By Habeeb Salloum
Diners enjoy Jay Scaife’s theatrical feast
Taboo Resort Golf & Spa, located in Gravenhurst, Ontario on the shores of the striking Lake Muskoka, less than two hours north of Toronto, is the ultimate retreat for city dwellers. Set in more than 1,000 acres of cottage country, it is noted for its luxurious accommodations, sandy beaches, water-based sports and highly acclaimed golf course. However, to many travellers, what stands out as its main allurement is its exceptional cuisine offered by its Culinary Chef Jay Scaife.
Born in London, Ontario, Scaife, from an early age, was fascinated by the transformation of food, and therefore always knew that he would be a chef. He began his career apprenticing at the Royal Canadian Yacht Club (RCYC). After graduating from the George Brown College culinary program, Scaife began his profession by working at various eating places in Toronto such as ‘Centro’, ‘The left Bank’ and ‘Lakes’.
Joining Taboo Resort as Chef de Cuisine in 2002, his culinary skills helped the restaurant earn a 3.5 star rating from ‘Toronto Life Magazine’ and bring the restaurant accolades such as ‘Best Out-of-Towner Restaurant’ (Frommer’s) and ‘Best Restaurant’ (Meetings East Magazine) in 2003.
Today, Scaife oversees the resort’s state-of-the-art 18-seat restaurant overlooking Lake Muskoka known as ‘The Culinary Theatre’. The Culinary Theatre is a feature that is at the core of a recently re-designed dining and entertainment space called Elements. Aptly named because it features three unique dining ‘elements’ in one area — a lounge, main restaurant and culinary theatre — all in the space which replaces the former Wildfire restaurant.
From early May to December, with the exception of Mondays and Mondays and Tuesdays in June, guests are seated around an exquisite marble counter, accented with perfect lighting and treated to a six-course culinary delight. They watch with fascination as Scaife creates in his gourmet paradise signature tasting menus, which can be paired with wine, sake and beer. As the courses are served, Scaife gives a thorough description of each course.
The menus are served blind with diners not knowing what they are getting until the food is in front of them. This unique experience allows guests a chance to experience fine dining in all its aspects. It is a break in the way food is presented at a traditional resort. “The theatre is something that has to be experienced. It is like nothing else in Canada, let alone in resort life,” Scaife says.
The Theatre, at times, hosts groups whose menus are arranged according to whatever Scaife believes to be appropriate. He researches their eating habits, moulding the menus around their requested themes such as Asian, Canadian, French etc., as well as, if applicable, dietary restrictions and allergies.
Every year Scaife takes on one or two new apprentices. He loves instilling in them the thought process that goes into creatively composing a dish and the fascination with the metamorphosis of food.
Perhaps there is no better description of Scaife’s culinary skills than the words of Taboo’s general manager, Randy Heyd. When asked what guests remember most when staying at Taboo Resort, he replies: “The vast majority of people say the food. He (Scaife) provides our guests with a unique and memorable food experience, synonymous with culinary excellence.”