Jesse Vallins is a native of Toronto and has spent the last 12 years working in some of the city’s best restaurants. He has spent the last four years as the chef at Trevor Kitchen and Bar (38 Wellington Street East).
What inspired you to become a chef?
For as long as I can remember I’ve fallen asleep and woken up thinking about food. I love eating and sharing food with people and the experience of restaurants. I don’t care if it’s Canoe (66 Wellington Street West) or a dive in Chinatown, all restaurants are as much about experience as eating. I’ve always loved that and wanted to be a part of it.
What is your favourite dish at the restaurant where you cook and why?
The bacon and tomato salad with avocado ranch and crispy shallots. I love it because it’s got a great mix of different flavours and textures that really work together…and it’s absolutely lousy with bacon.
Three ingredients you couldn’t live without and why?
As far as to cook with – salt, lemon and onions. You can’t go without salt or acid in cooking, and onions are just one of those things that end up in everything and they’re so versatile. I heard a great quote once that said “If truffles and onions cost the same amount of money, you would obviously choose an onion. You don’t need truffles; you do need onions.” As far as ingredients for eating – the three b’s of heathfood – bacon, butter and beer.
On your day off – what are you cooking at home? If you’re eating out, where do you go?
When I cook at home I usually keep it pretty simple. I eat a lot of roast chicken and salad. When I eat out I mix it up and love trying new places. I go to Chinatown all the time on my days off. I live in Leslieville and I like to support places in my neighbourhood like Ruby Watchco (730 Queen Street East) and Table 17 (782 Queen Street East). I had a great meal at Scarpetta (550 Wellington Street West) recently, too. Otherwise my favourite places are Caplansky’s (356 College Street), The Patrician Grill (219 King Street East), The Black Hoof (928 Dundas Street West) and Colborne Lane (45 Colborne Street).
What is your favourite thing about the food scene in Toronto?
I think the best thing about the food scene in Toronto is our ethnic food. Especially in Kensington Market and Chinatown, I really think it’s world class. The sheer variety of the restaurants in general is great too.
What’s coming up?
Trevor Kitchen and Bar will be opening for lunch mid-September. We’ll also be taking part in Toronto Beer Week with some beer and food pairings.