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Lifelong Passion

Jared Acorn at The Pilot House

Chef’s Table
by Luke Arbuckle

Jared Acorn displays one of his favourite dishes, the scallop and pork duo. (photo: Luke Arbuckle)From the time he could see over the counter to watch his uncle prepare large family dinners at Christmas, Jared Acorn knew he belonged in the kitchen.

By his 16th birthday, Jared was working behind the grill of Wendy’s. It may not have been his dream job, but Jared says he owes a lot of what he knows to the years spend serving up fast food. “I have to give that job some credit, it taught me a lot about time management in a fast-paced kitchen,” Jared said.

Gradually, Jared worked his way into other, more formal kitchens throughout Canada. “I spent time in the kitchen of the Dunes Cafe and the Claddagh Room before heading out west,” Jared said. “After spending a couple of years out in kitchens out there, I returned home and back to the Dunes.”

There was never any doubt about Jared’s passion for preparing food, so in 2000, he signed up at the Culinary Institute and three years later, graduated as a Red Seal chef.

Eventually, he heard about a position had opened up at The Pilot House. Jared had spent five years there already and knew it was a good fit. He returned to The Pilot House earlier this year and has been hard at it since. “It’s by far one of the best places I’ve ever worked,” he said. “Not only is it a good working environment, but the cooks are encouraged to try new things and experiment with different recipes.”

Jared says his favorite food to work with is anything seafood. “I love working with seafood, halibut, salmon, oysters, I love experimenting and a good chef needs free reign to try new things.

“As the head chef here at The Pilot House, I let my staff know it’s okay to try something new, something a little bit different, that’s how we learn and that’s how we get better at what we do.

“Over the next few week’s we’ll be changing the menu up a bit for the winter months, but there’s no way we’re going to change the scallop and pork duo. “If there’s anything I can recommend, it’s the duo.”

Jared manages a team of three to four people per night at the restaurant and on average serves anywhere between 200 and 300 customers per evening. “Especially on weekends, when the sun goes down and we get ready for dinner service, it’s go time,” he said.

Jared said he thinks he’ll be in The Pilot House kitchen for some time to come and just recently began the construction of a house in York Point.

The Downwalls

Talking Bands
by Luke Arbuckle

The Downwalls are, L-R, bassist “Puddy,” singer/guitarist Jordan MacPhee and guitarist Mike Drew. Missing from photo is drummer Ben Schulman. (photo: Luke Arbuckle)Charlottetown rock band The Downwalls are shifting gears this fall, as they prepare to record their first six track EP before Christmas.

The Downwalls arrived to the scene four years ago when singer/guitarist Jordan MacPhee made a pizza delivery to the household of “Puddy,” a local bassist. The two recruited friend and guitarist Mike Drew and drummer Ben Schulman.

Since then, the band has been a regular headliner at many local venues and have decided it’s time to start recording.

“We’re trying to release a six song EP by Christmas and if things go the way we hope they will, we should have a full LP released in six months to a year,” said Jordan in an interview with The Buzz.

“We’ve worked on a lot of different material over the years and the EP will be a mixture of the things we’ve learned and songs we’ve written,” he said.

With influences like Radiohead, The Beatles, the Misfits and The Strokes, The Downwalls call their sound rock-based, but with a heavy blend of other elements, they’re at home writing anything from ska to folk, punk to country.

“We do a lot of writing independently,” said Mike. “Then we bring it together and iron it out. We’ll ask ourselves what we haven’t tried yet and do that.”

In their early twenties, The Downwalls are still young enough to embrace the spirit of rock and cause the odd ruckus. Puddy recalls the first house party the band played. “It was at a friend of ours’ house and we’d been asked to play, it was a great show and really awesome audience, but the next day our buddy got an eviction notice and that was that,” said Puddy. “But we were told to play loud and for as long as we could. The customer’s always right.”

When asked about the origin of their name, the band explained they try to use music as a way to break barriers (or walls) in communication. “We like to think that music can go beyond the limitations of language and speak to everyone,” said Jordan.

The band also has a compassionate side. Jordan once played guitar 24 hours straight to raise money for famine support in the Horn of Africa. “I raised $2,000 and the government matched it, so it was $4,000 in total towards the cause. It felt good, but my fingers were pretty sore,” said Jordan.

The Downwalls will be playing in local venues throughout the fall and winter while they iron out the details of their EP. Look for it to hit the streets by Christmas and make sure to check out the Music Live section of The Buzz for show listings.

Chef de parti

Aaron Ferrill at Water’s Edge

Chef’s Table
by Luke Arbuckle

Chef Aaron FerrillOriginally from Victoria BC, Chef Aaron Ferrill arrived to the shores of PEI six years ago, little did he know, he’d discover his career and build a family here on the Island.

