Guest Column: Jason Bangerter on hyperlocal farming and foraging

Jason Bangerter reflects on Langdon Hall's local style, intros his upcoming cookbook and talks Michelin.

On finding a home at Langdon Hall

I started cooking in Toronto in 1994, and while I worked at many restaurants of all shapes and sizes, I really feel that coming to Langdon Hall was a way to reinvent myself and go back to my roots. Being situated in the middle of a forest brings your ingredient source right outside of the kitchen door. Foraging and walking becomes a daily routine and that becomes how you discover things. This is a smaller, more artisanal and more farm-to-table approach than anything else I’ve done in my career.

Every year at Langdon Hall, Jason gets deeper into the hyper-seasonality of its surroundings with pigs, quail and pheasant on the property.

On how far he goes for his ingredients

The early 2000s was a turning point in my career. I was obsessed with European cooking and we were constantly bringing ingredients into the kitchen from international places: Dover sole, Cornish oysters, Scottish langoustines. But all that seafood wasn't great by the time it arrived. That’s when I made the decision to focus on local farmers, and moving to Langdon Hall amplified that ethos. Every year we get deeper into the hyper-seasonality of our surroundings. We’re always finding something new around the property. My chicken, pigs and eggs are 15 minutes away. Pheasant, quail and partridge are about 40 minutes away. Even the butter – we go through 50 litres of local cream to make our own butter once a week. Not only does it help create a more sustainable environment, but for a creative person it supplies infinite inspiration. I’ve also had the opportunity to teach my cooks that. We built the garden a few years ago where we get a lot of the produce, and we are constantly foraging in the forest.

On his new cookbook

When we started entertaining the idea of a cookbook, I was conflicted on how I wanted to present it. I wanted it to be something beyond just a list of recipes. I spoke with a lot of authors. I really admire David Kinch and his book Manresa. It’s all coastal and terroir-driven, and I drew inspiration from that. He inspired me to design a cookbook that highlights the seasonal cuisine that we do here at Langdon Hall all year, which I find so unique. So we’ve had a team of photographers and journalists that have spent each season with us. It’s taken multiple visits and it's been a year-long process to follow the micro-seasons we have here in the forest. What we’re ending up with is a book that is based on ingredients and shows you how we present the things that we find here around the property.

I made the decision to focus on local farmers and moving to Langdon Hall amplified that ethos

On Michelin and Top 50 lists

I think Canada is very underrated as a culinary destination. We have incredible talent, but I think an international programme like the Top 50 or Michelin will help put us on the global map. It will also light a fire in the industry. I don’t think chefs push themselves, and I think there are a lot of lazy chefs. A guide will encourage competition. I also think that if Michelin ever comes to Toronto, it will be one of the most affordable experiences in the world. The price will be very appealing to someone that wants to travel to Toronto for three to four days for a Michelin tour. It has worked for other cities. I believe it will enrich our culinary landscape and offer education on what that type of dining and cooking is about.