by Andrew Coppolino | October 2022
What began as a quaint charcuterie-and-tapas restaurant on Kitchener’s Lancaster Avenue in 2013 evolved into a chic, urban fine-dining space in Uptown Waterloo in 2018: S&V Uptown focusses on culinary, wine and cocktail experiences that are inventive and locally based.
London Ontario-born Kris Simmons is S&V head chef. A Waterloo resident, Simmons, 28, graduated from the Stratford Chefs School in 2014 and has spent his young career cooking at various restaurants in southwestern Ontario including JLB in Belmont Village and a stint at the Elora Mill.
Notably, he has also worked closely with such gifted chefs and culinary mentors as Jason Bangerter of Langdon Hall and Jonathan Gushue of The Bruce Hotel in Stratford.
What brought you to Waterloo Region?
I was very interested in working at Langdon Hall with Jason Bangerter. I was there for three years and left as senior chef de partie. It was crazy busy but such a lot of fun and lots learned. I also did a stage at The Berlin with Gushue when he opened it in downtown Kitchener.
Those are local chefs you’ve learned from, but what about internationally?
Well, I have a lot of Thomas Keller’s books. He’s one of my favourite so-called celebrity chefs. Let’s just say my future plans include trying to find some time to get away to do a stage at The French Laundry, [in Yountville, California].
What happened to your cooking during the pandemic lockdown?
One thing that happened is that I spent some time in sales at Edessia, a Kitchener-based fine-food supplier. With lockdowns and slowdowns, it was a tough time to be a chef, obviously. But while working there, it was nice to meet a lot of chefs I knew of but hadn’t met. It was also good to see the industry in this manner and get to understand more about the supply and production side.
You’ve been at S&V for just under a year. What has your approach been?
It’s a take on classical French. That’s where my heart is, so we work from there. We’re moving toward tasting menus and on our new menu, launching today in fact, we’ll have some premium items like caviar and truffles.
Do you feel diners are hungry for special plates at restaurants?
I think so. People are slowly coming back to dining, and we are getting busier and people are requesting tasting menus and wine pairings.
How important are supplier connections in your cooking at S&V?
If you don’t have those connections, you can’t have quality products, I don’t think. We have great farmers and products in this region. Local is a key to success.
If you have free time, what do you do?
I volunteer at Hope House. I’ll go and make 400 meals for people with food insecurity. I think it’s important to give back to your community.It’s been a long day, and it’s late: what’s your go-to take-out meal?
You know what? I’ve really been liking Penny’s Hot Chicken in Waterloo lately [King Street and University Avenue]. They make a pretty good chicken sandwich and always open when I’m done work at 11 o’clock. It’s fresh, and they’re breading it and frying it to order.
What’s always in your fridge at home?
Probably stuff for tacos. That’s another late-night go-to. I like the simplicity, and I usually have some sort of braised beef or ground beef and can toss them together with whatever else I’ve got in the kitchen. You make tacos with what you’ve got!
Andrew Coppolino is food columnist with CBC-KW and Metroland newspapers. The author of Farm to Table (Swan Parade Press) and co-author of Cooking with Shakespeare (Greenwood Press), he is the 2022 “Joseph Hoare Gastronomic Writer-in-Residence” at the Stratford Chefs School. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @andrewcoppolino.