Aaron took to the kitchen when his parents opened a restaurant in Victoria. He spent a year washing dishes and gradually worked his way up the ladder to executive chef. “I did a year as a dishwasher, these started to cook, I had to work my way all the way up,” Aaron said. “It was tough at first, trying to start a career by washing dishes, but after a few years it was worth it.”

Fast forward 20 years and Aaron’s found his way across the country and now works as chef de parti at Water’s Edge in the Delta Prince Edward, Charlottetown.

And he couldn’t be happier.

“It took me a while to make this my home, but I love my job and I have a family now, I love them too. They’ve made it easier to call this my home,” he said.

Aaron’s trip to PEI was only supposed to last six weeks, but shortly after arriving, he met the love of his life and found the job of his dreams. “The plan was to backpack Canada for a few months, but I found myself really enjoying the Island. What was supposed to be a six-week visit quickly turned into a six-year stay,” said Aaron.

The 39-year-old chef said he’s tried his hand at many types of work, but always came back to the kitchen. “I’ve done lots of odd jobs, but always found myself back in the kitchen, it’s where I belong,” he said.

He’s worked as executive chef at other hotels and for a time, even worked as a chef at a youth detention centre in BC. “That was a unique experience, it taught me a lot about preparing food for different types of people,” said Aaron.

Now that he’s found his home, he said he’s finally able to work at a job that not only challenges him to be a better chef, but manage a kitchen, develop and implement menu items and practice the science of food preparation.

He said he thinks he works in the best kitchen in the area. “I think I work at the best place on the Island,” he said. “We designed and cook our own evening menu, probably run a smaller crew than most other restaurants in town and we’re very proud of trying to do things a little differently. Every menu we create is fundamentally different.”

Managing a staff of three, on a busy night at Water’s Edge, the kitchen can serve up to 100 three-course meals and run up to three or four different menus per night. “It gets pretty busy at times, especially during tourist season, but we all love what we do and I think people can tell when they eat our food,” Aaron said.

Water’s Edge serves a variety of unique dishes, from lamb to monkfish and a large variety of different entrées. Aaron said he highly recommends people try the steak or scallop dish. “I’ll be completely honest, while all the food we serve is a little different and very delicious, the steak is unreal and the scallop dish is a best seller,” he said.

“We’re all about flavours and the science of feeding people. As a hotel restaurant, we see many tourists, and change the menu up regularly depending on the season.”

Some day, Aaron would like to have the chance to open a bed and breakfast on PEI, grow his produce in the back yard and have a nice little restaurant inside. “Part of being a chef is the dream, why not dream big.”

Improv Improves

The Popalopalots

Review by Luke Arbuckle

So, you take seven funny guys, give them a drink or two (if they want one) and put them on the main stage at The Guild in Charlottetown. No script, no rehearsal, no rules. Yes it’s random, yes it’s foolish, and yes, it’s completely, utterly hilarious.

The Popalopalots (no, I don’t know where the name came from, but I can only imagine) are, Benton Hartley, Cameron MacDonald, Graham Putnam, Dylan Miller, Jordan Cameron, Justin Shaw, and Rob MacDonald. Each of them knows how to put on a show, together they deliver an improv performance not soon to be forgotten.

As an improv group, every performance is different. Audiences can expect to participate whether they like it or not and the comedy is so off-the-cuff it doesn’t matter if they hit every joke… Sometimes it’s funnier when they don’t.

The beauty of an improv performance is that no matter what happens, it’s funny. Whether one of the guys nails a well placed rhyming line or completely draws a blank, hang his head in temporary shame and walks off stage, it’s funny.

And these guys know it.

Not in a ‘I can do whatever I want because I’m funny’ kind of way, but in a professional, ‘just roll with the punches’ way. A large part of what keeps the audience roaring is the randomness of it all. Theoretically, one could buy a ticket to this show every week, and each week would be an entirely different performance.

I’m not sure too many cities the size of Charlottetown can boast an improv group of this calibre and I strongly recommend seeing them more than once. The sheer wit and gonads required to take this level of improv to the stage makes this show a special kind of night out.

Tourist or local, it doesn’t matter, you’re not going to see these on-stage antics anywhere east of Montreal. The high level of audience participation leaves you with a lingering sense of dread. The ‘don’t pick me, but please pick the person I’m with’ kind of dread.

And these guys know it.

That’s the beauty of improv. One minute you’re laughing at a good rhyme or smooth joke, the next minute you’re part of one. Take it or leave it, it’s up to you, but it will be funny either way.

Don’t let me make you think there is no formula to this performance, the Popalopalots use a variety of audience selected scenes, characters and circumstances. While the audience is allowed to decide those, the execution is entirely up to the performers. And at $15 for a two hour show, that's a good trade.

