Becoming a chef was part of a natural evolution for Daniel Clements.
He cut his teeth on the business in Muskoka where his parents had Bass Lake Restaurant while growing up at Foot's Bay on Lake Joseph. Although he was quite young when they owned it, he was still involved in the domestic chores and helping out.
Clements started his career at the nearby Deerhurst Resort while attending the culinary management program at Fleming College in Peterborough.
It’s since taken him to Georgian Downs in Innisfil, several restaurants in downtown Barrie and the former Village Inn in Thornton, where he served as the executive chef, as well as Shutters in Barrie, which is now The Farmhouse near the city's lakeshore.
He also taught part-time at Georgian College and then joined the full-time support staff in Barrie 12 years ago.
Now, the chef technologist at Georgian College’s School of Hospitality and Tourism will share his talents and ideas with BarrieToday readers as a regular columnist. Look for his new column, called Chef's Table, beginning later this week.
“I always seemed to have a talent for cooking. It was something that came easily and it was something that I enjoyed doing,” he says. “I had an opportunity to really enjoy good food at home.”
His mom and grandmother were both good cooks. He remembers his grandmother frequently forging, pickling and preserving, drawing on her European heritage.
“She would go out berry picking and then make jam every year,” Clements said. “There were large vegetable crops and gardens at home all the time, too. Potatoes and onions and carrots were grown and preserved and put in the root cellar.”
Clements says he developed a keener interest from that hands-on access to food, where it comes from and how it reflects on our lives. He hopes to draw on all that for his Chef's Table column.
“I’m really hoping to do a broad spectrum of topics, covering everything from local food producers, seasonal ingredients, tips and tricks and just kind of focusing on what’s going on here in the city and some of the great stories we have,” he says. “As well as some of the stuff we have going here at the college, talking a little bit about our students, and the future of hospital and tourism and the restaurant industry in general.”
The area has a rich urban/rural mix which he expects to draw from, Clements says. Barrie has that city feel, but it is surrounded by rich farmland, which extends right to the Holland Marsh and is considered the vegetable basket of Ontario.
There's the “apple pie trail” in the Collingwood-Meaford area, Georgian Bay fisheries, as well as maple syrup, local poultry and meat production all around us.
And then there are all those restaurants.
During his 20 years working in Barrie, Clements says he has noticed a change in the demographics and the style of restaurants downtown.
“The predominant restaurant business in Barrie has always been very much chain-oriented. The chains are always the most successful," he says. "You look at The Keg and it’s the number one restaurant in town. But we have lots of great independents that deserve the praise and the story-telling as well.”