they reach into the rock side as well, the result being an original and intense brand of blues/rock which never fails to deliver.

“We’re rooted pretty deep in the blues, but we’re definitely on more of the rock end of it,” said Simon.

“But, it’s not unheard of for us to break into some jams from time to time either,” added Jason.

Best known for their electrically charged live performances, their music is a mix of original and interpretive works influenced by the likes of Buddy Guy, Freddie King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Hendrix to name a just few, the band has met for practice at least once a week for the last eight years and play shows throughout the Maritimes on a regular basis.

“That’s why we called our latest album Slow Burn,” said Doug. “We’ve been around a long time with no real need to go anywhere, we just show up for shows and keep bringing the blues.”

It’s a mantra that rings loudly with local blues fans.

“We’re a grassroots blues band and the blues seem to be coming on strong these days, especially with the younger generation,” said Jason. “Young people are starting to get back into the blues/rock scene and we’re here to give it to them.”

Recently, the Plain Dirty Blues Band announced the launch of their second album, with a CD release party in Charlottetown on November 23 at Globe World Flavors. The Band will take the stage at 8:30 pm with a live performance of their full album, including some special appearances by local blues musicians as the night proceeds.

Slow Burn features all original songs by the band. Listeners will enjoy high energy electric blues/rock including a number guest appearances by local musicians.

The trio’s raw, edgy sound will undoubtedly be cranked in venues across the maritimes over the next few months, check out the show listings section of The Buzz for details.

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