When she was 24, and had worked in the restaurant industry since she was 14, Kelly Ballantyne decided as a matter of fact that she wanted to go to chef school. “I’d always worked as a server,” says Ballantyne, who was born and raised in Stratford. While working front-of-the-house at York Street Kitchen, she was invited to work in the back-of-house. “They said I’d be good in the kitchen.” She was, and so she went to Stratford Chefs School. After graduating in 2000, and after her apprenticeship at York Street along with positions in other Stratford kitchens, she opened Sirkel Foods in 2005.
The arc of her restaurant’s growth has been based on a theory of simplicity that she studied at the school. “I learned some amazing things from Neil and Bryan [veteran SCS instructors and former Rundles and The Old Prune chefs Baxter and Steele, respectively], and I always start with those fundamentals and building blocks. You don’t have to mess with the ingredients too much… it’s about simplicity, but simplicity doesn’t have to be boring.”
It was a relatively short transition from chef-in-training to entrepreneur, and the busy restaurant on Wellington Street has proven itself for 15 years serving homemade, casual, and fresh food for breakfast and lunch. “We make as much as we can from bread to soups and all of our pastries.” The Sirkel kitchen draws on the fundamentals of her formal culinary training, but Ballantyne says, “I like getting things made and tasting delicious quickly.”
While price – and what she stresses is “good food fast” – has made the restaurant popular, it’s community support that helps sustain it.
Good ingredients, a range of textures, some spicy heat, and delicious flavours can make the humble sandwich a “Dream-wich.”
2 slices fresh whole wheat bread
1/2 cup C’est Bon fresh chevre, warmed at room temperature
2 Tbsp Rootham Tangy Red Pepper Jelly
a handful of organic arugula
5 thick slices of oven roasted chicken breast
Take the slices of bread and lay them on a cutting board. Spread the chevre on both slices making sure to cover right to the edges to ensure a perfect bite every time. Spread the jelly on top of the chevre on both slices. Season the chicken as you prefer and place it on one of the bread slices. Top with the arugula, put the sandwich together, cut and enjoy!
Alumni Feature text, recipe and recipe page with photo above are excerpted from: Farm To Table: Celebrating Stratford Chefs School Alumni, Recipes & Perth County Producers
By Andrew Coppolino | Photos by Terry Manzo
BUY THE BOOK
Read More Alumni Features