Popalopalots play every Saturday from July 6, to September 28 at 9 pm.

So, there you go, something to do next Saturday night before the bar, (Yes, you can order drinks at the show,) and yes, it’s an awesome time.

I mean, how could it ever not be hilarious? When they hit the joke it makes you laugh, when they completely miss the joke, you laugh harder. Seeing this show is a win-win…win.

Childhood Memories

Emily Wells from The Dunes Restaurant

Chef’s Table
by Luke Arbuckle

Chef Emily Wells (photo: Luke ARbuckle)In a time before competitive cooking shows or celebrity chefs, when kitchens were still run by men, chef Emily Wells defied the norm and followed her passion into a long and successful cooking career.

Born in Europe, Emily moved to the Island with her parents. Her family was originally from PEI, but moved for work during the 60s. “In 1974, they decided it was time to return to Canada and we moved to Alberton where my Dad’s family roots were,” said Emily.

Her mother had always shown an interest in Island cuisine and had grown accustomed to cooking with european ingredients. Although frustrating to find at the time, Emily uses these memories to create her dishes. “It was definitely a cooking-culture shock moving here,” she said.

However, she and her mother developed a style and recipes that worked with what was available locally at the time. A style Emily has perfected with the help of readily available produce. “Mom collected mussels at our shore before anyone was farming them here and our chowder at the Dunes Café, is my version of the bouillabaisse that she made with local seafood,” she said.

Emily was among the Culinary Institute’s first graduates in 1985. She found work quickly and spent the early part of her career running kitchens at various restaurants in Ottawa. “I had the good fortune of cooking during a time when many changes were taking place in Canadian cuisine,” said Emily.

“As the face of Canadian immigration changed and people were arriving from Asia, Africa and South America, so changed the sort of restaurants and menus that were opening and it coincided with the average Canadian becoming more interested in food…not just eating to live, but living to eat.”

As the industry evolved, so too did the flavours and Emily’s style.

For 10 years, Emily has led the busy kitchen of The Dunes Restaurant in Brackley. In the belly of what is arguably, one of the most beautiful structures on the Island, Emily and her team produce a verity of ethnic and local dishes. “We have a couple of signature items, the Mediterranean chowder, our version of a Vietnamese Pho and Thai Pad Thai and the Grazer’s Plate which I developed from memories of childhood Saturday lunches at our house when my mother often created a smorgasbord of little dishes and we sat around the table with family and friends, eating and talking,” said Emily.

So, if you’ve find yourself in the Brackley Beach area over the summer months, and most of you will, I would suggest you stop into The Dunes. Let chef Emily Wells show you how a passion driven professional defines delicious.

Honest Humour

The Island Summer Review

Review by Luke Arbuckle

The Island Summer Review is a fresh take on PEI story telling. A delightful combination of humor, music, satire and sarcasm. From the beautiful stage at the Harmony House Theatre, the show blends traditional sounds with new-aged storytelling techniques that keeps the audience on their toes.

The comedic and musical stylings of Patrick Ledwell and Mark Haines provide a fascinating roller coaster of emotion. Between foot-stomping fiddle tunes, heartstring tugging anecdotes and side-splitting comedy, audiences are hopelessly captivated at all times.

Though only a two-person act, Ledwell and Haines take command of the stage with such presence a full comedy troupe couldn’t have you laughing any harder. A 35-year veteran of the stage, Haines is a master of musical theatre with legendary storytelling abilities. Ledwell captures the humour in every situation, even in response to unsolicited audience participation, his wit is sharp and hilarious.

A step above enabling Islanders to laugh at themselves, the show provides witty and pertinent insight into the social, political and cultural landscapes of PEI. This in turn, allows for Island visitors to leave the experience not only highly entertained, but more enlightened to Island ways and maybe even some of our secrets.

The show provides an opportunity for Islanders and visitors alike, to look inward at how we identify ourselves and each other. It’s a compilation of Island frustrations, opinions, and everything else we so often gripe about over breakfast. For two hours, they lend audiences the ability to see the humor everyday Island life.

As professionals, Ledwell and Haines understand that the average person can only laugh for so long before it hurts. They pace themselves and perform melodies of traditional music with brilliant lyrics and deliver a performance so impassioned it would sweep the audience off their feet if only they weren’t stomping so hard. Soon, with sore hands and feet, the audience roars again with laughter.

A remarkable display of Island talent, humour, music and honesty, The Island Summer Review plays at the Harmony House Theatre in Hunter River until the end of August.

Whether you’re an Islander yourself or a visitor to these shores, this show is something to deeply consider. A broader perspective on all things PEI, and a good ol’ fashioned time await you.

