HUNTER. GATHERER. CHEF.
When you hear that a restaurant has accolades such as World’s 50 Best, Canada’s Best New Restaurant and Best Award of Excellence; you’d expect a formal, uptight, and exorbitantly priced place in the middle of Manhattan, right?
Not so. Meet Jeremy Charles. Just like the Swiss Military watch he wears, Jeremy is a multi-tasker. The bearded, flannel-wearing chef, owner, fisherman, hunter, forager of Raymond’s and The Merchant Tavern in St. John’s Newfoundland. Just like the watch he wears, Jeremy is a multi-tasker, a true performer who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty.
You’ve spent over 10 years on a cross-continental journey from the wilderness of the Canadian Shield and Molson Fly Fishing Camp to the big cities of Los Angeles and Chicago. Now, you run Canada’s top restaurant. What is a typical day in the life of Jeremy Charles like?
I have two children two and five years old, so they take up a lot of time and get me up early (laughs). I’m running two restaurants (Merchant Tavern and Raymond’s), so we’re up and on the go just sourcing products. A big focus for us—especially at Raymond’s, is serving locally sourced Newfoundland products every night. Every product is from Newfoundland—even the plates are made locally—so we do a lot of talking and ordering with our suppliers. Just this morning, we were out jigging codfish, walking in the woods picking mushrooms, and going through local farms picking vegetables. Just sourcing all beautiful ingredients. We open the doors at 5:30 p.m. so the day starts early to get all the mise en place ready. It’s fun and exciting but a lot of work!
It sounds like a lot of work! So with all of those things going on, how do you make time for your personal life?
Over the last few years, I’ve certainly been taking a lot more time for the family. It’s super important with kids. Being able to go fishing, it’s almost like my therapy, you know? Just salmon fishing, catching trout, and really enjoying my environment. We work hard in this environment, but we also enjoy it. I’m just really making sure I take the right time to enjoy it with my family and for myself.
Speaking of your environment, with Raymond’s, you really tend to tell the story of Newfoundland through the food. What do you typically scavenge and cook?
Well, we’re always in the woods, whether it’s hunting or picking wild berries or mushrooms. We’re so fortunate here that we’re able to serve wild game. So we hunt for moose, rabbits, partridge, grouse, and so on. If it grows here and lives here, it can go on the menu. We spend a lot of time educating ourselves on what is edible and working with different techniques to serve different ingredients. It’s always exciting and fresh and is why I love what I do.
It’s very interesting that Newfoundland is one of the very few places that is able to serve wild game. Do you prefer that to the big cities?
I’ve definitely had a wonderful time travelling, and have met some great people and have some great experiences living in some great cities. But, to be able to live and cook off the land and bring those ingredients to the table is something very special and unique. It’s great that we can deal with the whole animal and use all those bits and pieces that you’d never get if you were in the city. It just shows a real respect for the animal. And it makes for a unique dining experience and really creates a true sense of place. You know where you are when you’re eating at Raymond’s
So what’s next for you?
That’s a good question. Well, I’ve got two restaurants, two children, so I’m definitely treading lightly right now! I’m just taking it a day at a time and trying to surround myself with good people. Nothing too crazy. I’m just going to take some time for myself and spend more time in the woods.
SHOP JEREMY'S SWISS MILITARY STYLE:
Photography: Cormac Mullane
Location: St. John's, NL