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The Tastemakers of Niagara
If you’ve been to Niagara, you know the area is a scenic destination full of beautiful wineries and equally appealing restaurants. But Chef Adam Hynam-Smith of Dispatch Restaurant in St. Catharines wants people to also appreciate the diversity of flavours behind the wine pairings.
Before taking his current helm at St. Catharines’ Dispatch Restaurant, Chef Hynam-Smith and his partner operated El Gastronomo Vagabundo, a local food truck known for gourmet street food. It won multiple awards and became the starting point of his mission to bring more food diversity to the region.
“Every country around the world has a different style of cooking. I wanted to bring something to help add to the region’s diversity. It's also very important for me to shine a light on business owners and chefs from other cultures doing incredible things in the area.”
Today at Dispatch, you’ll find Chef Hynam-Smith offering tastes of the Middle East and dishes that remind fellow Australians of home. However, he hasn’t forgotten about local culture or the importance of staying connected with those working in his own backyard.
“I focus on sourcing ingredients from local businesses, farmers and specialty ingredient stores. I feel it’s important everyone in the community is supported.”
Chef Hynam-Smith shared with us the local Niagara suppliers he’s worked with to create his North African and Middle Eastern-inspired dishes.
Rumar Farms is an organic and biodynamic certified supplier with a focus on fruits, berries, melons and heirloom vegetables like cabbages and tomatoes.
“Here in Niagara, we have the luxury of incredible farmers who grow amazing produce, like Mark McKerracher at Rumar Farm. I love Mark; he and I hit it off straight away when we met. He's got character, charm and really knows his stuff. You can form that sort of friendship through a shared passion for food.”
Rumar’s fresh produce and on-the-farm experience form a great foundation for Chef Hynam-Smith’s globally flavoured dishes.
“I don't get food delivered. I go out, walk the farm, pick it up and bring back the produce myself. Wandering around the farm is about resetting, learning and bonding with a friend.”
Operated by Tolga and Sida, Bazaar Istanbul was inspired by the pair’s inability to find the Turkish ingredients they enjoyed growing up. As the go-to source for such unique offerings in the Niagara region, Chef Hynam-Smith relies on them for authentic Turkish ingredients — a match made in restaurant-supplier heaven.
“Talking about turkey and learning more about the culture from Sida and Tolga is inspiring. I can hear stories about where they're from, places they've visited, their favourite foods and why certain dishes are so important to regions throughout Turkey’s history. These are things we need to treasure, and showcase.”
Chef Hynam-Smith’s frequent visits to Bazaar Istanbul usually yield ingredients like manti (a traditional Turkish dumpling), lahmacun (flatbread), kaymak (clotted cream) and baklava (pastry).
Along with incorporating authentic Turkish ingredients into local cuisine, Bazaar Istanbul diversifies the region as a whole, making the culture more inclusive and interesting to explore.
3. Alnoor Food Market
Alnoor Food Market, a St. Catharines-based butcher shop, is where Chef Hynam-Smith finds his non-produce ingredients: halal meats, legumes, tea and other dried goods. The owner, Ahbid, also adds to the chef’s diverse menu with more international ingredients like Pecmez (a Turkish molasses-like syrup) and bulgogi (specialty meat slices).
“Whenever I walk into Alnoor, they remember my name,” says Chef Hynam-Smith. “Everyone shouts it out.”
4. Upper Canada Cheese Company
Amongst their award-winning cheeses made from fresh, locally farmed goat milk, one in particular always brings Adam back for more.
“At Upper Canada Cheese Company, I'm able to get Guernsey Girl, a grilling cheese similar to the Halloumi they use in Cyprus. Although this is a local company, I find versatile ingredients that are often found in Middle Eastern cooking.”
After exploring his beloved go-to suppliers, we asked Chef Hynam-Smith where he wants to see the Niagara region go from here to expand the minds and palettes of his customers.
“I think Niagara food tourism should showcase the different cultures we have. It’s a big, diverse community with people who are still under-represented. I want to see a spotlight on those who don't necessarily get the exposure they deserve. We have an incredible abundance of amazing cooks, growers, farmers and retail owners, all of whom have such great input on this community. It's very important we support each other by forming partnerships, friendships and business relationships as members of the Niagara region.”
After we left Chef Hyman-Smith…
…we set off to explore the culinary abundance of Niagara a little further. With our chef-picked spices in hand, it was exciting to have such flavourful new culinary creations ahead of us to share with readers across the country.
First up was Two Sisters Vineyards. Wielding Club House Cardamom, the Queen of Spices, Chef Christine Mast piped a few plates of her spicy Baci di Dama: a filled Italian hazelnut cookie dessert. It featured brown butter, blanched hazelnuts and a filling made from 70% dark chocolate and 30% cream.
Next was a trip to Brushfire Smoke BBQ, located at Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Oast House Brewers. Chef Vetere took his Cattlemen’s Carolina Tangy Gold BBQ Sauce and ‘QUEd up his latest recipe: a Memphis Rubbed and Smoked Pork Shoulder Sandwich. His version used their signature farmer-cut Niagara fruitwood trees for smoking. These are typically burnt in annual brushfires, thus the name, Brushfire Smoke.
Following this BBQ goodness was Redstone Winery’s Chef David Snider. He served up Charred Broccoli with Keens Mustard Yogurt and Dried Fruit. Bringing the hot, tangy flavour of Keen’s to the forefront, this dish is balanced by mixing Greek yogurt, mint, dill, cilantro, raisins and currants at room temperature.
Finishing off this leg of the tour, and putting the final delicious touch on our visit, was a flavourful reunion with Chef Adam Hynam-Smith at Dispatch. With the savoury and sweet taste of La Grille Korean Style BBQ Seasoning, Chef Hynam-Smith concocted his latest diverse dish combination, Scorched Cabbage, Spiced Chicken and Scallop XO Sauce — ready for your menu!
Be sure to follow along as Club House for Chefs continues its Coast to Coast Tour to Saskatoon! Keep up with the latest stops, interviews and recipes on Instagram @CH4Chefs.