At age 17, Bruce Wood remembers savouring a spicy bowl of authentic Jamaican goat curry and, in his words, “seeing the world in colour.” This white bread boy from North York, Ontario had had his first food epiphany. There was no going back.
When a passion for food strikes that young, you run with it. Almost from the onset of his career in 1981, Wood found himself in the famed kitchen of the Hazelton Café in Toronto, working with legendary Chef Terry Seed. Seed was helping to define regional Canadian cooking; Wood was there to learn from a master.
During his apprenticeship Wood attended George Brown College, at the Kensington campus. He graduated in 1984 with top honours in both the basic and advanced programmes. Upon graduation he furthered his learning curve at a number of top-rated restaurants in Toronto, taking his expertise up a notch with each strategic career move.
Lured to Ottawa in 1992, he went to work for LOEB Foods, a vanguard grocery chain employing professional chefs to teach customers how to take their meals to the next level. By this time in his evolution as a chef, Wood was focusing more and more on sourcing local produce to use in his menus and cooking classes. As a champion of the early “farm to plate” movement, Wood moved to Mariposa duck and goose farm in Plantagenet, Ontario. Working on the farm, and cooking and teaching in the onsite restaurant further galvanized Bruce’s resolve to champion local food producers, growers and suppliers.
A spark for teaching had been ignited, both from his experience with LOEB and the cooking classes he taught at Mariposa. Bruce took a teaching position at Algonquin College in Ottawa. By the fall of 2005, Wood’s credentials for creating dynamic interactive food learning experiences came to the attention of Carley and Oliver Schelck. They approached Wood to help to open and run a new concept cooking school, The Urban Element.
Wood might have stayed had it not been for his ever-evolving commitment to local, sustainable food practices and agriculture. He wanted to get closer to his food sources. He wanted to personally know his suppliers and he wanted to get involved in local food advocacy. Wood also wears shorts a lot. Okay, all the time. Ottawa just wasn’t cutting it in the winter.
After spending time on Salt Spring Island in BC, Wood moved back to Ontario to work with his long time friend Andre Sanche at Andre’s business Ciboulette et Cie., in Midland. The shop features prepared and take home foods, preserves & freezer items as well as a line of grocery items from oils & vinegars to charcuterie and fine Canadian cheeses.
After a visit to Vankleek Hill & Beau’s Oktoberfest Wood re-connected with Steve Beauchesne and joined Beau’s in promoting the glorious combination of beer & food.
With notes from Canadian Organic Growers Magazine.