Jeremy Charles on Newfoundland's Renaissance
The chef is proud to able to bring the people and produce of Newfoundland to the wider world, via his book
If the 'nachos' at Raymonds taste delicately fishy, relax; you’re actually enjoying a Newfoundland speciality. The restaurant, in St John’s, the provincial capital of Newfoundland, Canada, serves creative takes on many traditional local dishes, including cod sounds, or the fish’s swim bladders, which, when cured, dried and fried “have a beautiful, unique flavour,” chef Jeremy Charles tells the Chronicle Herald newspaper.
This overlooked part of the fish is just one ingredient that Charles is proud to share with the wider world, via his new book, Wildness.
“For many years we were forgotten about: We were out there on an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. It’s so amazing to finally let people know that we’re doing beautiful things, and we have so many amazing ingredients and so many amazing people and artists,” Charles. “I’m so proud of that, and so proud of the people who work with me at the restaurants. It’s an exciting time to be living in Newfoundland.”
Canada’s easternmost province hasn’t always thrived. Charles can remember when a fishing moratorium – imposed in the 1990s to preserve cod stocks – put many locals out of business. “There were a lot of dark days,” Charles says.
Yet, the Charles and his fellow Newfoundlanders are a hardy bunch and many have since adapted, finding new roles within this beautiful, rugged part of the world. Take, for instance, Brian Dalton, an ex-fisherman who has since retrained as a geologist, but still finds time to bag a few partridges for Raymonds.
“He’s so down-to-earth and loves Newfoundland, partridge hunting and salmon fishing,” says Charles. “We grew up together, cod jigging in the mornings out of St. John’s, and he’s a really inspiring, lovely human. I’m delighted to get his story in the book.”
In fact, many of the recipes featured in the book don’t stray too far from the simple foods that Charles and his fellow Newfoundlanders have been cooking for generations, such a bottled moose, or cooked, home-canned moose meat, preserved in fat and stock.
The chef would often take this along on his fishing expedition and enjoy, “a little boil up, which is one of my favourite ways to cook,” he explains. “On an open fire using wild ingredients whether we’d bottled or pickled them. It’s a great way to enjoy them in their environment. It’s very basic but a bottle of moose will get you out of a jam any day. You can’t go wrong.”
To find out how to make this dependable favourite, Newfoundland's unique terroir, and to learn more about the culinary rarities enjoyed by Charles and his friends, order a copy of his book Wildness here.