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Young chef eager to cater to Elmira area

When it comes to cooking, chef Ryan Terry has done it all. He has spent a decade working for the award-winning Charcoal Group, which owns five restaurants in the region including Wildcraft in Waterloo and del Dente in Kitchener; he has cooked throughout Italy and in Amsterdam, and he also runs a pizzeria in Grand Bend during the summer.

The one thing he hasn’t done, is run a business he could call his own – that is, until now. Terry has just opened Flow Catering, which specializes in catering services to the Tri-City area as well as a 500-square-foot café at 10 Church St. W. in Elmira.

ON THE MENU Chef Ryan Terry is busy booking parties and getting the word around town about his new business, Flow Catering. A café will open in the next month

“I’ve had the opportunity before to open restaurants and be partners, but I think now is the time,” explained Terry. “It’s my own ship, and no one else is involved.”

The Kitchener-native chose Elmira because of what he sees as a lack of good food varieties in the area, and because of the growth expected in the next few years.

“If you go to Waterloo, there are restaurants everywhere,” he explains. “So coming to Elmira I think there’s only a small handful of restaurants. And it seems like it’s growing rapidly and that subdivisions are coming in.”

He also enjoys the small-town feeling of the area, and how close he is to local farmers and producers, especially with the enormous growth in local food and customer’s desire to understand where their food comes from.

“The local food movement is huge. It seems like every time you open a paper someone is talking about it. In the Kitchener-Waterloo area we’re so fortunate to have a lot of farming.”

For now his emphasis is getting the catering side of the business up and running, but he hopes to have the café open in the next month. It will feature freshly baked goods and premium coffee and tea for early risers, a gourmet lunch menu with a wide variety of tastes to please nearly any palate, as well as freshly made dinner entrees to go.

“Everything is going to be made from scratch,” he said. “Scratch cooking with high-quality ingredients.”

Flow will accommodate events ranging from wakes and weddings to Christmas parties and stag-and-does. Terry’s personal philosophy is ‘Fresh, Simple Energy’ and he cooks with big, bold flavours that are colourful but also simple to make. He enjoys cooking traditional meals like slow-cooked macaroni and cheese or shepherd’s pie, but can also create higher-end dishes like foie gras or Asian stir-fry as well.

He can also cook based on the special food requirement of customers, such as vegetarians or anyone who requires gluten-free or dairy-free menu options due to allergies.

For customers interested in a behind-the-scenes look at his kitchen, Terry will also be starting small cooking classes and corporate team-building programs, and is even preparing for what he calls ‘The Chef’s Table’ on Friday and Saturday nights. He will open his kitchen up to a small dinner party of four to eight people, and they can sit and watch him prepare a six or seven course meal from start to finish. It will give diners the opportunity to interact with him one-on-one by asking questions and seeing how each dish is prepared, he said.

Terry was exposed to cooking from a very early age. He calls his mother “a great cook,” who also helps out with the less fortunate through the soup-kitchen program in Kitchener, and his aunt is a pastry chef who once owned her own restaurant.

When he graduated from high school he was working at del Dente as a dishwasher and had a scholarship to study to become a mechanic, when the chef there told him he should become his apprentice. Three months later he was off to culinary school at George Brown College in Toronto, where he graduated in 2003. He returned to del Dente as a chef, and worked there for two more years.

He took a three month leave to travel to Europe in 2007, but it certainly wasn’t a vacation. He travelled through Italy and Amsterdam with nothing more than his knives and a three-month rail pass, offering his skills “for free or for food.” He says he learned much about European cuisine and was able to hone is craft as a chef, particularly with Italian cuisine, which is his passion.

Upon his return to Canada, he joined Wildcraft in Waterloo and was the head chef there for a year, before working at the Fairmont in New Brunswick. The 28-year-old was also the recipient of the “Top 30 Under 30” award in 2007, given by the Ontario Hostelry Institute to the best and brightest young chefs in the province.

The catering company and café in Elmira is a new challenge for him and his family. He and his girlfriend Leah have a 10-month old son named Kayden. He doesn’t expect them to be too involved in the business, however.

“It’s very easy to get sucked into working for your family in this business, and I don’t necessarily want to work with my family, because it gets pretty crazy and heated. This is my kind of thing, and I keep it separate as much as I possibly can.”

He calls Leah his “support system,” noting she has her own career as an engineer to follow.
Once the kitchen and the café are up and running, Terry also plans to give back to the community.

He hopes to hire two full-time employees and one part-time employee to work in the café, and wants to take on two apprentices for the kitchen. He will also be searching for a full-time sous-chef, and a couple of dishwashers. He also wants to organize a co-op program through the high school.

A little more local for your inbox.

Seven days. One newsletter. Local reporting about people and places you
won't find anywhere else. Stay caught up with The Observer This Week.

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