MERIGOMISH — Rarely does the Merigomish Sunday Market have a scene like this.
Brunch and display tables of food and other items for sale fill the main hall of the former rural school, but recently a Red Seal chef from Montreal visited the market to help prepare the brunch menu of poached eggs, fried chicken, sausage gravy and assorted garnishes.
Brunch includes dessert, which this time was strawberries and rhubarb bathed in real whipped cream, although they ran out of rhubarb.
Jonathan Cheung was born in and grew up in Vancouver, but his connection to Pictou County is through his father, Harry Rumley, who grew up near French River. His mother, Irene Rumley is from Vancouver. He was exposed to food preparation through the restaurant his parents operated before they decided nine years ago to settle in The Ponds.
They prepared the brunch items the previous day before arriving in the kitchen to finish the work.
“It’s about Jonathan cooking for the community,” Irene said. “It’s nice to have change, although we have great cooks in the community.”
Trudi Rhynold, who has a small farm and prepares meals for the brunch, says she appreciates how bringing in a Red Seal chef has raised the bar.
“We bring in a gourmet chef — now what do we do?” she said.
Cheung said he finds preparing food stimulating.
“I always wanted to cook,” he said, while reminiscing about growing up in a restaurant environment. “From a very young age, I wanted to cook. I grew up in a restaurant so I was around food.”
Cheung left Vancouver for Hong Kong in 2002 and moved to Montreal in 2004. He could be a chef at any of the city’s fine dining areas, but prefers to teach cooking to groups at his cookbook store and kitchen in Westmount in the city’s west end.
“It’s boring everywhere else (in a restaurant),” he said. “The kitchen is exciting, and teaching is fun. People are really into it. It’s not fancy. It’s stuff people can prepare at home.”
The brunch menu is typical for Cheung. It’s like nothing people have eaten at the market, and it won’t likely be repeated, certainly by Cheung.
“I don’t do the same thing or I get bored,” he said. “I like to change things up.”
Cheung and his family visit Pictou County once or twice a year. Harry and Irene visit them in Montreal every three months.
“(Montreal) is a great food city,” he said. “I think it’s one of the best in Canada, if not the best. I don’t plan to go anywhere else.”
Harry and Irene Rumley stand ready to serve at the Merigomish Sunday Market with their son Jonathan Cheung.(Goodwin photo)