Ross Larkin is the latest local to throw their chef’s knives into the ring on the country’s most-watched culinary competition, Top Chef Canada.
The man with the moustache comes with a pedigree – chef de cuisine at Raymonds – and he’s repping St. John’s with a selection of locally sourced ingredients.
Larkin, a St. John’s native, has got deep roots in town, where his family owned Henry’s Lunch Room, a fish and chips shop in the east end.
“My family owned and operated Henry’s Lunch on Merrymeeting Road,” says Larkin. “I grew up with and in that restaurant. Memories of peeling potatoes for fries, buttering fresh bread out of the oven for sandwiches. Spending time there after school with my grandfather in the kitchen, just watching him sometimes, more than anything.”
After discovering his passion for the pace of the professional kitchen, Larkin quickly moved up the back-of-the-house ranks to his current position, where he helps bring Raymonds sustainable approach to fine dining to the table: foraging and sourcing locally grown ingredients from independent purveyors.
“I can honestly say that I have never had the same day twice and I’m sure I never will,” says Larkin.“Saying that is an amazing thing. The fact that every day is new and exciting proves we are so lucky in this province to serve wild game and products from our island. It is something I cherish and do not take for granted.”
The world of culinary competitions is new territory for Larkin, as Top Chef Canada is the first and only cooking competition he has ever done. “The only person who knew that I signed up was my wife, Celeste,” says Larkin. “I missed the deadline to send in my application for the show, but she reached out to someone at the network and was able to get the application sent.”
Now, he’s going up against other talented, up-and-coming chefs from across Canada in a series of challenges, cooking dishes inspired by national and international cuisine, as they vie for the illustrious title of Top Chef.
While this was Larkin’s first time navigating the challenges of the Top Chef kitchen, he is familiar with being constantly tested by what’s available.
“Trying to stay creative is a big part of cooking in Newfoundland,” says Larkin. “We have so many ingredients and so little ingredients at times. Being creative in the months when the farms are not putting out heaps of different types of vegetables is challenging.”
Now back on home turf, Larkin is happily back to cooking and working with the people that make sustainable cuisine possible. “Talking to farmers and foragers, fishermen, hunters, everyone that comes to the door with products,” says Larkin.
“Talking to them and getting to know their stories is an amazing thing. Having that close of a connection with the food you serve means a lot.”
Season 6 of Top Chef Canada premieres on the Food Network on Sunday, April 8.