Chef Jonathan Gushue of Newfoundland. Submitted photo
Chef Jonathan Gushue, a Newfoundlander with many credits to his name, can now say he runs one of the world's best 100 dining rooms.
That's according to the San Pellegrino World's Best 100 Restaurants awards which listed Langdon Hall's Dining Room in Cambridge, Ont., 77th. One other Canadian restaurant also made the list - Calgary's Rouge, led by Chef Paul Rogalski, is listed 60th.
To say the list is prestigious is an understatement. Think about it. Of the thousands of extraordinary restaurants in the world and in cities like Paris, London, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Toronto, Montreal et cetera, to have a restaurant in Cambridge, Ont., listed is heady stuff.
"I could not believe it. We were totally shocked," said Gushue from Langdon Hall.
"Everyone here is very happy and proud. There has not been a Canadian restaurant on the list since 2003. This award is voted on by the industry only. To receive an award from our peers is very gratifying. The response has been unbelievable. I have had over 200 e-mails, some from Japan, Croatia, Switzerland and Australia."
When Langdon Hall's executive chef has time to get over his shock, he can reflect on the following remarkable fact. Listed above Langdon Hall, and below it are the world's most renowned dining rooms.
At positions 1 to 3 you have Noma, Copenhagen, El Bulli, Spain and The Fat Duck, England. Now, take a look at restaurants ranked below Langdon Hall. No. 80 is La Gazzetta of France, 82 The River CafÉ, London, 88 Quintessence, Tokyo, 92 Le Gavroche, London, 97 La Pergola, Rome, and 98 (wait for it) Alain Ducasse's three-starred (Michelin) Louis XV at the famous Hotel de Paris, Monte-Carlo. Again, Langdon Hall is 77th. Rouge is 60th.
One person who doesn't need time to reflect on the significance of this award is the distinguished Toronto food critic and restaurant reviewer, James Chatto.
He is a member of the academy - comprised of 800 restaurateurs, food writers and journalists - that made the selections. Being Toronto based, he has known of Gushue since Gushue's days as restaurant chef at Truffles in The Four Seasons.
"It's a wonderful but well-deserved honour for Jonathan - and also for Bill Bennett and Mary Beaton, Langdon Hall's owners, who made the decision some years ago that nothing but the best would do for their hotel.
"Their investment in the kitchen and dining room, in the wine cellar and especially in personnel has been unparalleled. I have seen many chefs come and go at Langdon Hall since it opened. Jonathan has proven to be the leader they needed to carry their culinary program to the heights. He has been recognized as a Grand Chef by Relais & Chateaux; now the restaurant joins the world's elite properties."
Langdon Hall is a magnificent Federal Revival style mansion, once owned (in the early 20th century) by American-born millionaire, Eugene Langdon Wilks. In the late 1980s, architect William Bennett and Mary Beaton purchased the property. After a year of renovation, Langdon Hall opened as a luxury hotel and spa. It has expanded and improved steadily over the years and today has the rare honour of being a member of Relais & Chateaux - an elite club of hotels and restaurants where membership is by invitation only. So, what makes Langdon Hall's Dining Room so special?
Having tasted Gushue's food I can tell you a great deal of credit must go to him and the locally based menu he created for Langdon Hall. He has a gift for the culinary arts and wants to maximize his potential. Recently I asked him, "What's next, Jonathan?" He told me, "My wildest dream would be to win Michelin stars, and since I am dreaming, I want two."
That grade of passion is why, for example, Gushue uses only the freshest and highest-quality ingredients in his cooking, many grown on part of Langdon Hall's vast 200 acres.
Gushue and his team - a group he's always quick to acknowledge - grow 12 varieties of tomatoes, six varieties of onions, five varieties of carrots, kiwi, fennel, apples, strawberries and too many more fruits and vegetables to list here. Did I mention they collect 350 litres of sap from Langdon Hall's maple trees each year to make syrup for the kitchen's larder? That kind of deep commitment cannot help but produce dividends.
As serious as Gushue is about his work and career, he'd be the first to say, "It's not life and death."
He can be self-deprecating (not an altogether bad trait) and extremely generous, which is why I know he wasn't joking when I asked how he would celebrate this latest recognition.
He answered, "I'm going to get the team together with the biggest keg of beer and roast a whole pig by the pool."
Enjoy the party, Chef. You've earned it.