The small 56-seat restaurant, Fraser Café, always has an exciting vibe generated by its open kitchen and the fact that it’s often a full house. Having garnished “local and neighbourhood support” since its 2008 inauguration, Fraser is known as a place where Ottawans can get great food in a wholesome atmosphere. Its chefs, brothers Simon and Ross, hail from Ottawa and got into cooking in – believe it or not – the fast food industry. Simon was the first to foray into a culinary career; he’s the older of the two by six years. Though he jokes that Ross followed him into the food industry as a way of outdoing him, Simon “wouldn’t want to be in business with anyone else.” In fact, he’s very complimentary of Ross: “he inspires me – he has so much energy when he comes in cooking on the line and coming up with ideas.”
The brothers Fraser are kind, humble and thankful for their successes. Out of the many kitchens he’s worked in, Ross derived the most experience from: Domus Café, because it was his first; Beckta for its quality service mentality; and Michael Stadtlander’s Eigensinn Farm for a variety of reasons. He also fulfilled a longtime goal to work for Gordon Ramsay in England, where he was in the “hectic” kitchen from 7 a.m. to midnight. Simon has enjoyed working under his chef uncle in Germany and as the Chef de Cuisine at Domus Café for seven years. The most important things he learned under Chef John Taylor of Domus are “the standard of having great product” and trying to source Canadian ingredients. In fact, these are things the Chefs do at Fraser. Ross explains that the restaurant orders custom homegrown vegetables from Mariposa Farm; unusual ingredients like sugar snap peas and Japanese turnips are on the growing menu. Simon adds that he loves that they make their own bacon from scratch – it doesn’t get more local than that.
Though the two brothers have a great partnership, you won’t often find them in the kitchen at the same time. “We work well together but you can’t really ever have two captains, two chefs,” explains Simon. Of course, when it comes to designing a menu, the brothers work closely together, especially for their Monday night only dinners at their adjacent space, Table 40. “The menu has to flow and when you have two people’s perspectives, you catch certain things that you wouldn’t if you were writing it on your own,” Ross says. Simon tells me the most important thing to consider in a menu plan is creating “balance” through providing a range of options. As for the Monday dinners, Table 40 was the result of the brothers’ desire to grow the business without expanding the seating space. As Fraser is closed on Mondays, they decided to create an alternate space with a set menu and communal tables for Monday dinners. “If it’s seen as a cool idea, it’s kind of lucky for us,” laughs Simon, all modesty.
Though the Fraser brothers are busy living their culinary dream, they have a few hobbies they engage in during their spare time. While Simon is keen on gardening and spending time with his family, Ross enjoys road biking and traveling with his wife. The brothers also shared their favorite foods; Ross’ is a “a crunchy peanut butter and marmalade sandwich” or fish, preferably halibut or salmon, and Simon’s is his grandmother’s mince and skirlie, a traditional Scottish dish. That being said, neither of the chefs cooks much at home. If Cheers is the place where everybody knows your name, then Fraser Café is the place where everybody can feel “comfortable…if there’s even a table of two in here, you’re never going to feel alone.” The open kitchen and warm, neighbourhood feel of Fraser ensure it.
Originally published on cuative.com. Photos courtesy of Fraser Café.