As a young adult, Jason Bangerter, the award-winning Executive Chef at Langdon Hall Country House Hotel and Spa in Cambridge, Ontario, never thought becoming a chef was his calling. When he cooked, he did it for “fun and pleasure.” But after people continuously commented on how well Bangerter cooked, an idea was planted and took root. He hit the ground running.
After completing culinary school at Toronto’s George Brown College, he completed a three year apprenticeship at the city’s Le Royal Meridian King Edward Hotel. Then, he took off to Europe to further develop his culinary chops.
In London, he joined one of England’s best chefs and restaurateurs, Swiss-born Anton Mosimann, as part of his brigade at Mosimann’s. Rising quickly through the ranks, Bangerter joined the opening teams for the Swissôtel Berlin in Germany and later Château Mosimann in Olten, Switzerland. Then he returned to London to assist at the Mosimann Academy, where he taught alongside the revered chef. His free time was spent staging at Marco Pierre White’s Drones, Jean George Vongerichten’s Vong and Terrence Conran’s The Orrery, just to name a few.
In 2002, Bangerter returned to Toronto, joining the team at Auberge du Pommier, where he helmed the stoves for eight years before leading the team behind the prestigious TIFF Bell Lightbox’s O&B Canteen and upscale dining lounge, Luma.
Today, Bangerter’s European-accented, farm-to-table cuisine can be savored at the Langdon Hall Country House, a rural Ontario estate. Accolades include the Good Food Innovation Gold Award in 2016, the Ontario Hostelry Institute (OHI) 2017’s Chef Gold Award, and being named the 2017 Farm to Table Chef of the year by Canada’s 100 best list.
We talk to Bangerter about cooking in Canada, what he loves about his job and what’s on the menu when he’s cooking at home.
When did you know that you wanted to pursue cooking as a career?
There are many memories I have that revolve around food: chasing lobsters on the kitchen floor at my grandparents’ home in Nova Scotia; watching my Grandpa and dad clean pickerel at the cottage on Lake Panache; sitting on a giant slab of raw granite lakeside, eating just-picked warm wild blueberries with milk for breakfast with my little brother and grandma.
Though have many fond food memories, I didn’t realize that food and cooking would be my future. It was always an escape from reality, a break. It wasn’t until someone said to me, ‘You are a great cook. Ever think of a career in cooking?’ that I even pondered the idea.
You started at the Le Royal Meridien King Edward Hotel in Toronto and you’ve worked in non-hotel related restaurants. Would you say there’s a fundamental personality difference between the kinds of chefs that work in either place?
Yes. Maybe even more so 20 years ago. Every kitchen is different. At the time, the kitchen I was in was very professional. Neck ties, polished shoes, hierarchy. Like the military with controlled chaos at service. I remember the first time I walked into a restaurant kitchen. It was the opposite…rock and roll, bandanas, tattoos and piercings. Chaos. I enjoyed both experiences, and the level of passion and drive in each were equal. The environment was the only difference. I like a combination of the two: professionalism and rock and roll.
You’ve worked with Anton Mosimann in London, England and then in other European cities. What was that like for a young chef?
Incredible. It was the time of my life, although I probably didn’t always feel that way in the moment. I would encourage any young chef to travel and explore the world of cuisine. Everywhere people need to eat, and everywhere needs talented cooks. What a wonderful experience to be able to work in different countries, learning about different techniques, cultures and new ingredients.
When you returned to Toronto in 2002, you joined the team at Auberge du Pommier, one of Oliver & Bonacini’s group of restaurants. What was that transition like and what brought you back to Canadian shores?
[The O&B folks] wanted me to be the chef at Canoe, another of their properties. When I arrived, I spent some time with chef Anthony Walsh and he…asked if I would consider looking after Auberge while their crew opened another new location. I fell in love with Auberge and instantly made it my home and passion. I was made chef de cuisine and cooked there for 8 years. The transition was simple. I continued what I was doing in Europe, here in Canada. My wife Stacey and I wanted to start a family and felt that home was the best place to do it.
From there, it was on to the TIFF Bell Light Box where you helmed the kitchens at LUMA. Best experience there?
Best experience? There are so many: chillin’ with Snoop, chatting with Rachel McAdams…What an experience it was to run O&B Canteen and Luma within such an international icon. I had the opportunity to work with some fabulous young cooks and service teams.
What has it been like to become the Executive Chef at the award-winning Langdon Hall Country House Hotel and Spa?
Coming to Langdon Hall has really been a wonderful development. I have been given the opportunity to re-invent myself as a chef.
My training has strong European roots, and French cuisine has always been the greatest influence in my career. However, as my career develops, so does my style and philosophy. I have embraced the farm-to-table movement over the years and focused on sustainability as well as foraging. I have been fortunate to expand and fully explore this style at Langdon Hall, which offers a 75 acre estate, honey and maple harvesting and wonderful local farm ingredients.
I have learned a lot about wild indigenous edible plants and the life cycle of growth in the garden. I have been really fortunate to make relationships with farmers and artisan producers in this area, and I have had a whole wealth of new ingredients introduced to me, which have allowed me to create dishes with new flavors and textures.
What’s on the menu when you’re cooking for family and friends at home?
Pasta. Love pasta.
How often do you cook at home? What are your favourite at-home dishes that everyone often requests?
Every day pretty much. Breakfast with my kids at the very least. Soufflé is the biggest request.
You’re classically trained, but what’s your favorite cuisine repertoire from which to cook?
To cook, Italian. I also love to eat Japanese.
It’s my son’s birthday and I’ve been asked to cook something for it. I make…
Like father like sons – it’s pasta!
My favourite local or Canadian ingredient to cook with is…
If I were anything other than a chef, I’d be a…
Teacher. I love teaching. It’s a big part of what I do.
Entertaining at home, to me is….
Relaxing and enjoying good food and wine.
Interested in how professional chefs cook and entertain at home? Then you’ll LOVE the cover story of our Summer ’17 issue. Preorder today!
Garden Beets by Jonathan Bielaski, Chef in the greenhouse by Joee Wong, Chef in the garden by Justyna Sokolowski