Meet the Maker: Chef Michael Smith

By Tianna Edwards

Chef Michael Smith, Food Network star, James Beard Award winner, award-winning cookbook author, and Prince Edward Island food ambassador is also blessing the city of Kingston with his brilliant culinary influence and appreciation for locally-grown ingredients.

After building a working relationship with Sodexo (a food supplier for Queen’s and many other facilities) for several years — including leading a team of Sodexo Chefs in 2010 that cooked for the worlds Olympians in the Whistler Athletes Village — Chef Smith decided to take his role to the next level in an expansion of the food services offered in the Mackintosh-Corry building at Queen’s University. With the support of Sodexo, Smith opened the Canadian Grilling Company, a restaurant dedicated to highlighting Canadian ingredients through Canadian fare. The cafeteria underwent a $1.3 million dollar renovation in 2011 to include this new addition.

Photo: Canadian Grilling Company via Facebook

That’s right, student food is not what it used to be. At least not at Queen’s. A burger is not just a burger — it’s about thoughtful preparation, fine ingredients and a menu that is curated by a celebrity chef. 

Smith is a sustainability advisor for Sodexo and that has influenced the creation of CGC. His mission is transparency and consumer engagement.

“What we’re trying to do is help consumers — and on campus, it’s students — help them think about where food comes from. This is one of the biggest challenges we have, engaging consumers. When consumers care, things can happen. That’s what the Grilling Company is all about, showing we can do this awesome thing in the middle of this colossal university. And make a stand for something.”

What Smith means by “make a stand for something” is honour and support our local farmers, ranchers and growers. This mentality is something he prides himself on and practices at home in Prince Edward Island as well.  

“That’s what I do with my restaurant on Prince Edward Island,” he says. “We are all about connecting guests with food and making them think about where their food comes from.

“We’re not going to save the world by eating a burger but we could give some thought to where our food comes from and the conscious choices that we make. We need the industry to be transparent about what they do, where they get their ingredients and what we do with these things.”

Smith explains that his mission with CGC is to “show just how committed we are to our food sourcing and properly prepared food. The burgers are made from locally raised organic meat from Southern Ontario done the way I like it.”

And if all of this talk about a good burger has your mouth watering, Smith’s restaurant on Queen’s campus is not reserved just for students. You, too, can take a trip to campus and get your hands on one of the CGC’s farm-to-table dishes. 

In case you’re wondering where else this national food influencer likes to eat when he’s in town, he listed The Rustic Spud as one of his favourite local spots.