Passion for the Kitchen

Stephen Wilson is the executive chef at Mavor’s

Chef’s Table
by Luke Arbuckle

Chef Stephen Wilson (photo: Luke Arbuckle)While not everyone is comfortable standing over a hot stove in the stifling heat of a midsummer kitchen, a select few have found their callings between the grease traps and hood fans of Charlottetown kitchens. Chef Stephen Wilson is one such individual.

Born and bred in Charlottetown, from an early age Steven drew inspiration from family history and took a keen interest in the culinary industry. “I’ve always had a fascination with the cooking business, my grandparents were in the business many years ago, so it’s a bit of a family thing,” said Stephen.

He wanted to try a few different things after high school and took a couple of years off before attending the Holland College Culinary Institute at 23. “I knew I wasn’t ready yet and wanted to be more mature when I went to college,” he said.

Admittedly a bit of a greenhorn in the kitchen when he began the culinary program, Stephen found his element behind the stainless steel counter tops. “When I started at the culinary, I didn’t really have much kitchen experience, but it wasn’t a problem, I cared about it enough to learn fast,” said Stephen.

By 2003, he’d graduated from the program and while briefly concerned he might have to leave PEI to find work, he landed an intern position with Dalvay By the Sea in Stanhope. He would call that kitchen home for the next six years. “It was an awesome place for me, I learned a lot while I was there,” said Stephen.

With advancement in mind, he accepted a position at the Rodd Mill River Restaurant. He was quickly promoted to executive chef and spent six more years getting better aquatinted with the finer details of the culinary industry. “They gave me my first shot at executive chef and I was able to learn more of the business side of things like food and labour costs,” he said. “If you want to advance in this industry, you have to know those things.”

Just over a year ago, Stephen, now 35, was hired as executive chef at Mavor’s Restaurant in the Confederation Center of the Arts. He’s happy with the move and the long hours he now spends in Mavor’s kitchen. “But it’s not work, it’s something I truly enjoy,” said Stephen. “I have a passion for it so the long hours over a grill never feel very long at all.”

So while being confined to a hot kitchen on a muggy summer day may not be the average person’s idea of a good time, you can be confident chef Stephen Wilson at Mavour’s Restaurant is standing over the grill with a smile on his face, eagerly waiting to prepare your next meal.  Oh, and he’d like to suggest the crab cakes from the evening menu. “They’re what I would call my signature dish,” he said.

A Couple of Cooks

Taylor Brown and Christine Friedmann at the Georgetown Inn

Chef’s Table
by Luke Arbuckle

Christine Friedmann and Taylor Brown. The map on the left illustrates where they get their ingredients and how to get to each location. (photo: Luke Arbuckle)Many chefs will tell you they aspire to run their own kitchens one day, to create their own menus and personally select their ingredients. They’ll tell you it’s a difficult path, one fraught with long hours and bottomless grease traps. “But it’s worth it,” they’ll say, because it’s what they love to do.

So when culinary team Taylor Brown and Christine Friedmann decided to take over restaurant operations at the historic Georgetown Inn this summer, they were ready to meet the challenges head-on. “It’s been a steep learning curve,” said Taylor.

Trained at the Culinary Institute in Charlottetown, Taylor, a Red Seal chef and Christine, a professional pastry chef, are building their flavors completely around local produce. “So far, we’re getting the bulk of our ingredients from almost 30 different local producers all within about an hour’s drive,” said Christine.

“Our menu is designed to give people the truest flavors eastern PEI. has to offer, we meet with our producers regularly and believe a good restaurant should work closely with the community,” said Taylor.

The Georgetown Inn showed its community spirit during the lobster strike recently, when they removed lobster from their menu and issued public support for the fishermen’s plight. “We wanted to show our support to the fishermen by not serving lobster while they’re not fishing it. It’s a matter of fairness and community unity,” said Taylor.

Lobster has since returned to the long list of Island dishes served at the Georgetown Inn, and with specialty desert and drink menus filled with Island sweets, no local flavor will be missed.

It’s not just a passion for us to cook the best food we can and try new things, but to use food we recognize, grown by people we can shake hands with, said Christine. “We can look out the window and see where our mussels come from, or walk down the road to get our lobster,” added Taylor.

“It’s been a lot of work getting ready for the summer, finding our producers and creating those relationships,” said Christine. “But it pays off in the friendships and helps build a sense of self-sufficiency within the area. There’s no middleman to raise costs or cut prices, everybody wins.”

Anyone wanting to get a true taste of eastern PEI. is encouraged to stop by and pay a visit to Christine and Taylor at the Georgetown Inn. They’ll be in the kitchen working hard this summer to create and serve new Island dishes.

That’s what they love to do.

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