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Family, foraging, and food

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Since competing on season nine of Top Chef Canada, Stéphane Levac says that many new opportunities have opened up to him. Photo: Steve Smith, Visionfire Studios

Since competing on season nine of Top Chef Canada, Stéphane Levac says that many new opportunities have opened up to him. Photo: Steve Smith, Visionfire Studios

Recipes Featured In This Article

The things that keep me connected to my true self

I grew up in Sturgeon Falls, a small francophone community in Northern Ontario. Food was never on my radar.

We were a busy sports family, whether that was hockey in the winter, baseball in the summer, and lots of basketball in high school. Meals were always on the go, something quick and convenient. I never had that luxury of having big family gatherings with proper home-cooked meals or something that inspired me to lead me to where I am today.

I was adopted at an early age. I’m of Indigenous descent. I’m a chef, forager, photographer, father, and ambassador of all things related to where I live today, which is the beautiful Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia.

My passion for cooking happened when I was living in Ottawa. This is where I met my wife, my life partner, and mother of my child, Sarah Morrison. 

Sarah had long been in the food industry when we met, and I was living across the street from where she worked in the Byward Market. I thought that I would, or at least attempt, to impress her by cooking a meal that I had back home and bringing it to her during one of her shifts. I think it worked, because from that day forward we have been partners and “foodies.”

We did everything together—cooked, indulged in wine, entertained friends, dined out. To this day, she claims that she is the reason behind my career as a chef and I will give her that.

Our son was born in Ottawa on July 1, 2011. Within six months, we decided that we needed more support from family, so we moved to Sarah’s hometown of Wolfville, N.S.

Having been in the gaming industry in Ottawa, I didn’t really know what I was going to do for work when we got here. I quickly had options and took a job as a butcher, something very different what anything I had done before, but it was the beginning of an entirely new career and my passion for cooking took off. I did some work with a local vineyard and started a small catering business with Sarah we called Frais Catering.

On location at Longspell Point Farm in Kingsport, N.S. Photo: Steve Smith, Visionfire Studios

“Frais” is fresh in French. We always tried to source our ingredients locally. Over the years we developed many relationships with local producers and while we closed the catering business those relationships still exist today.

I always say that my favourite part about this industry is the conversations that are had behind closed doors and not what you see on social media. I’ve learned so much over the years through these conversations that no money could buy, and for that I am forever grateful for these people that I proudly call friends.

Today, I’m the restaurant chef at Oak Island Resort on Nova Scotia’s South Shore. I forage as much as I can and try to incorporate some of these elements in my dishes I can’t help myself from sharing the knowledge and experience and to teach what I have learned. I don’t claim to be an expert by any means, but I feel like I’ve done enough that I can send people in the right direction.

During the pandemic, we’ve spent a lot of time foraging together as a family. It’s satisfying, and the experience has great value; not in the sense of dollar signs but more about getting us outside and away from our tech devices.

We exercise physically and exercise our knowledge of how things work based on seasons and weather. I like to think of it as a healthy lifestyle and a sustainable one at that.

COVID-19 got me thinking more about this. 

Why do we need to have ingredients shipped to us from different countries? Why can’t we lower emissions by focusing on what’s around us locally? Why are small businesses struggling so badly to the point of closure? 

We need to get out of the mindset of things we want vs the things we need. For me, that’s locally grown food. High quality products from local producers that we can be proud of because they come from right here in our own backyard. The sights and destinations of this province that we take for granted. 

Get out and discover what is yours and ours, have those conversations with your local farmers etc. Mark my words that you will be surprised not only by what Nova Scotia has to offer but Atlantic Canada as a whole. 

I have created four simple recipes using some of the finest local ingredients available in my community from foraging, visiting local farms, and from my local farmers markets. With fresh ingredients you can make anything delicious and beautiful. Enjoy.

Chef Stéphane Levac Photo: Steve Smith, Visionfire Studios
East Coast Living