My Lil’ Bean Q&A: Jon Spee of The Local Kitchener

After a brief pause in blog posts we’re back with a bang! We managed to wrangle some time from Jon Spee, an educator, food blogger and homebrew-master. Welcome to the blog, Jon!


Hey Jon, you’re the host of the local blog The Local Kitchener, which has some great recipes and reflections on food. What prompted your interest in growing and preparing food?

I think I wanted to write a food blog for a while before actually starting it.  I was at a point with my cooking and food prep where I felt like there was a lot I was excited about, as well as a number of new skills and techniques I was learning, and I wanted to have a forum in which to share it.  My overall interest in food prep goes back to high school when I really got into making salsa.  Later in university I lived in a house of people where we focused on creating community and a big focal point was food.  This pushed me to get more into cooking for groups and after graduating I continued with the focus of trying to create community around food.




Where does Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge stand in comparison to other cities for local food eco-system?
We moved here from Atlanta in the winter of 2013 and felt like we’d arrived in food paradise.  We couldn’t believe just how much local food was available.  I quickly realized we’d be able to make almost all our meals with local ingredients and it was very exciting for me.  We don’t eat 100% local but we avoid buying anything that we could easily find grown locally.  It’s possible the local food scene has gotten much better in Atlanta since leaving there but at the time local food was limited to weekly farmer’s markets that were seasonal and mostly just had vegetables and meat.  Finding local fruit took more work of visiting farms and orchards.  Local grains were not something we ever really found other than grits (which we really miss!).  Still I think the trend of local food has been building bit by bit and I’m sure by now there are a wider range of options available pretty much anywhere in North America (of course I can’t back this up, I’m just making assumptions here!).


What are some exciting food related trends happening in K-W-C that you think are forward-looking?
I love that more and more restaurants are emphasizing their connections to local farms and I’d like to see a lot more of this.  I also think that there are a number of good and easy ways to connect with local farms through CSAs and online farmer’s markets (like Bailey’s!).  I’m also very happy to see more local breweries using local hops and grains and I think it’s about time that Ontario created its own unique beer style (there are West Coast IPAs and New England IPAs, isn’t it time for an Ontario IPA style? Or maybe it’s not an IPA, but some totally new style we have not yet thought of….).


Congratulations on your recent addition to your family. What are some principles around food that you’re trying to instill with your children?
Well it’s tough with kids because they’re quite picky (and I was like this too as a child so I can relate), but we try to get them to at least try a bit of whatever we’re having.  We don’t plan meals around our kids likes and dislikes so some nights they are very happy with meals and other nights they are somewhat less than happy (there was a time where all the kids cried when we cooked steak from a locally raised grass-fed cow we had purchased an 1/8th of.  We were like, seriously, you’re crying about steak?  Luckily the next time we cooked it they realized just how amazing and delicious it was and now they can’t get enough of it!.


What is one of your favourite spring recipes?
Anything with asparagus for one thing, but most especially greens.  We eat salad almost every meal from spring to fall because it’s so versatile and satisfying.  Our favourite thing to make with greens is probably kale caesar salad.


You’re also an accomplished micro-brewer and I’ve been lucky enough to try some of your experimental batches. What aspects of micro-brewing do you enjoy?
I’d say “homebrewer” but I guess in a sense it’s a very micro form of brewing!  I love the subversive aspect of bypassing the entire government regulated alcohol scene, and saving a ton of money in the process (if you don’t count my rather expensive brewing setup….).  But I also really love the freedom that comes with making beer from scratch, which is the same freedom that comes with cooking from scratch; I get to choose my ingredients very specifically and make exactly what I want to drink.  If I want to use all Ontario ingredients I can.  If I want to mimic an imported beer style I can do that do.  There is fairly limitless potential when it comes to homebrewing.


jon brewing
What was the most significant gift you’ve received and why?
Good question.  Recently a good friend of us gave us a beautiful electric guitar.  That was a pretty significant gift and I look forward to helping our kids learn how to play it and fill our house with some rocking noise!  I also am very grateful for the gift of the last several years of being able to be an on-again-off-again stay-at-home-dad (too many hyphens, sorry).  I’ve loved the time I’ve spent at home with our kids and the freedom to explore new hobbies and learn new skills.  It feels like an incredible gift for my wife and I to have both had significant amounts of time at home with our family without an overwhelming amount of our lives spent at work.  I’m not sure I could ask for more.


Thanks so much to Jon for coming by the blog and talking with us about local Waterloo food and homebrewing!
Don’t forget to check out Jon’s recipes, musings and goings-on at his blog, The Local Kitchener!