By Ché Jayawardena
Nestled in the heart of Ontario, Prince Edward County has emerged as a hidden gem in the culinary world, drawing food enthusiasts and entrepreneurs alike. With its lush landscapes and a rich agricultural heritage, the region has become a haven for food lovers, welcoming a diverse array of food entrepreneurs and Consumer Packaged Good brands that are redefining the local culinary scene.
Food Entrepreneurs: A Tapestry of Innovation
One notable contributor to this culinary renaissance is Jöey Nordic Seed Crisps, a rising star in the snack industry. Founded by Joseph Chen in August 2022 at Wellington and Picton Farmer’s Market, Joseph is a seasoned strategist with a background in major consumer product corporations such as Unilever, Kraft, and McDonald’s. Jöey Nordic Seed Crisps stands out with its unique blend of seven organic super seeds, including the nutrient-rich watermelon seeds, as well as culinary-forward flavors like Saffron and Truffle. This innovative take on crackers has not only captured local attention but has also become a symbol of the region's commitment to pushing culinary boundaries. The innovative product is not only continuing its fast rise but can now be found in almost 100 stores in Ontario alone.
Alongside Jöey Nordic Seed Crisps, a diverse array of food entrepreneurs has established their presence, each contributing a unique flair to the culinary landscape. Chef Charlotte Langley impresses with her delectably crafted tinned fish company, Scout Canning; Sarah Harrison introduces Cressy Mustard's family mustard recipe, garnering widespread acclaim in the market; Ryan and Taylor's Wild Lot distillery stands out for its inventive small-batch spirits and liqueurs, employing local and upcycled ingredients; and Gus Wescenslau and Mark Jermolow present J & W Farms' vegan dips, utilizing sunflower seeds, and a range of vegan soups. The culinary landscape is thriving with creativity and innovation.
Renowned Wineries: A Symphony of Flavors
Beyond the realm of food entrepreneurs, Prince Edward County is renowned for its wineries that have gained recognition on a global scale. Sandbanks, Lighthall Winery, Grange Winery, and Rosehall Run are among the prestigious establishments producing award-winning wines year after year. The marriage of fertile soil and a favorable climate has given rise to a diverse range of grape varieties, with a huge focus being on the unique Pinot Noir and Chardonnay varietals. In turn creating a tapestry of flavors that reflects the unique terroir of the region.
Culinary Destinations: Where Innovation Meets Farm-to-Table
Nestled in the heart of this culinary haven, Prince Edward County proudly showcases renowned restaurants that seamlessly blend innovation with Farm-to-Table. "Darlings," recognized among the top 10 restaurants by Enroute, has evolved into a gastronomic destination, exemplifying the region's unwavering commitment to culinary excellence. Steering the culinary experience at The Drake Devonshire is Chef Amanda Ray, who infuses a contemporary flair into the vibrant culinary scene.
Amanda Ray's culinary journey began in Europe during her formative years, followed by a distinguished 15-year tenure as a Sous Chef at the well-established Oliver and Bonacini. Her expertise extends to launching a new Oliver Bonacini establishment in Montréal, culminating in her ascent to the role of executive chef at The Drake Devonshire.
Noteworthy establishments like The Royal Hotel, embracing the farm-to-table ethos, Flame & Smith specializing in wood-fired dishes, Pecish Bakery crafting products with unique and fresh ingredients, and Boccado, dedicated to using the finest seasonal ingredients from both Spain and Prince Edward County, collectively contribute to the region's diverse and vibrant food culture.
Albert Ponzo, the culinary genius behind The Royal Hotel, has been a driving force in elevating Prince Edward County's status as a food destination. Prior to The Royal Hotel, Albert served as the executive chef at Toronto’s iconic Le Sélect Bistro, where he played a key role in crafting the restaurant’s contemporary rendition of classic French cuisine. With two decades of culinary expertise and a vigorous commitment to using locally sourced ingredients, Albert has not only enhanced the dining experience but also deepened the connection between Prince Edward County and its culinary heritage.
As Prince Edward County continues to flourish as a food haven, the collaborative spirit of food entrepreneurs, Consumer Packaged Good brands, winemakers, and chefs is shaping a culinary identity that is uniquely its own. The region's commitment to sustainability, innovation, and celebrating local flavors has positioned it as a must-visit destination for those seeking a true taste of Ontario's culinary bounty. Whether exploring the creations of Jöey Nordic Seed Crisps, savoring award-winning wines, or indulging in the culinary delights of renowned restaurants, Prince Edward County invites all to embark on an amazing journey like no other.
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Albert Ponzo, top left, is at the helm of the kitchen at The Royal Hotel, which offers multiple dining experiences such as the main dining room. 27 Feb. 2023. Edible, https://edibleottawa.ediblecommunities.com/restoring%20the%20royal. Accessed 4 Dec. 2023.
“Albert Ponzo.” Terroir Hospitality, terroirtalk.org/albert-ponzo. Accessed 4 Dec. 2023.
Catching up With: Amanda Ray, Drake Devonshire’s Executive Chef. 3 June 2021. The Drake, https://www.thedrake.ca/2021/06/03/catching-up-with-amanda-ray-drake-devonshires-executive-chef/. Accessed 4 Dec. 2023.
Grapes on vine. Prince Edward County Wineries You Must Visit, https://ultimateontario.com/prince-edward-county-wineries-you-must-visit/.
Langley, Charlotte. Summerside-born Charlotte Langley saw a need for a high-end canned seafood product, and co-founded Scout Canning. 2 Dec. 2020. CBC News, https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/pei-seafood-canning-langley-scout-1.5824121. Accessed 4 Dec. 2023.
Sandbanks Winery. Sandbanks, https://www.sandbankswinery.com/About. Accessed 4 Dec. 2023.
Wild Lot Farm Disterillery. Taylor McIndless (left) and Ryan Fowler, owners of Wild Lot Farm Distillery. 10 Aug. 2023. Toronto Life, https://torontolife.com/food/wild-lot-farm-distillery-picton-prince-edward-county/.