Chef Jason Leizert officially appeared in the Okanagan late January of 2014, opening the door of Salted Brick, his new hit restaurant on Bernard Avenue in downtown Kelowna. A few asked, and a few knew, "Who is Chef Jason, and how did he come to bring us this great food?". I got to asking the questions to those "in-the-know" but most importantly by getting to know Chef Jason a bit.
Chef Leizert first began his career in kitchens when he left Ontario back in the mid 90's to find the beauty and surf of other coasts. After a season in Mexico he got to "faking a resume" to move back to Canada with a decidedly food focus, particularly to beautiful British Columbia. He landed on Vancouver Island with his crafted resume (and certain endearing charm) and was hired on as Banquet Manager at the esteemed Wickaninnish Inn's - The Pointe Restaurant - who was then run by our now-famous locals, Audrey Surrao, General Manager (now of Raudz and Micro Restaurant in Kelowna) and by Executive Chef Rod Butters (exexutive chef there, and now here at his and Audrey's own Raudz Regional Table). You can imagine his thrill, living in Canada's surf epi-centre… Little did he know the culinary path it would take him on. The friendship of the three - Leizert, Surrao and Butters - remains strong, and maybe it was part of the journey and draw toward our valley for Jason?
One day the front-of-house at The Pointe was understaffed and Jason "stood in". Then the same thing happened for the back-of-house. He stayed in the kitchen… And the rest was history. He was inspired, informed and well-guided by these first experiences with Chef Butters that eventually led him out in to the international culinary world.
Chef Jason set out internationally to cook abroad first in England at such restaurants as Michelin starred La Trompette and the then Lindsay House Restaurant from 2000-2003. With his culinary appetite piqued, Jason then set off outside the anglo-world to travel France and learn the culinary arts of that country for several months just before he set off to Australia with a following period in Hong Kong.
Intermittently Chef Leizert took positions and stages in between travel in our beloved BC, primarily on Vancouver Island where he helped build the kitchen of Niche Restaurant.
Vancouver came in to focus when Leizert moved to the city to work consecutively at The Corner Suite Bistro, Boneta, Save-On-Meats, then for a period as the founding Chef at The Parker, one of Vancouver's leading vegetarian restaurants on the east side. Yes, he seems to be known for his meat, so kudos to him for highlighting elegance adeptly in the realm of veggie-vegan cuisine.
Said Jason, "I don't really worry about organic. I am all about local". Let those words resonate, folks. Chef Leizert always has organic when it's available (most often), but the further step is his intrinsic calling to feed his community. His prices are a bare and plain testament to this ideology as is the energy and the welcoming flavours of his real, fair, and good food. I never question, but more-over, esteem to the quality he searches and finds in his food sources. Plates at Salted Brick haven't once reached over $20, with the median price hovering around $10. It's a steal for such high quality intentional food.
So on to the star- his charcuterie and daily plates of elegant-often-carnivorous simplicity…
Chef Leizert offers a fridge full of nose-to-tail - from saucisson sec to house-made proscuitto, braesola, or lardo. Nothing is left for waste in Jason's kitchen. This lucky pig Chelsea we are about to "follow" can know she's been fully put to good use for us happy eaters in the Okanagan. The pictures have a minor graphic quality. Rejoice in the ever-closing gap between you and your nourishment as you "face your food".
In a few days we will share the rest of Chelsea's journey to sausage casing, ham, prosciutto and beyond to your plate:) Visit Salted Brick at 243 Bernard Avenue, Kelowna. 10-10 Wed - Sat, 10-6 Sun - Tues.
By Tarynn Liv Parker
strings attached, to the Okanagan's best charcuterie
Charcuterie from various Sausages like traditional Saucisson Sec to Bologna
Duck prosciutto and lardo curing in it's own time
Yes, here it starts. Chelsea's life… as delectable pork. Actually, no. It starts at Heritage Meats withFarmer John Klop, where Chelsea is raised free and organic, that is, no bad feed and plenty of space. Qualities that promise you both flavour and healthful sustenance.
She is cut in to 1/4's for delivery, a standard practice for pork delivery efficiency from the farm, which still keeps her intact with kidneys, sweetbreads and all, but helps Chef Jason get to the best of the cuts. With plans for his already popular Scotch Bonnet and Fennel Espellette sausage, Saucisson Sec and more, Leizert will divide the cuts to become his artisanal sausage, and a few cured meat highlights like cured ham leg, bacon, headcheese and other pork delicacies.
Jason is considering prosciutto, but the time to cure it keeps this leg off the market for a long time
The skin comes off for later use, and to uncover delicious lardo and pork belly
As is practice, no meat is spared. Jason pulls out the meat tucked in the rib rack
The belly comes off the rack
Salt curing the pork belly. yumm
1/4 by 1/4 Chef butchers the valuable cuts
Chelsea is getting cut down to size, pieces that can be "digested" in to the grinder for sausage
These ribs have gone in to the *Rational oven at 400 Degrees Celsius to become stock
Next week… Part 2 of Chelsea's Journey at Salted Brick