This is what comes to mind every time I see Chef Clifford Lyness in action. Put more than six people around my dinner table and I am a disheveled frantic wreck. But, I have seen Chef Lyness at the end of a Mother’s Day brunch for six hundred looking as fresh as a daisy, calmly smiling, arms folded, unruffled. If that kind of calm, smiling control, could be bottled, Chef would be a millionaire.
As you know, Chef Lyness, Executive Chef of Perspectives Restaurant at Brookstreet Hotel, will be one of the chefs taking part in this month’s Celebrity Chefs of Canada event at the National Arts Centre.
I have had the pleasure of meeting Chef Lyness on a number of occasions and I do not exaggerate when I say that he is Zen. He even let me use the big knives in his kitchen during ones of his Wine & Food Raves without panicking. At Brookstreet, his kitchen serves Perspectives, the newly renovated Options Jazz Lounge, hundreds of hotel rooms, the hotel’s sandwich shop as well as catering events in the many ballrooms, suites and the summer tent. As he put it to me: “No day is the same.”
Back in February, I attended the Winterlude edition of Chef’s Big Wines Small Plates to have a quick chat with Chef. Although I had enjoyed a previous Big Wines Small Plates event in the past, this one had a distinctive Ottawa winter flare:
[with Buttemilk Biscuit and Coleslaw]
[Seared Flat Iron Steak, Winter Squash Succotash, Jack Daniels Demi]
[with Celeriac Pulse, Wild Blueberry and Ginger Stick]
[with Steamed Blue Mussel, Dill Caper Aioli]
Chef has been in Ottawa for a number of years, first at Le Café at the National Arts Centre and, since 2009, at Brookstreet as Executive Chef. He told me “I like Ottawa for what it is for family”. A native of Montreal, I am sure he does not find the Ottawa winters as long as I do.
Having worked in large venues in other large cities, I asked him what he thought of the culinary community in Ottawa. Chef repeated what I have heard from many: “Ottawa is very supportive of its own. Chef Santaguida of Vittoria Tratoria told me that same thing last year when I spoke with him about the first Celebrity Chefs event.
Unlike Toronto or other cities, where Chefs can be aggressively competitive, trying to undermine one another, Ottawa’s has a “community of Chefs that are tight, that just want to cook well and support each other.” The recent “Kitchen Takeover” at Atelier is testament to this. As Chef told me “A bunch of us were sitting around, congratulating Marc Lépine on his win at Gold Medal Plates. Carmichael [Chef Matthew Carmichael of Restaurant E18hteen] asked Marc if he was going to have to close his restaurant while he was at the Culinary Championship So we’re all pitching in to keep it open because losing business for a week-end is a lot for Marc.”
He is also a keen supporter of local charity events such as the Humane Society’s annual Garden Party. On that note, he told me, “It’s the events that I love. This hotel is not tied to Corporate” ,meaning that he can have flexibility in the types of dishes he creates and the types of events he supports. Although he cannot do them all, he tries to be as involved as possible. With the backing of Brookstreet, Chef Lyness really is Chef-about-town.
Asked about his style of cooking, Chef told me that it is “Canadian. I’m Canadian and I am proud to be. I do love my Quebec cheese!” While he tries to source as much of his food locally, he is limited by needing ingredients in quantity. He also, as he said, “will never sacrifice quality just because it’s local.”
If you are interested in a hint of what Chef Lyness might have in store, why not attend one of his Food & Wine Raves? You get to play in Brookstreet’s gorgeous kitchen and then eat what you cook. Instead of beer and wings at the local pub, try Chef’s Small Plates paired with René Wallis’s Big Wines in the newly renovated Jazz Lounge. Or you might consider holding a special event at Brookstreet, just be sure to invite me!
As for what Chef Lyness and Chef Parsons will be cooking at CCOC, Chef was able to tell me it will involve duck as both Chefs love duck. Although Chef Parsons is located in Niagara, he and Chef Lyness are working closely together to develop the dish and source the ingredients. While the exact dish was still under discussion at the time of our chat, I’m sure it will be wonderful.
CCOC is going to be a wonderful afternoon of demonstrations, food and drink. Have you bought your tickets yet?
Perspectives Restaurant at the Brookstreet Hotel
525 Legget Drive