shawn jackson goose island brewhouse
Introducing Chef Shawn Jackson (Image: Viktor Radics)

Our next Chef of the Week is behind the menu at one of the city’s most anticipated openings.

Allow us to introduce you to Shawn Jackson. 

With a prime location on the Esplanade, popular Chicago-based craft beer company Goose Island has officially opened in Toronto in partnership with Bier Markt to form Goose Island Brewhouse. And at the head of the kitchen is Bier Markt’s Chef de Cuisine Shawn Jackson, who has been working closely with the team at Goose Island to ensure the seasonal menu pairs perfectly with what’s on tap. With over two decades of experience in the kitchen, it’s safe to say that Jackson knows what he’s doing.

We had the opportunity to chat with Chef Shawn Jackson about how he got his start in the industry, why he thinks we’ll start seeing less meat on menus, and more. Take a peek at our interview below.

The patio at Goose Island Brewhouse (Image: Viktor Radics)

How did you get your start in the industry?

I began my career working in small, family-owned restaurants over 20 years ago. I then started creating my own menu and my own team at a neighbourhood pub, before formalizing my career graduating from George Brown College.

How would you describe your culinary style?

My culinary style is elevated comfort food. I like to focus on using fresh, local ingredients when possible and simple but focused techniques to get the most flavour out of everything I do. I want people to eat a dish that brings back memories of the first time they tried it at home or in a family setting, but have them think that it never tasted as good as what they’re tasting now. 

What’s your favourite dish on your current menu and why?

My favourite dish is likely the Reuben sandwich. Growing up in Montreal, smoked meat sandwiches have always been a favourite go-to of mine. One of the first restaurants I worked at had a Reuben sandwich and it literally changed my thoughts about how a sandwich can be. Being able to brine and smoke the brisket in the restaurant and deliver a true Montreal sandwich to Toronto is a real honour for me.

Shawn Jackson
The Reuben (Image: Lisa Xu)

What do you think is the biggest misconception about the restaurant industry?

I think the biggest misconception of the restaurant industry is directed mostly at chefs lately. There is this idea that chefs live a rock star kind of life. It isn’t. It’s long hours and hard work behind the scenes.  It takes a lot of years and hard work to get to the top, and many chefs never get there. This is a job where the people at the top are passionate about what they do. I respect the chefs out there getting the recognition and making the most of their opportunity in the spotlight, but the reality of the chef life is not usually accurately portrayed.

What’s your go-to meal to cook at home?

Spending the day in a kitchen means I don’t cook at home as often as I would like, but if I had to pick one thing that I would eat over and over again it would have to be my Mom’s beef stew with baking soda biscuits. Just a few ingredients, but it is the type of dish that screams comfort. It always takes me back to the family sitting around the kitchen table. It is one of my favourite memories to walk in the back door and be greeted by the smells, see my mom in the kitchen and the pot on the stove simmering. 

What are three restaurants our readers need to try before they die?

I haven’t had the opportunity to get to as many international restaurants as I would have liked to in my time, so I won’t tell people to go anywhere that I haven’t been to myself. So here are 3 that I have visited and would strongly suggest.

  • Atelier in Ottawa is an amazing restaurant. Marc Lepine is an amazing chef. I had the opportunity to stage at his restaurant and I was blown away by his quiet demeanour and depth of knowledge. His tasting menus are playful, well thought out and an unforgettable experience.
  • Husk restaurant in Nashville.
  • Recently I was in Positano in Italy, and I went to Chez Bruno. The food was amazing, but the real experience was in the atmosphere. Sitting at a table on the side of the road, overlooking the water and watching the waiters cross the road to bring you some of the freshest seafood and pasta is a memory that will live with me forever.
Goose Island Brewhouse
Inside Goose Island Brewhouse (Image: Viktor Radics)

What’s one tip our readers should know to up their own game in their kitchens?

One thing everyone who wants to cook at home should know is to invest in a good chef knife and learn how to use and care for it. Also, buy decent pots and pans. Invest in the items you use regularly and you won’t be disappointed. 

If there was one thing in the restaurant industry you could change, what would it be?

I think the one thing that needs to change in our industry is the waste factor. We often don’t recycle enough or work to minimize our carbon footprint. I think, as a whole, the industry can work a little harder to ensure we’re all doing what we can to reduce waste.

How do you think Toronto (and/or Canada’s) culinary scene will evolve in the future?

I see the culinary industry in Canada starting to shift towards more vegetarian based dishes. As protein costs begin to rise as well as the impact that raising animals for consumption has had on the environment, I think that more and more chefs will look towards alternatives to satisfy their guests. 

To follow Chef Shawn Jackson’s work at Biermarkt and Goose Island Brewhouse, follow Bier Markt Esplanade and Goose Island Brewhouse Toronto on Instagram (@BierMarktEsplan@GooseToronto), and Bier Markt Esplanade on Twitter (@BierMarktEsplan)

RELATED LINK: Chef of the Week: Eric Chong of R&D

Are there any other chefs you’d like to see profiled? Let us know in the comment section or tweet us at @ViewtheVibe.