The Industry
A Discussion with People Who Have Made A Career of Working In The Service Industry.
6 months ago

E145 Ron McKinlay

Working Hard Pays Dividends

Canadian Chef Ron McKinlay is the Executive Chef of Canoe restaurant in Toronto, where he works closely with producers, gatherers, and suppliers to create dishes inspired by Canada’s diverse landscapes and its distinct provinces.

After traveling, working, and training with some of the best chefs around the world, he, alongside his team, are aiming to promote and take Canadian produce and suppliers to new heights.

After highschool Ron spent 12 months in a culinary program but the school part was the problem. It is what drew him away from the program, not being a fan of the academic structure. Studying and books has never been his thing. Always finding it a struggle to concentrate in a classroom format so sitting and listening wasn’t working for him. So Ron shut that chapter out for a few years and concentrated on his first love - rugby – and put cooking as a profession behind him. Fast forward to 2004 and a shoulder injury made him reassess his next move. Taking some time to think about what he wanted to do. And the only thing that made sense was cooking.

To begin he individually emailed every single 1 Star restaurant in the UK and set off. Literally got only 1 reply which is pretty surprising considering he had no little to no experience and wasn’t even in the country at the time. He managed to land a job on the small island of Guernsey in the Channel Islands. It was a start and got his foot in the door and some cash in his pocket. But was left wanting more and started planning his next move after about 6 months.

From there Ron moved onto Edinburgh and got a job working for Tom Kitchin. “ Ive never had my world turned so upside down, so fast.” This was by far the most intense, challenging and rewarding work he had ever done. Over the course of four years, he immersed himself in every aspect of the kitchen and learned everything from how to pick herbs properly to making stocks to learning how to make Lievre a la Royale from scratch. All in all, teaching him what real craft is and it’s something that he can’t thank Chef Tom enough for.

Then onto Australia. Now 2010 and Ron was fortunate to get involved with the opening team for Gordon Ramsay’s Maze Restaurant in Melbourne, Australia. While short lived (visa issues) it gave him the chance to find his next “home” at Estelle working for Scott Pickett A.K.A the Cheffo.

“I haven’t witnessed another person who cooks as he does. From butchery to classical sauce making, working for Cheffo was a whirlwind every day. Double alcohol reductions. Stocks for every protein. Sauces were being finished to order. Upwards of 8 different sauces were made daily for service. To say it was a push is an understatement.”

And that was his home for the next four years. At Estelle Ron worked his way up as Chef de Partie to Sous Chef. They earned 1 Hat in his time there (Australia’s version of a Michelin Star). Then Cheffo opened another place called Saint Crispins, Ron went along and was shortly promoted to head chef. ”No sooner had we opened the doors and in true Cheffo style, we earned Best New Restaurant garnering 2 hats almost immediately. Never a dull moment with Cheffo! Still to this day he is a mentor and a friend and I consider myself very lucky to have spent so much time working side by side with the Cheffo. ”

Over a decade had gone by, and Ron was getting the itch to come home. So, after some time at a restaurant in the Middle East and a few more global cooking adventures, he made his way home to Canada, first on the West Coast to see the family and eventually making his way to Toronto in 2017, where Canoe is now home.

Now, as the Executive Chef of Canoe, Ron is thrilled to apply the refined techniques and modern cooking style learned and taught by some of the best out there. Continually excited to innovate new dishes and flavours influenced by Canadian ingredients – from B.C. seaweed and Ontario birch syrup to foraged Labrador tea and Fogo Island crab.


@rwmckinlay @canoerestaurant

@sugarrunbar @babylonsistersbar @the_industry_podcast email us: [email protected]

Podcast Artwork by Zak Hannah