“Essentially, I’m a thief.”
This is one of the first things Terry Port will tell you about himself. It’s not a typical opening line, but it certainly is bold, and it’s clear Terry is just that. In fact, you can tell Terry is pleased with this self-proclaimed title. “I’ve travelled around from restaurant to restaurant learning as many things as I could, stealing the best of the ideas, and bringing them on to the next place.”
A nomad of sorts, Port started his culinary journey of thievery when he dropped out of high school halfway through grade twelve. Ready to dive into the industry (and having been told by his parents that he had no choice but to get a job), Terry picked up the first job he could as a dishwasher. He was working under a Chef that he described as “a walking culinary encyclopedia with a flair for tyranny and dictatorship.” What a combination!
After getting pans thrown at his head (true story!) and building his education both in Ottawa and Toronto, Terry picked up the ultimate gig at Auberge du Pommier. It was during his time there that he was named one of Canada’s top young Chefs and shipped off to France for eight months to work at a three-Michelin-star restaurant to steal – pardon me, “learn” – some culinary secrets.
The experience was nothing short of insane. “If I thought the first guy was bad, well then this was ruthless,” he says. “It was a brutal experience, a psychopathic Chef, a terrible work environment, more pans thrown at me. On the first day the Chef had me prepare a meal for him that he then fed to his dog. I mean, come on.”
Having been subject now to two Ramsey’esque type Chefs, Terry came back to Toronto inspired to break that stigma and treat young cooks with respect. Over the course of the next 15 years, Terry juggled everything from restaurants, his own catering company, corporate Chef gigs as well as several secondary and post secondary culinary teaching positions, not once throwing a pan at anyone!
But having been a nomad, a thief, and a jack-of-all-trades, Port is ready to reclaim one of his favourite titles as a UCC winner as he takes on Chef Harrison Hennick at the upcoming Winter BBQ Battle.
“It’s a fun event for me. I’ve done it twice – first against my former roommate and colleague and eventually against the first tournament winner. It’s not about winning for me – it’s just a great way to get myself out there and keep my skills sharp.” And Terry is clear that there’s one thing he really loves about the UCC: “I get to drink a lot. You really can’t complain about that.”
*Special thank you to UCC favorite and new resident blogger - Alanna Glass, for putting together this amazing post.