That’s where he and a dedicated team present a weekly Saturday dinner event from spring to early fall, featuring local foods and wines. In addition, the 60-year-old chef is a consultant for the Niagara Falls restaurant Windows by Jamie Kennedy Fresh Grill and Wine Bar and he also teaches at Durham College.
Panoram Italia: When did you first become enamoured of Italian culture and why?
Jamie Kennedy: In Toronto in the late 1970s when I experienced a restaurant called Biffi, on Mount Pleasant. It was my first introduction to an Italian experience that felt more Italian than going to a pizzeria. I remember the service being bustling and friendly. It felt Italian and genuine. The ingredients were simple, but excellent. Olive oil was featured, and Parmigiano Reggiano and fresh pasta and beautiful grilled fish with just lemon and olive oil. It wasn’t fancy; it was just ingredient-driven, simply prepared, served in this wonderful ambience and it was just a thrill. And then I went to Italy soon after. I was staying in Paris and my girlfriend and I decided to take a trip to Venice. I felt I was being embraced in this other culture that was very food focused. Wine and food together was an important part of the day. It was a wonderful, eye-opening cultural experience.
PI: What was your favourite experience when you visited Italy?
JK: I was hosted by the Einaudi winemaking family in 2004, (when Kennedy travelled to Torino and the surrounding Piemonte region as a delegate of Slow Food’s Terre Madre conference). That was part of Carlo Petrini’s (the founder of Slow Food) vision as well – to introduce delegates to Italian life. The Einaudis were based in the little town of Dogliani and they produced a Dolcetto – a grape variety indigenous to the area – and they produced a beautiful Barolo they were famous for. Beautiful wines, beautiful storytelling, beautiful food – that same Italian tradition of simple dishes done very well, served with local cheeses, charcuterie, olive oil, red wine and some pasta. It’s just a very natural food existence Italians have.
PI: Any favourite Italian foods?
JK: I love rich things. Gorgonzola is so delicious. Of course, Parmigiano Reggiano. I love the dry goat’s milk and sheep’s milk cheeses and olive oil.
PI: Complete this statement: “Italy is …”
JK: Italy is a land of wine and food. Each province in Italy has its own wine appellation. Food culture is very important.
PI: What are elements of Italian culture that you really like?
JK: Fashion and design in general. I have a lot of respect for industrial designers like Alessi. I love the joie de vivre that Italian people have and probably even more so those who are involved in the food industry,primarily chefs. I don’t have any Italian roots myself, but I think as a part of our Canadian cultural mix, we can’t help but be affected by what the Italian people have contributed to our culture in areas such as design, fashion and engineering.
PI: What is one Italian-made product that you own?
JK: I have a stovetop espresso maker from Alessi. It’s genius how it’s put together. I don’t think any other country would come up with such a great idea. I’ve worked with Italian machinery like pasta makers and ice cream machines for many years. The precision and the integrity and their long-lasting quality are things I admire.
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