A taste for talent

Alumnus Chef Mark Gray’s latest culinary adventure preserves the best Nova Scotia has to offer

A taste for talent

Chef Mark Gray of The Watch That Ends the Night

“This is an industry for people that need to have passion and drive. It’s not just a nine to five job, it’s a lifestyle.” – Chef Mark Gray

Fast Fact

The Watch That Ends the Night is inspired by the novel of the same name by Glace Bay-born author Hugh MacLennan.

Sous Chef Janie Bogardus and Cook Ryan Howell prepare fermented foods with Chef Mark Gray in the cold kitchen of The Watch That Ends the Night, Dartmouth

Chef Mark Gray knows what it takes to be a leader in the kitchen. Whether it’s developing innovative dishes, sourcing wild produce or pairing the perfect cocktail, he’s always ready to take on the challenges of the culinary industry.

With his latest endeavor, The Watch That Ends the Night, Mark is trying something new. Rather than hot stoves and open flames, the Dartmouth restaurant boasts a ‘cold kitchen’ focused on the art of preservation and fermentation. Using these methods, Mark hopes to preserve and highlight the unique flavours of Nova Scotia.

And, he’s powered his new kitchen entirely with NSCC graduates.

Grads in the kitchen

Before going to culinary school, Mark had already been working as an executive chef of a hotel. He graduated from the Akerley Campus Culinary Arts program in 2011 and, in same year, completed his Red Seal apprenticeship training and became the head chef of Halifax restaurant Brooklyn Warehouse. As executive chef of the YHZ Food umbrella, he proceeded to open Ace Burger Co. and Battery Park. He’s also a three-time Gold Medal Plates finalist. 

Reflecting on his own time at NSCC Mark says, “The most valuable lesson I’ve learned is the ability to show up and apply myself. This is an industry for people that need to have passion and drive,” he says. “It’s not just a nine to five job, it’s a lifestyle.”

Joining Chef Gray in his latest venture are Akerley Campus graduates Janie Bogardus, sous chef, and cooks Keegan Patey and Ryan Howell.

Of his new team Mark says, “Looking back at my culinary path, I know that they have those fundamental skills. I don’t have to teach them the basics.”

Joe Gurba, owner of The Watch That Ends the Night, adds, “I see the value in employing people who have trained outside of the rigors of the kitchen first and I see the value of them taking that experience and applying it in the kitchen. Mark, Janie, Keegan and Ryan come from an understanding that is bigger than the province, but they can bring that back to create a truly Nova Scotian, Canadian program to our menu.”

Nova Scotia, preserved

The Watch That Ends The Night is inspired by the novel of the same name by Glace Bay-born author Hugh MacLennan. Exploring the themes of invention, preservation and bygone techniques, the menu offers fermented, cured and pickled dishes - carefully crafted with time by Mark and his team.

“Not only is Mark a Red Seal chef, an award winning chef and rising star, he’s someone who is genuinely passionate about fermentation,” says Gurba. “His showing in Gold Medal Plates encapsulated what we wanted to do with our restaurant.”

Mark says serving local ingredients has become, in a way, industry standard. “My favourite ingredients are wild ones because they’re uncommon – sea buckthorn, mushrooms, local berries,” he says. “They allow us to be that Nova Scotian, Canadian restaurant without needing to say it.”

Mark adds, “My biggest motivation is to get Nova Scotia on the culinary world map. There’s room to move and it’s cool to be part of building a food scene here. I want to help provide a spotlight here, together with fellow chefs who are doing great things.”

27/11/17

“This is an industry for people that need to have passion and drive. It’s not just a nine to five job, it’s a lifestyle.” – Chef Mark Gray

Fast Fact

The Watch That Ends the Night is inspired by the novel of the same name by Glace Bay-born author Hugh MacLennan.

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