Five Fishermen, One Chef, An Ocean of Flavour

August 06 2019

After being raised and trained in Ontario with an emphasis on the importance of food and family together around the dinner table, Executive Chef, and Humber College Graduate, Greg Balingit was given an offer he couldn’t refuse and headed for the Maritimes. Today, you’ll find him behind the line of Five Fishermen, a contemporary eatery in historical Halifax, known for its locally sourced dishes including seafood and steak.

No stranger to the culinary world of cities or coasts, we stopped in to find out how Chef Balingit brings the worlds together on his own Five Fishermen plates.

Briefly describe yourself and how your upbringing lead to a career path in the culinary arts.

I grew up in a Filipino household in Toronto, Ontario. Mealtime was always a family affair, especially when celebrating a special occasion or holiday. It was extremely important to my elders that we all sat down together as a family to eat. I did not realize that those great memories were a stepping-stone for me to become a cook until many years later.

I love sharing these experiences with others through food.

Having grown up in Toronto, what persuaded you to plant your culinary roots in Halifax?

A great opportunity came up to see a different part of the country - Halifax – that would allow me to expand my horizons and take on new challenges. It was a chance for me to work in one of city’s oldest, most storied establishments and I just couldn’t pass up the offer.

Share with us what you brought from Toronto to your Halifax kitchen.

I brought a global philosophy, passion, positivity and inspirational leadership to my kitchen and team at the Five Fishermen.

What elements of your cuisine are most reminiscent of your experiences in the Maritimes, and of those in other parts of Canada?

Having grown up in such a culturally rich city like Toronto, it’s allowed me to represent all of the different cultures I have had the pleasure of experiencing through food. I like to pay homage to all of them in my dishes and menus by bringing their techniques and flavours to the forefront. I also enjoy using these techniques and recipes while showcasing the best from the land and sea that the Maritimes has to offer.  

How would you describe the difference in your approaches to food for a Halifax guest base, and a non-Nova Scotian guest base?

It really is two different audiences. Tourism is a major force in Halifax. A lot of people are coming into town with their hearts set on lobster dinners and chowders. So, I like to provide our friends from out of town with classic Maritime offerings that are undisturbed and well presented.

On the other hand, for our local audiences, I like to support our local farmers, foragers and fishermen while showcasing their bounty with diverse twists by using global techniques. This allows these ingredients to be the stars on our plates. 

What are some of your favourite flavour processes you’ve really embraced cooking with here at The Five Fishermen?

One of our signatures is our wood-burning grill. We use Applewood to flavour our grilled items, adding a subtle sweet and fruity flavour to our meat and seafood offerings. These flavours compliment and contrast our secret spice blend. On the other hand, curing is also something we love to do quite often so we can preserve the beauty in ingredients and minimize waste.

How important are spices and seasonings in your dish development?

Extremely important. Adapting a global philosophy requires an abundant inventory of different spices and seasonings. Also, using spices and seasonings is a good way to add depth to our dishes.  

Explain how you would describe Halifax’s food scene to someone who’s never been here before.

Halifax is full of hidden gems. There are some really talented people out here who are newly defining the Halifax food scene. There are also some really hip and urban concepts that utilize a local big city feel with Maritime hospitality. Overall, the food scene here is new, really cool, fresh and exciting.

How do you believe Halifax’s restaurant community can grow and improve its place as a top Canadian culinary destination?

We celebrate what makes us different. Through and through, we’re a culinary destination that offers a diverse range of food experiences. As I said, there are a lot of talented chefs, cooks and mixologists in this city. Media exposure, government initiatives and marketing from tourism would really help show the world that Halifax is here and we are a top Canadian culinary destination. On top of that, stay consistent, learn and apply your knowledge. 

What can we expect to see next from Chef Greg Balingit and The Five Fishermen?

We aim to continue to bring and introduce unique and exotic flavour profiles to the city. We will continue to support Nova Scotia agriculture by utilizing the finest bounty that the Maritimes has to offer.