Nick Berolo has been cooking "for a long, long time". The new chef at Norca restaurant, located in the Le Germain Hotel Ottawa, has previously cooked in Montreal, Banff and Ottawa. Craving the freedom to create thoughtfully elaborated meals, Berolo, who will start his new position in May, is excited to bring his hyper-local, farm to table philosophy with him.
"I want to get back to a sense of community. I feel that we've lost it", explains Nick Berolo, who wants to involve as many local farmers and producers as possible in his kitchen.
The chef has in mind to work with an organic farm in Chelsea, Gatineau, where he will be able to have vegetables grown exclusively for Norca. "We are going to determine when each vegetable is harvested and then put that on the menu. All of the great restaurants in the world have their own farm."
Even more encompassing than this, Chef Berolo plans to monthly take his staff on a trip to visit a local farm or local producer. "We would bring all the cooks there and everyone who wants to join us. It gets the cooks passionate about what they do and they can develop relationships with farmers and producers."
Nick Berolo’s goal is simple: "I want to create a community around us. I find that powerful".
With all these local food such as cheeses, meats and vegetables on hand, there is one thing that Berolo is very passionate about and wants to experiment with once he arrives at Norca: fermentation. "One of the tests that I want to do is find a local farm where I can get duck, then cure the whole bird with koji (the mould used to ferment in Japanese cuisine). Then, hang them in the dry-aged fridge for 10 to 14 days. Fermentation does something really special to the meat", explains he with a lot of fervour.
Berolo, who is classically trained with a strong base in French cuisine, says he likes to read cookbooks to research new ways to cook his food. "My style of cooking is creative, thoughtful food. It’s food that I will have spent time on, and researched and put the effort in. And it’s beautiful to look at on the plate as well as taste good."
A question remains: is Ottawa ready to eat that kind of hyper-local, fine-dining food? "There are a couple of things you need to think about when doing that kind of food, for sure. You have to think about approachability. Yes, you can cure a duck with koji, but I have to serve it in a way that people can still understand it. I don’t want to be the kind of chef that makes everything so complex that no one understands what is on their plate."