Born Henry James Kennedy but popularly called Jamie Kennedy, he is one of Canada's top celebrity chefs with a vast following. Kennedy is the current CEO of Jamie Kennedy Kitchens in Toronto.
He is one of those Canadian chefs whose humble background continues to shape their everyday dealings. Kennedy has opened several restaurants, all having different and complete menus at affordable prices.
However, beyond the man, the many restaurants he has opened, and his many celebrity appearances is a story.
Outside being a chef, Kennedy has also contributed his quota of activism to many local food movements. As an activist, he continues to give his time and resources towards advancing local food networks in Canada and across the world.
To become a great Canadian chef, studying the story of the great is essential. From their stories, you can glean one or two experiences that will guide you through your culinary journey.
The chances are that you might learn more by reading through the life and experiences of these chefs than you will do when you take a lesson. Learn about another top Canadian chef - Rob Feenie!
If there is a top Canadian chef worth studying, it is Jamie Kennedy. In this article, Superprof analyzes the life of this great chef, starting from his humble background to the many high-performing restaurants he has established in Canada.
The Early Life of a Great Chef - Jamie Kennedy
Jamie Kennedy was born and raised in Don Mills. As a little boy, he went around serving in different restaurants to earn some money. Every penny Kennedy made from serving in any of these restaurants was used to take care of himself and assist his family when the need arises.
However, as he continued to serve in all of these restaurants, he started getting drawn to the theatricality of food. When he was not in a restaurant serving, Kennedy spent his time watching some of the popular TV cooks on different programs.
At age ten, Kennedy had to move with his family to Connecticut, where he enrolled in high school. During his time as a student of the school, he was active in the culinary club.
After he was done with high school, he didn't waste time applying for a three-year program at George Brown College. While in college, he stayed at the Windsor Arms Hotel, serving food to guests at the restaurant.
Upon completing his program at the college, he left for Europe to enhance his culinary skills. In Europe, Kennedy was a journeyman cook in Switzerland. His task as a journeyman cook was to prepare meals for those who were traveling.
He worked in this capacity for two years and was trained with Michael Stadtländer, a German chef.
Kennedy's early discovery of what he wanted to become and the exposure he got set him on the path of growth faster than his peers. All the time he was traveling from one place to another seeking appropriate knowledge and learning under established cooks, he remained focused.
Many of his peers then thought he would remain in Europe and establish himself there. However, to everyone's greatest surprise, he returned to Canada.
Kennedy's Return to Canada: A New Journey
In 1980, Jamie Kennedy and his new found friend - Michael Stadtländer, returned to Canada. For Kennedy, it was the joy of his life to return to where the journey began. While for his friend, it was a decision to emigrate to Canada.
Kennedy has always been passionate about being a chef, and now he has a partner.
It wasn't long after they returned to Canada that they were appointed as co-head chefs at a French Restaurant - Scaramouche. The diligence and attention to detail of Kennedy and Michael quickly put the restaurant on the culinary map.
More people started patronizing the restaurant, and a new idea of fine dining in Canada was created.
To put Scaramouche on the world culinary map, Kennedy and his colleague practiced the "nouvelle cuisine" approach they learned during their time in Europe. With this skill, they made seemingly complex processes of certain French dishes appear simple and basic for everyone to understand.
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Although the restaurant was doing great, some people were not happy with the model used to supply food. They wanted something different from the regular supply from factory farms. They wanted restaurants to prioritize local growers.
This dissatisfaction, perhaps, made Kennedy leave Scaramouche in 1985.
Jamie Kennedy's Many Locavore Practices
Immediately after Kennedy left Scaramouche, he established his restaurant with the model he has always desired for his previous employers. The name of his restaurant was Palmerston, and it worked with small farms in the region.
Considering the relationship Kennedy built with these small farms, every ingredient used in his restaurant was certified to be organic. He also helped local farmers to grow their businesses by working with them and mentoring a few.
Four years after Palmerston was opened, Kennedy partnered with his friend Stadtländer to launch Knives and Forks. This initiative wasn't a restaurant per se. Instead, it was a coming together of different chefs and local farmers who supported the idea of sustainable, local, and organic ingredients.
Through the knives and fork initiative, Kennedy and every other person on the team could connect local farmers with top kitchens in Canada for constant supplies.
In 1994, Kennedy started his operations at the Royal Ontario Museum, where he made lunch meals available to the public for launch.
He rented the space out for private events in the evenings, generating a lot of revenue that the museum never expected. It didn't take long before ROM started becoming the go-to location of many individuals in Toronto.
In 2003, Kennedy expanded his reach by setting up JK Kitchens - the catering arm of his business. This extension included a catering wing and a small wine bar. While keeping up with this kitchen, Kennedy also spent a lot of time growing his farm in Prince Edward County.
However, as time went by, Jamie Kennedy's attention to his farm reduced because the demands on his JK Kitchens' services increased.
Restaurant Expansion and the Desire to Go More Organic
Kennedy couldn't help but expand when the demands became more than he could manage. The Jamie Kennedy restaurant was launched in 2005 to serve more diners. The JK restaurant, however, couldn't stand the test of time as it closed in 2007.
In 2006, Jamie Kennedy at the Gardiner was launched, while the Year after, the Gilead Cafe + Bistro was opened.
John Kennedy's Activism: Keeping Up With a Fast-Paced World
Kennedy is popular and rated as one of Canadian's top celebrity chefs because of his active support for sustainable agriculture. Since he started as a chef right from his early days in Europe, Kennedy has been outspoken about prioritizing sustainable agricultural practices.
As a committed activist, Kennedy was always ready and willing to support any course that shared a similar ideology. At some point, it was said that he invested a considerable amount of revenue gotten from his establishments into this course that he was almost going bankrupt.
His drive and passion towards sustainable agriculture and fishing practices saw him become the face of the Slow Food and Local Food Movements in Canada. He has also supported several organizations within and outside Canada like the Endangered Fish Alliance, World Wildlife Foundation, and Living Oceans Society.
Kennedy's Awards: Celebrating a Top Chef and Activist
If you're good at what you do, it is only a matter of time before people and organizations start noticing you and presenting you with nominations and awards. No doubt, this is true of Jamie Kennedy as it is of many other popular chefs in Canada.
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In 2000, Kennedy was awarded the Gold Award as the chef of the Year by the Ontario Institute. Also, he is said to be the first recipient of the Governor General's Award - an award given to top chefs in celebration of the Nation's Table. He received this award in 2010 alongside Michael Stadtländer.
Records also have it that Jamie Kennedy has been nominated for several other awards, some of which came from his impressive culinary skills and others because of his passion for sustainable agriculture. He is the face of many organic food brands in Canada and other countries.
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