Friday, April 12, 2024

Chef Craig’s recipe for success


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CHEF CRAIG HARDING is all about authenticity. He likes to concoct new recipes and his love of food is shown in his dishes.

Harding and his wife Alexandra Hutchison (an interior designer) opened their first restaurant together, Campagnolo, in 2010 in Toronto, Canada. The couple’s warm and unwavering hospitality, rustic yet refined menu, and charming European-inspired interior have garnered much critical acclaim.

“Campagnolo translates to countryside and when my wife and I were putting this restaurant together we were living with my grandmother as we had just moved back from the West Coast after a year.

“We were building this restaurant and it was literally a DIY with family involved. I told my grandmother the type of dishes I was looking to prepare and she said it was very campagnolo. I asked her what that meant and she said it was like someone who liked to be in the countryside – a country bumpkin.”

Harding said the name was perfect and the food translated to that: “It is a very rustic approach to food, a slow way of life. The long Sunday meals I remembered on our farm.”

Harding is one of the international chefs on the island for the seventh annual Food And Rum Festival, which ends today.

He recalled his first visit to Barbados for the Food And Rum festival last year.

“When I knew I was going to be cooking and hanging out with Marcus Samuelsson, I was excited. My team was over the moon. It lived up to the excitement because when I got there on the Thursday to Oistins hours after getting off the plane Marcus was there to greet us.

“He told me, ‘Come on, Greg, get up onstage with me. Have a Banks beer . . . . We are gonna do this event’. Afterwards he took us all to the spots, Baxters Road and so on, he knew the island.

Harding, 36, says as a teenager he got a summer job in an Italian restaurant and while he wasn’t sure if he wanted to cook and be a chef, he was open to the idea of exploring the option.

“I liked the restaurant atmosphere and I liked the people. So I decided to switch high schools in the very last year and go to a school that had a cooking class.”

He said that teacher was classically trained and that was 17 years ago at Central Tech High School.

“I was so impressed with the techniques and his Frenchman style. My parents loved my dishes when I took them home.”

That year changed his life.

He applied to culinary school and for two years he honed his skills.

He has worked with other chefs, climbing the culinary ladder.

“When I started cooking in 2001 I was being mentored. Now it is my turn to do that. So in my kitchen I have young students in their early 20s.”

Chef Harding said Barbados was an opportunity to share his culinary skills and also to learn something and connect both countries through food.

“It is a joy to share experiences. I like to see the blending of cultures and ideas. I am bringing three of my cooks . . . to see what other chefs are doing, what food excites other people and we bring that back to use in our restaurant and create new menus.”

Another chef from overseas joining the culinary team is Jean George, who Harding says is very talented.

“I look up to him. His restaurants are amazing. And I can’t wait to see how he cooks in person.”


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