Mav Chefs 2015: Jenna Mooers & Chef Robert Reynolds, EDNA Restaurant, Halifax, Nova Scotia
It’s rare but it happens — we have two Mavs from the same restaurant. Really, we couldn’t include one without the other, for these two are creating a stir in Halifax’s north end. Owner Mooers has restaurant management in her blood; her mother, Jane Wright, is famous for Jane’s on the Common, a popular Halifax hot spot until 2012. EDNA is Mooers’s baby — she launched it in 2013 after managing a small restaurant in Montreal. She collaborated with everyone on every aspect — from the designer to the chef, Robert Reynolds. Reynolds has been cooking since he was 14 (and knew he’d become a chef at the young age of 12). His resume includes stints in England and Scotland, as well as working for Wright at Jane’s on the Common. At EDNA, these two create the complete dining package, from communal-style dishes made of local produce to the Halifax-meets-Montreal style décor. In fact, when EDNA opened its door, they started a new wave of fine dining for Halifax’s north end.
How did you meet?
Mooers: I met Robert in 2004, when he first moved to Canada. He was working at Jane’s on the Common. Our first shift together, I was actually his dishwasher — he was sous-chef. We lost contact when I moved to Montreal, but reconnected at a friend’s wedding just as I was starting renovations at EDNA.
Why even open a restaurant?
Mooers: I like to joke that I knew what I was getting into — having grown up with a family in the industry. But it was really just stars aligning — timing was right. It was the right location, right time and the project took on a life of its own.
What makes a restaurant special?
Reynolds: It goes beyond just the food. I think it’s a fine balance of great, fresh, honest food, an inviting atmosphere and dedicated, happy staff.
Why use communal dishes at EDNA?
Reynolds: We started that because we think sharing is fun. We generally only have one or two family-style items at one time.
How does the communal restaurant atmosphere play out at EDNA?
Mooers: Our communal harvest table is the centrepiece of the restaurant. It’s a very interesting table. Sometimes it’s one large group, sometimes it’s all separate tables. My favourite moments are when two groups sitting next to one another connect. I have even witnessed tables beside each other offering bites of their food to curious onlookers beside them.
What role does social media play in your life and in your restaurant?
Mooers: It’s a great way to connect with customers, staff, peers in the industry … and whoever else is listening.
What do you look for in a sous-chef?
Reynolds: A good attitude; it’s what I look for in all of our employees. Someone who genuinely likes what they do and is happy to come to work every day. Those are the people I want to work with.
Can anyone learn to cook like you?
Reynolds: Of course, just choose good quality ingredients and be good to them. Have fun with it. Also you have to like cooking brunch!
It’s easy for restaurants like yours to get fresh/quality ingredients — can you still cook something good with frozen or grocery store ingredients?
Reynolds: Campbell’s mushroom soup braised pork chops with frozen green peas is a childhood favourite that I still make at home today.
What is your most memorable/favourite food moment?
Mooers: Camping on the beach on the South Shore of Nova Scotia with friends as a teenager and steaming the lobster on a bonfire in salt water.
robert’s seafood chowder with bulwark cider
- 1 cup onion
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/2 cup leeks
- 1/2 cup carrot
- 1/2 cup celery
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter
- 750 ml Bulwark Apple Cider, Nova Scotia (or another hard, dry cider)
- 3/4 cup white flour
- 1 l milk
- 1 l 35% cream
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 lb mussels
- 20 medium hard shell clams or quahogs
- 1/2 lb halibut
- 2 large yellow-fleshed potatoes (boiled until soft)
- 1/2 lb lobster meat
- Chopped chives and dill, for garnish
Dice onions, garlic, leeks, carrots and celery.
Add 1/2 cup butter to a saucepan over medium heat. Sweat the vegetables until soft.
Add 500 ml cider and reduce until almost all liquid has evaporated.
Add flour to the pan and stir. Cook while stirring for 2 minutes.
Add milk and cream; bring to a simmer until thickened. Add bay leaves.
Clean mussels and clams: rinse well with lots of water.
Add remaining 250 ml of Bulwark Cider to a large pot with a tight fitting lid.
Add mussels and clams. Steam over high heat until all shells have opened.
Strain seafood and reserve the steaming liquid. Once cooled, remove all seafood from shells.
Strain steaming liquid through a fine cheesecloth to remove any sand or grit.
Add liquid to chowder base. Add all shellfish to the chowder.
Finely dice halibut, potatoes and lobster, and add to chowder. Simmer to a light boil.
Top with chives and dill when serving.
Serve with warm buttermilk biscuits and butter.
Match: Open a bottle of Tidal bay white of course.
Edna Restaurant, 2053 Gottingen Street Halifax, Nova Scotia