Chef Leighton Smyth was born in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland. He and his family immigrated to Canada in 1981.
Always having a love for food he found himself working at a local restaurant, the BBQ Steak Pit in Bragg Creek. He started working as a dishwasher during high school for some extra spending money. This turned into a full-time job once graduating from high school, working his way up to running the kitchen in 1998.
In 1998 Leighton moved on and began working at the Glencoe Golf & Country Club, working under Executive Chef Jan Hansen. Starting as a Garde Manger cook working his way up to Executive Sous Chef by 2004.
Being a seasonal club, Leighton spent his winters working various positions such as a Banquet Chef at the Calgary Winter Club, and Calgary Exhibition & Stampede as well as traveling to Edmonton for a stint at the International Airport overseeing the many food outlets in the terminal.
In 2005 Leighton moved to CODA, Canada Olympic Park (now Winsport) for a few months as Sous Chef before landing back with his long-time mentor Jan Hansen at Heritage Park as Executive Sous Chef. Together they helped expand Heritage Park’s annual food operations from around 2 million per year to 9 million and opened up the Heritage Town Square expansion along with a brand new 5000sq foot Gasoline Alley kitchen in 2009.
In 2015, Leighton was promoted to Executive Chef at Heritage Park. He oversees a large food operation consisting of several concession kitchens, a year-round café and restaurant (the Selkirk Grille) and a multi faceted Banquets and Catering department.
What made you want to become a chef?
“I loved to cook from a young age and was always in the kitchen helping (and fixing) dishes for the family. I found the kitchen lifestyle fun and quickly picked up on everything I was seeing. Decided that going to SAIT was a good career path.”
Why do you use Alberta ingredients in your kitchen?
“What better way to promote where we are from? Alberta has so much to offer where it comes to fresh, local ingredients.”
What is your favourite Alberta ingredient to use?
“CAB beef…especially Prime Rib.”
What dish should guests be sure to try on your menu?
“All of it!”
What is a favourite kitchen/cooking memory?
“Hard to settle on just one…Working with chef Mark McEwan in 2012 for a local event was a highlight.”
Why do you take part in Alberta on the Plate?
“Promoting local product and great exposure for our restaurant.”