On St. Laurent Boulevard in Ottawa, Canada, in the penthouse of a luxury condominium building, a breath of fresh air blows through a new restaurant.
Le St. Laurent restaurant, with its panoramic views of Ottawa and beyond, was opened in July under the leadership of Executive Chef and GM Ryan Edwards.
The concept, says Edwards, is a marriage of high-end, post-modern décor, sophistication, sweeping views, and a menu rooted in both local produce and the groundbreaking cuisine he learned in the kitchen alongside Ottawa’s “godfather of cuisine” John Taylor.
“I worked for John Taylor, who is known as the godfather of local cuisine, for almost a decade,” Edwards says. “In ‘cooking years’ that’s like a lifetime. I shared Taylor’s love affair with food, and was inspired by him, by the local farmers who produce our produce, and now, I’m lucky enough to bring that knowledge and passion to Le St. Laurent.”
In this week’s Q&A with Recipe for Success @ Boxerbrand, Edwards discusses in the ins and outs of creating a restaurant in the sky overlooking Ottawa.
Q: What is your concept?
The vision for the restaurant is tied to the concept of the building we’re in, which was the dream of a local, self-made millionaire. Everything from the style of the building, to the lifestyle of the residents, was originally planned by the developer.
We’re a very modern building, which leans toward a mix of art deco and a mid-century modern appearance. The building is very beautiful, with gold tones and rich woods.
The restaurant is an extension of that beauty. It’s in the penthouse of the building, with west-facing, panorama views that are inspirational.
Our concept as a restaurant is to marry the beauty and style all around us with the pleasure of a beautifully prepared plate.
Q: Please tell me about your menu.
I make what I love and would serve people in my own home, and am confident that if I love it, our guests will too.
I try to use as much locally sourced product as possible, buying from local farmers during their growing seasons. We use a lot of root vegetables and meat from Canada.
As for our flavor profile, Canada is a country of immigrants with no real food culture. So, I pull from global spice and seasonings to enhance our local products.
Q: What is your background in hospitality?
I started at the front of the house as a waiter and bartender when I was in my 20s. I did that for five years and found I was really drawn to the back of the house, with the chefs and the action. So, I went to cooking school and graduated at age 27, and forged a relationship with Chef John Taylor. Under his tutelage I developed my style and passion for locally grown, regional cuisine.
Shortly after he retired and left the region, the opportunity to come here was offered.
Q: What advice do you have for someone who hopes to make a serious career in hospitality?
Do your homework. A lot of people now see opening a restaurant as a romantic notion. But, it’s a lot of work, and you need to know this going in. Restaurants are no longer a ‘license to print money’ the way they used to be. This is because costs of operations have gone up. So, you really need to understand this, and to be passionate both about food and business. I work 12-hour days, but because I love it, it doesn’t feel like work.
My other advice is to find a good location. If you find a spot where four restaurants have opened and closed, take that seriously. There could be a problem with the space, and you need to investigate that going in. Also, make sure to find great staff. And treat them like your family.
Q: And you liked the Boxerbrand menu covers?
I have to tell you that I’m always a little leery ordering something I see online, but when the boxes of menu covers arrived and I opened them, I was really happy. They’re beautiful! — Le St. Laurent of Ottawa uses Boxerbrand’s Metallic Tones line in its table presentation. Thank you!