[Joie De Vivre]

Turning the Tables

top image: Lynn and Lora by Ryan Szulc

Lynn Crawford and Lora Kirk, two of Canada’s top chefs are putting down roots in the countryside with a new family and lots of new plans

A couple of decades ago, the late British impresario and pop visionary Malcolm McLaren shared a look into his crystal ball with me. McLaren, who brought the world the Sex Pistols in the late 70s, professed that the next big thing would be food. “And chefs are going to be the new rock stars!” he proclaimed. McLaren had a convincing argument: Society was evolving, sensually speaking, taste buds were becoming more refined, and people were more aware of the importance of healthy nutrition.

Enter Lynn Crawford and Lora Kirk – two of Canada’s top chefs, who have dazzled international diners for decades. Lynn was born in Toronto and studied culinary arts at George Brown College before training in California. She returned home to become executive chef at the Four Seasons Hotel, first in Toronto and then in New York. It was a position she held for 24 years, before opening the hip and popular Ruby Watchco eatery in Toronto’s Riverdale neighbourhood in 2010.

Lora, who was born in Peterborough and grew up on her grandparents’ farm nearby, realized the importance of supporting local farmers and growers from an early age, and started pursuing her dream by enrolling in Algonquin College’s culinary program. After a 3-year stint in the UK, working at London’s famed Connaught Hotel, Lora returned to Toronto to work at the Four Seasons, and it was there that she met Lynn. She also went on to hone her skills in New York, where she worked for several haute cuisine establishments and won numerous awards, including a coveted Michelin Star.

Lora joined forces with Lynn at Ruby Watchco, and for a decade the talented duo charmed gourmands with their mouth-watering, simply prepared fare and local and seasonal ingredients. Ruby Watchco closed its doors just last year.

Both women captured the celebrity spotlight, appearing on such popular shows as Iron Chef and Top Chef Masters. Lynn’s TV résumé also includes shows like Restaurant Makeover, Great Canadian Cookbook and her own series, Pitchin’ In. Add to that a few cookbooks and a stake in The Hearth Market and The Hearth restaurant at Pearson Airport, and it’s no wonder Lynn Crawford’s become a household name. But it’s the joy of Lynn and Lora’s exquisite relationship and their devotion to family life these days that’s surpassing any professional accomplishments. This past fall, the couple purchased a 100-acre property with a big house on the north side of Rice Lake, and life couldn’t be sweeter.

Because of Lora’s original ties to the area, the lure of this part of the province was powerful. And while they never say never, Lynn feels this move will be the last for them. “We’ve been in transit for many years,” she explains. “This area is so beautiful – and family is what it’s all about now.”

“I’m really jazzed that people love food as much as I do, and I hope that everybody will have the opportunity to experience and embrace and share.” LYNN CRAWFORD

Lynn and Lora are the mothers of two adorable young girls, Addie Pepper, 4, and Gemma Jet Aubergine, 2, and the house that the couple are renovating and the glorious property they’re on is a dream come true for the whole family. “The girls love it!” says Lora. “Addie says every day she loves her new house… And Gemma’s named the corner on the first field her ‘magical forest.’” Many of Lora’s family members are also still living in the area, including her 90-year-old “Bubka.” Lora says that while there have been lots of changes to the countryside of her youth, it thrills her that many of the core key families are still in the area.

It’s the strong sense of community that Lora and Lynn appreciate most. Despite the pandemic and these daunting times, the ladies have found that people have been super friendly and outgoing. And there’s no question that people and family are what it’s all about for these accomplished chefs. “We’ve both had great careers in the culinary world, but there certainly have been some big changes in the last couple of years,” reflects Lynn. “And now we have these two gorgeous, beautiful, funny and whimsical little girls and we’re here in a new chapter in our life.”

But while the two have an insatiable appetite for both their métiers and country living, they’re still unsure about the exact shape of things to come. “We decided that we were just going to see what the next big adventure would be,” says Lynn. “No big plans yet. But it just spins around to family, and this is what we want to do. We’re going to try some organic farming. And Lora’s family are beekeepers, and Bubka’s going to teach us a few tricks.”

“And my uncle Rick and Aunt Joyce grow garlic and they have chickens for fresh eggs and he has bees and then there’s the maple syrup…” adds Lora.

The two chefs certainly aren’t committing to trading in their aprons for overalls completely, but they are both ready to make a difference in the world, and grateful that they’ve managed to achieve a profile for themselves as caring members of the community at large. “I’m glad that people know my name because we’ve done good things to bring the food forward,” says Lora, “and to really advocate for the farmers and the growers.” “I think that’s super important,” Lynn concurs. “I’m really jazzed that people love food as much as I do, and I hope everybody will have the opportunity to experience and embrace and share. Because that’s what it’s about. I’ve done so much in my career and I’m so, so, so lucky to have had so many different experiences in different places and work with so many talented people. And it’s just nice now to be giving back.”

While their love of fine cuisine will never wane, both Lynn and Lora admit they’re in a bit of a “been there, done that” frame of mind. “I’ve loved that all,” claims Lynn. “But I just want to find something else now. And I think that education is so important – to have the experience of doing something hands on – that’s what I’ve always enjoyed the most. I want to show my kids that and learn alongside with them. Just to inspire people to cook and to share – it’s such a gift and I’m so happy to continue to do that.”

The anticipation of spending their first spring at their new country digs is exhilarating for Lynn and Lora. They’re looking forward to planting huge gardens with their girls, and maybe even getting a couple of schools involved. They both realize how important it is for kids to spend time outdoors, and together with their two beloved dogs, Charlie Pickles and Pork Chop, the whole family delights in the simple pleasures of just getting out there and playing with sticks and rocks and making mud pies. There’s also a new book about family-style cooking to look forward to this fall from the chefs, called Hearth and Home. And Lynn’s got a product line on the go.

But it’s their exquisite new country lifestyle in this glorious neck of the woods that likely grounds it all for these dynamic ladies, even though they’re not sure exactly what the next chapter has in store. What do they tell each other to keep themselves going every day? “We can get through this!” laughs Lynn. “And I say it’s about being grateful for what we have and you just look out this window…” “And see the sunset, see the sunrise,” interjects Lora “It’s spectacular,” says Lynn. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world. This is very, very special and we just want to share it.

Story by:
Jeanne Beker

[Spring 2021 departments]