As a boy growing up in St. John’s, his family travelled a lot and the young Gushue loved hotels, especially room service. No surprise — he enrolled in a culinary management program. After graduating, his meteoric rise to celebrity-chef status was jump-started with four jobs in three countries in three years.
“It’s all about getting lots of different experiences early in your career,” he says. An offer at the Fairmont Newfoundland Hotel brought him back to his hometown in 1998. From there, he went to Vancouver, then to Truffles Restaurant at the Four Seasons in Toronto, and Langdon Hall Country House and Hotel in southern Ontario. After a couple of stints co-owning restaurants in Ontario, he opted to return to Newfoundland and to a property that has been a Canadian jewel since it debuted.
Situated on the rugged territory of its namesake isle, off the northeast coast of Newfoundland, award-winning Fogo Island Inn is one of the world’s most celebrated hotels and annually lands on the Vacay.ca 20 Best Places to Visit in Canada. We spoke with Gushue about his new role and how travel has influenced his career and life.
Vacay.ca: What is it like returning to Newfoundland after 10 years?
Gushue: Some of it is like returning home and some of it is all new because Fogo Island is so different from St. John’s. But St. John’s has changed. There’s been a huge resurgence in the arts community. It seems like a younger, high-energy city than when I was growing up. What’s cool — especially in the hospitality industry — is being able to put your own stamp on what you do.
Vacay.ca: For you, what is the beauty of Fogo Island?
Gushue: It’s a rugged beauty that is so different from anywhere else I have been. I like to think of it as stunning combo of people and place. The people are very proud of their island.
Vacay.ca: Is this a dream job for you?
Gushue: It’s more than that. This is an opportunity for me to spread my culinary wings. It’s more than making great meals and winning an award. The Inn is a hotel run by a charitable foundation and in everything we do, owner Zita Cobb’s philosophy is evident.
Vacay.ca: You have travelled the world and from coast to coast in Canada. What, for you, is the best thing about travel?
Gushue: It opens your mind and can show you so many things. It makes me more aware and gives me another level of thoughtfulness.
Vacay.ca: Any travel advice to share?
Gushue: Go with an open mind. There is so much to learn.
Vacay.ca: Where was your last trip?
Gushue: New York City. We were invited to cook for a James Beard dinner, which was a great honour.
Vacay.ca: Do you have a favourite Canadian destination?
Gushue: No question, it’s Montreal. There’s an old Newfoundland saying, “I’d go to Montreal for a stick of gum.” The very first time I visited, I said, “I am going to live here one day.” I love the people, the culture and the European feel.
Vacay.ca: If I was to drop in to Fogo Island Inn for dinner, what would I see on the menu?
Gushue: We are at the infant stages of our repertoire, but you would almost always see snow crab and cod in many forms. And lobster when it is in season. There might be sea urchin or scallops. And if you prefer meat to fish, there would be moose or caribou, game birds or rabbits.
Vacay.ca: Cooking at an inn which involves breakfast, lunch, dinner and room service is different than cooking at a restaurant. How do you handle the demands while maintaining your energy?
Gushue: Most of my background has been at hotels, so this isn’t anything new for me. It’s all about planning and building a good team.
Vacay.ca: What would you like to be remembered for?
Gushue: The quality of the training I provide to the people who work with and for me. You know the true state of a kitchen when the chef isn’t there.