Celebrity chef Mark McEwan has been in the kitchen professionally for more than 30 years. Since he started his career as Canada’s youngest chef, he has gone on to lead Toronto’s culinary scene with a range of restaurants including Fabbrica, North 44, ONE, and Bymark. His expertise has also resulted in writing best-selling cookbooks, television shows including the Food Network’s The Heat and Top Chef Canada, and more. We caught up with McEwan to find out what he likes to serve at his Georgian Bay getaway.
Cottage Life: You seem like you have a lot going on in life, with TV shows, stores, restaurants, books, etc. Is it a struggle to get to the cottage as often as you’d like?
Mark McEwan: No but you have to be organized. I’m a good delegator and my ego doesn’t get bruised when I have to hand over the reins. I don’t mind letting other people be in charge, and I’ve worked for years to get the business to that place.
CL: What’s your favourite thing to do at the cottage?
MM: I’m a natural-born water baby. In the winter we do a lot of skiing, both cross-country and downhill.
CL: In your book Mark McEwan: Great Food at Home, a lot of the recipes offer refined, rustic or cottage versions. Were these variations inspired by your own lifestyle?
MM: Very much so. When I’m at the cottage and entertaining, I like to keep the stress off myself and enjoy the company of my guests. Many of the recipes I’ve created have been born at the cottage.
CL: Do you put as much time into dishes at the cottage as you might in other environments, or do you try to scale down the complexity when you spend time at the lake?
MM: I scale it down. Your guests aren’t expecting you to kill yourself over a meal. Pick dishes that can be prepped ahead of time and make a great cocktail that you can give to your guests as they arrive. Strawberries are in season now, so maybe a strawberry margarita. I’ll do chicken, ribs, burgers, but really great versions of those things using high-quality meats. Come July I also use my garden a lot for salads and side dishes.
CL: You’ve been a professional chef for more than 30 years now. Have you managed to master the s’more yet?
MM: I tend to stay away from pastry at the cottage and take my calories in a glass instead.
CL: Any other cottage classics you’ve become particularly good at creating?
MM: My Texas Hong Kong Ribs are a favourite. I eat more beef at the cottage than I do at home, so I like to do a well-aged T-bone.
CL: And last but not least—hot dog or hamburger?
MM: Both! I love a classic steamed hot dog served on a steamed bun with onions and mustard. That’s something I remember well from my childhood and being at the cottage in Turkey Point. As for a burger, I’m a big fan of classics with a twist, which was my inspiration for the Bymark burger.
Mark McEwan at his cottage on Georgian Bay.