Ron McKinlay

i. I work as a

I am the Chef de Cuisine of Canoe Restaurant here in Toronto.

ii. I do this creative work because:

Cooking just makes sense to me. I know it sounds cliché, but it might have something to do with why I was a happy-chubby kid (my first word was McDonald’s- sorry Mom)!

Another cliché that holds infinite truth is that passion drives me to this creativity. This level in my career or at any level throughout my career- it’s always been passion. That (passion) means that even on my days off, I am surrounded by everything food and cooking related. I’m immersed in it: the reading, working on menus, eating out, experimenting – all of it. And, I love it.

The creativity comes from doing the ‘hard yards’, learning everything I could and  finally expressing that creativity with the knowledge, skill and techniques that I have repeated over and over and over.

iii. Personal qualities that help me in my work are:

It helps to have a bit of a thick skin – gone are the Gordon Ramsay days- but I was brought up in those kitchens and understand both sides. I mean it helps to have thick skin, the ability to take criticism for what it is, a tool to push yourself further, a tool to make it better, a tool to grow.  Of course, at the end of the day, I am human and criticism can be taken wrong sometimes. It’s what you do with it that counts.

Being highly organized is crucial and meticulous attention to detail. Enough said.

Lastly, handling high stress environments with multiple stresses all at once- this is a quality that can only be learned by being putting yourself in that situation and not giving up. I see a lot of cooks have one bad service. Then, never see them again.

iv. The greatest challenges around doing this work are:

As a Chef there are numerous challenges, but ultimately creating a balance in work and life. This applies to anyone in the hospitality industry.

v. Creative childhood hobbies:

I was a creative kid, and even throughout high-school I really enjoyed art. I even considered a career in Graphic Design- realizing however that sitting all day at a desk was not for me.

vi. Other creators who inspire you:

Other Chefs and Restaurateurs inspire me. There is an insurmountable amount of knowledge, skill, passion, creativity and dedication needed to create and build something not only viable, but amazing. You need balls to be in this business. I can think of at least 2 people who have had a major impact on my career and in my life, both of whom I was privileged to work for and both successful Restaurateurs and Businessmen: Tom Kitchin and Scott Pickett.

I trained under Tom in Edinburgh for over 3 years. He was and is a massive influence in my life and gave me an eye-opening perspective on what you can achieve with hard work and dedication.

I worked under Scott Pickett in Melbourne for over 4 years. I was lucky enough to invite him to do a dinner at Canoe in Toronto last year. Scott taught me so much about the industry, the ins and outs, how to open a restaurant, build it and make it successful AND keep it together. He’s really a legend and I owe a lot to him.



vii. Training that has helped me in this career:

Contrary to standards and unlike many Chefs these days, I didn’t go down the culinary apprenticeship route. I had passion, a lot of naiveté and a fear of mediocrity that helped me pack my bags and get stuck into some seriously solid kitchens. I put my head down and grafted for years.

Be humble and don’t rush. You’re only rushing yourself. A title is just that… a title. Find a Chef who you admire, food you like, and a kitchen that will challenge you.

viii. A common trap that can hurt people in this career:

I mentioned this earlier: lack of work-life balance can really hurt people. You can easily become jaded when you lose passion. I may not be the perfect example of pulling off this balance like a pro, but I still wake up excited to go into work everyday. So, hopefully I’m doing something right.

ix. Some proud career moments:

Truly the opportunity to take over one of Canada’s Best Restaurants after having lived overseas and working abroad for 15 years has been pretty incredible. I’m proud of Canoe’s history, my role with Canoe and the Team I have been lucky enough to find and cultivate my time here with.

x. If you want to work in my field, I suggest that you:

Ask questions, watch, learn, do. Be prepared that you will not become a Chef in 6 months. Stay humble and hungry, put your head down and work your ass off. It’s not a sacrifice if you enjoy what you do.

xi. A professional goal I have for the future:

I would really like to be part of putting Canada on the International Food Scene map- where it deserves to be. Canada has some incredibly talented Chefs and I think we are still underrated as a culinary powerhouse.

xii. If you want to see my work, go to:

rwmckinlay instagram

I’m also doing a dinner in Vancouver April 8th with my friends at Wildebeest.

Header Photo: Canoe Restaurant

Photo #2: @fookcomm

Remaining Full Sized Photos @ Tamarack Farms #: Pauline Yu  insta @py_lens



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