Recently, rumours were brewing that chef Jamie Kennedy was looking to buy Prince Edward County’s culinary jewel, Harvest. While Kennedy confirms that he was approached by Harvest’s seller, he told us, “Considering everything that’s going on in my life, taking on something like Harvest is out of the question at this point.” Still, the rumour gave us an excuse to sit down with our locavore-in-chief to talk about what’s on his plate in 2011.
Kennedy has been back to basics since debt crippled his operation in 2008, but he says that 2010 was a big year for rebuilding. “We’re on the road to recovery,” he says from Gilead Bistro, now the focus of his business. “It’s a vote of confidence when people receive partial payments instead of apologies.”
If Kennedy’s name is on foodie lips, it’s no wonder: in the post-downsize days, JK has been tapping into social media to pump up the company name—his team tweets dozens of times daily to a following of more than 3,700. “We’re putting ourselves in front of people. In case there is any doubt about JK Kitchens.”
And while Kennedy isn’t acquiring Harvest, he still plans to open a restaurant at his farm in Prince Edward County, which he says won’t become just another overblown Niagara. “Everybody knows my intention there; it’s a matter of getting the funds.” The PEC enthusiast has already partnered with county favourite Rosehall Run on a wine, and plans to celebrate the local gastronomy of the emerging wine region at a farm-to-table restaurant. He’s looking forward to joining such county eateries as East and Main (“a remarkable place that’s become a destination in the county”), Schroedter’s (“it represents what rural outposts should be, in terms of hospitality”) and Keint-He, along with vineyards like Redtail and The Old Third.
“I’m really excited about breathing new life into the rural economy that has all but disappeared. It’s been shattered by factory farming.” But it will be some time before doors open on a new venture; Kennedy calls for a five-year plan to financial freedom. “The year 2010 represented the tip of the iceberg in terms of debt. It’s about getting the ship in the right direction. That was the work of 2010.”