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We chat to Montgomery's chef and co-owner Guy Rawlings to find out why sustainability isn't just a trend

Making hyper-local menus at Montgomery's on Queen Street West isn't just a gimmick for Guy Rawlings, who thinks we should be excited about Canada's seasonal bounty. 

Guy Rawlings on... a Canadian restaurant concept

The idea was always to be a Canadian restaurant, and I like that term because it doesn’t have a definition. For us, it just means using things around us. It’s not a new concept in the world; if you look at older civilizations, that’s the way they did it and from that they built cultural traditions. In parts of Canada you may have certain cultural developments– Quebec and Newfoundland have more of a food identity than we do in southern Ontario. For us it’s more about sustainability and less about being "Canadian".

Guy Rawlings on... using only local ingredients

We’re a bunch of spoiled kids because we’ve built a society around consuming. When I have an abundance of choice – I can order anything from anywhere in the world – it’s actually a little overwhelming. Cooking locally with limitations is easy. I’ve got some pork, cabbage and onions, which coincidentally go very well together. We dive in and develop their flavours instead of making a muddled mess of ingredients. We try to go even further down the rabbit hole – a year ago we stopped using international spices. They’re just dried weeds, berries, twigs and guess what? We have all that here. When you dry a whole parsnip and grate it on a microplane, it smells and tastes like curry.

Guy Rawlings on... Canada’s winter abundance

Folklore and confused messages have been sent telling people that because there’s snow on the ground, there’s limited produce in Canada. But there are resourceful ways to produce and save. If you’re already intimidated by cooking, you’re probably going to be intimidated by these so-called restrictions. People make fun of me for not using lemons, but I think some chefs should be embarrassed about where they’re getting their produce from. One friend of mine was worried about setting up a restaurant in the winter, but it’s actually a time that we get excited about – there are carrots, parsnips, celeriac, sunchoke, cabbages, potatoes, apples and pears. And that’s just the salad stuff. We’re still producing arugula and kale, plus cucumbers are a year-round product. I never serve things that are available in the winter during summer to avoid limiting my choices.

Guy Rawlings on... suppliers

There are so many different avenues and we’re lucky because we have a reputation now. But sometimes people show up at our door unannounced, which is the best – after all, weirdos attract weirdos. A guy I hadn’t seen for a year once showed up at the restaurant with fresh scallops, because he knew I'd like them.

Guy Rawlings on... fermentation

Chefs like to give cheeky comments sometimes, like “Oh, what are you going to ferment next?” It’s pretty ignorant because so much on menus is fermented – the bread, wine and beer. It’s not a new thing, it’s something I’ve done forever. The first time I fermented vegetables they were so bright and complex. Now we make all of our vinegars. Fermentation shouldn’t be a big deal for people, and in the rest of the world, where people cook seasonally and locally, it’s a staple technique to make things last longer. We ferment and dry asparagus peelings, and save coffee grounds to turn into vinegar.

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