Chef Scott Downey’s culinary career has been influenced through his training in the United States and Denmark. This training had started earlier than he thought through his upbringing here in Canada. His family had always found a passion for gardening and cooking meals from scratch.
In his youth, he grew up in Alberta with endless farmers fields surrounding them. From his upbringing, with this sense of eating from a garden, to his culinary training outside of Albert, his journey brought him home. He is excited daily with what is being grown here and the endless opportunities having a restaurant in Alberta offers.
What made you want to become a chef?
” I fell into it. I was in college, broke and couldn’t get a job. My sister had worked in a restaurant in Granville Island, Vancouver at the time and offered me a shift on dish to make some money for the night. Reluctantly I took the job for the night; when I showed up they needed a fry cook instead. It was about an hour into that first shift of a fry cook and I knew this is my life. The teamwork, the focus, the underlying common goal of the team and with an immediate reward; you get to create and with that bring others joy.”
Why do you use Alberta ingredients in your kitchen?
“We are focused on the exploration of Canadian cuisine. With this Alberta is home to such diverse ecosystems from our north nearing the arctic to the south with deserts; rocky mountains to the flatlands and endless lakes and rivers. Alberta is home to an amazing array of ingredients and ecosystems to support this diversity.”
What is your favourite Alberta ingredient to use?
“This could be the hardest question to answer as it changes all the time. Each season offers a new bounty of ingredients and this really ranges from world class brassica to the quality of our cattle. It could be the wild plants we forage but also the amazing cultivated products, especially berries, that we get from many of our friends.”
What dish should guests be sure to try on your menu?
“Every dish on our menu currently has an Albertan ingredient on it from and Albertan farm. In fact, our concept and focus is on all local and Canadian sourced products; this does offer some challenges as we are such a large nation geographically. With this almost every dish we offer at the restaurant has at least one Albertan product.”
What is a favourite kitchen/cooking memory?
“This is hard, but easy as well. It’s not necessarily one memory but it’s always revolving around family or friends. A group of close people in a kitchen cooking, eating and sharing. I think individual food experiences very much revolves around nostalgia. It creates this special moment of revisiting a memory. My first food memory is of a very young self out in New Brunswick visiting my Grandmother Grace; she had this massive Butternut Tree in her backyard that we collected the walnuts from. The walnuts themselves are very sharp and the shell is extra tough; we would take our foraged walnuts inside and crack them open on her fireplace with a hammer. This work, this appreciation for such a small bite; it’s such a special memory of this simple but rewarding task of collecting and opening butternuts at my grandmas. This is why the restaurant is called The Butternut Tree.”
Why do you take part in Alberta on the Plate?
“I always want to share all the amazing products Alberta has to offer and along with this its an amazing platform to meet and be introduced to new faces!”