By Cassidy Tonkin – Acton, ON
His passion for his craft only grew abroad, and after returning home, Smith spent time gaining experience and perfecting his art, working under David Bouley at the number one restaurant in the United States, Bouley. All this success in such a short period of time might make any up and coming chef stop to pinch themselves, but for Smith, there was something more he longed for. He knew from a young age that he wanted to focus his culinary career by incorporating simple, sustainable ingredients grown from his own garden, helping families to better connect with each other and what’s on their plate. That doesn’t seem like too much to ask, right? Well, it turns out, as a young man living in one of the biggest cities in the world, finding a backyard that you can call home was going to be far more difficult than he’d anticipated. And so in his early 20’s, Smith took a leap of faith, uprooted his life, and relocated to Prince Edward Island, Canada. Thus began his now incredibly successful and internationally known career at the Inn at Bay Fortune in PEI.
Seven short years later, his career skyrocketed. He has since netted himself 5 Food Network television shows…Chef at Home, The Inn Chef, Chef Abroad, Chef at Large and Chef Michael’s Kitchen, started his own web series called Lentil Hunter, created ten of his own unique cookbooks and earned a spot as a judge on Chopped Canada in 2012. No stranger to being busy, Smith has seamlessly filled the role of chef, author and television host admirably. But his two most important titles are that of husband and father, and it is here where his life ultimately finds meaning.
A humble advocate for a homegrown, family oriented experience, Smith and his wife Chastity agreed to purchase The Inn at Bay Fortune in 2015, and haven’t looked back. Completely revamping both the building and the grounds, the Smiths have created nothing short of a completely unique culinary experience for every guest they have the pleasure of serving. Staying true to his career-long focus on locally grown, sustainable ingredients, Smith’s restaurant, FireWorks, features a menu comprised entirely of vegetables and fruit harvested from the eight-acre organic farm surrounding the property. This is all perfectly complemented with locally sourced meat and fish, and a variety of wild mushrooms, kelp and greens foraged from natural growth all over the island.
An evening at the Inn starts with a whimsical stroll around the gardens, where the staff prepare unique cocktails and fresh appetisers over five authentic, wood-burning fires.
When it’s time to eat, everyone joins together at a communal table, all eyes trained on the chefs as they work, everything intimate and in plain view. Smith’s son Gabe often lends a helping hand, shucking oysters with the skill of a seasoned professional. Four separate stations line this 25-foot wood-burning, brick lined, fire-breathing beast; and trust us when we tell you, you have never seen anything like this before. The inspiration behind his latest creation is for people to experience the authentic connection to the land and the ocean surrounding the island, and to truly celebrate all that PEI has to offer.
With all of this on his plate…pun intended, Smith’s favourite way to unwind is to spend time with his wife and three children (Gabe, Ariella and Camille), appreciating the beautiful island they get to call home. He has always been an avid outdoorsman and enjoys spending his hard-earned free time windsurfing, hiking, and practising his new found love for kite sailing. Being out among nature and embracing an active, outdoor lifestyle helps to keep him both grounded and connected to this magical place that he admires so much. Throughout his career, Chef Michael Smith has always remained humble, connected to his roots and committed to simple, sustainable home cooking. His latest venture and current focus, FireWorks is a magical experience and paints a perfect picture of what Chef Smith has always envisioned: a true passion for connecting families with each other, their food, and the stories to be shared while enjoying it all.
GRILLED PINEAPPLE and RED ONION SALAD
This is my all-time favourite grilled salad. It’s amazing how much savoury flavour your grill can add to a simple pineapple and some red onion. Next time you fire up the works try this salad and you’ll have a new favourite for your repertoire too!
1 Whole pineapple skinned and uncored
1 Red onion thickly sliced in rings a few generous splashes of olive oil
1 Lemon zest and juice a few handfuls of fresh basil
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Preheat your barbeque or grill
2. Drizzle the pineapple and onion rings with olive oil and season to taste with sea salt and pepper
3. Grill the pineapple until golden grill marks appear and the fruit softens – about 5 minutes each side
4. Grill the onion rings until soft and lightly charred
5. Quarter the pineapple slices into wedges and roughly chop the onions
6. Toss with lemon zest, juice and basil
Variation: This salad is very good tossed with a grilled chicken breast or two.Try tossing in some shredded coconut or sliced green onions as well.