From Field to Table

Chef Kyle Panton’s vision to bring local ingredients to Island restaurants

It may have all started with a couple of slices of white bread.

On a busy, fateful day during chef Kyle Panton’s early teen years, he was asked to help out in the kitchen at his mother’s diner in Belfast, making his first out-of-home sandwiches.

“I absolutely loved it. It was exciting. I got to be creative.” He learned he could have fun with food in the way he built and presented the sandwiches. “That’s when I got into it,” he recalled, on when his love affair with food took flight. This month, Panton will have a chance to show his culinary chops at several Fall Flavours events. Whether sandwich-making will be amongst the talents he showcases is anyone’s guess.

Panton is best known as the executive chef at Sim’s Corner Steakhouse and Oyster Bar in Charlottetown, where he landed after graduating from the Culinary Institute of Canada. During these formative years at the Institute he apprenticed in Toronto at Splendido, the number one restaurant in Canada at the time, he said. He doesn’t remember bringing in much money working at Splendido, but it catapulted his culinary career forward. “The knowledge was the payment.”

Chef Kyle Panton’s award-winning PEI potato chowder // Submitted Photo

He worked for a summer in the Lucy Maud Dining Room after graduation and then started at Sim’s as a line cook. And then as sous chef. And now as executive chef. Panton’s culinary philosophy represents a down-to-earth approach, using as many locally-sourced ingredients as possible, including produce he grows himself.

At seven years old he found himself on an onion and broccoli farm, walking up and down the rows picking weeds. “That was where it really started,” Panton said of his love for farming. “I thought I hated farming when I was that age, because it was so much work, but then it kind of cycled back around.”

About four years ago, Panton found himself standing with his cousin, Curtis Penny, in Penny’s personal garden. “I said to him, ‘Why aren’t we doing something like this?’”

Enter One Vision Farms: one chef, one farmer, one vision. Panton and Penny own and operate the farm. Penny is the farmer in the equation, while Panton takes care of marketing and social media.
They started with the intention of bringing fresh, local vegetables to the menu at Sim’s. Four years later, the duo supplies six Island restaurants, prepares CSA boxes for 50 customers, and also sells to some wholesalers. From mid-June to the end of October, all of Sim’s daily veggies come from One Vision Farms.  The farm produces a large variety of vegetables including baby red potatoes, baby turnips, beans, peas, carrots, and its biggest crop, mixed greens. Though not certified organic, none of the crops are sprayed, said Panton.

Chef Kyle Panton also raises pigs on his own property in Eastern PEI. Photo Credit: Laura Weatherbie/Salty

In September, Panton will wear yet another hat, representing the Island’s culinary scene at the Fall Flavours Festival as a Murphy Hospitality Group chef. This year there’s focus on the local culinary heroes who make the magic happen. “[The organizers] are really trying to involve more local chefs, other than just having celebrity chefs, and really showcasing local talent on PEI, because we have a lot of talent on PEI. We have a great relationship with all the people that run Fall Flavours,” said Panton.

You’ll find Panton preparing food alongside celebrity chef Chuck Hughes at the high-end Feast and Frolic dinner that kicks off the PEI International Shellfish Festival. Each chef will tend to their own tables at the event, and guests are invited to mingle with them.

Near the end of September, Panton will be teaming up with chef Corbin for an intimate, 5-course dinner in Oyster Bed Bridge, the Ultimate Chef’s Table. If you want to get up close and personal with Panton do so at this event, where meals will be prepared tableside. He’ll also be manning the Sim’s grill at Farm Day in the City on October 1, where he’ll be showcasing PEI beef. “I’m a beef guy. I love beef. I love butchery. We do have an awesome beef scene on PEI.”

Panton will be competing in the PEI International Shellfish Festival, where he’ll be gunning to make it a hat trick in the chowder competition he’s won twice in the past. Panton has a knack for winning food competitions, including the PEI Flavours Local Food Award in 2012, three international seafood chowder competitions, two Burger Love titles and, most recently, the chef challenge at the Calgary Stampede in 2016.

At the age of 29, Panton has proven himself to be one of P.E.I.’s most respected and inventive chefs. The things that inspire him also change with time. “The older I get, the ways I look at things are different.”

Chef Kyle Panton// Submitted Photo

When he looks at many of the young chefs entering through the door to the culinary world, he sees glimpses of himself. Their charisma keeps Chef Panton’s love of food ignited. “The fact that I have knowledge I can give them, and you see their eyes light up, it kind of revamps you a little, get’s that back into you.”

“I love that part of it now – teaching younger cooks that are coming up. Seeing cooks that have worked for me for four or five years that are getting ready to go off and be a chef somewhere, that’s almost more rewarding than winning a reward.”

Panton also wants to see the farm-to-table movement continue on PEI. “We are a food island, we can produce a lot of stuff on our own.”

“There was a period of time where you bought big and you bought bulk and it wasn’t coming from your next-door neighbour. I think more chefs are getting more involved in the farming and fishing aspects of it. I think you’ll see more of the “ma and pa” shop butchery being used in a restaurant.”

Panton has a greater respect for food since getting into the farming side of things. “Once you understand the work, time and effort that goes into raising an animal or growing a vegetable, it gives you more of an appreciation. There’s a lot of hours that went into this, so make sure to use everything.”

Cherry tomatoes from One Vision Farms. Photo credit: Richard Schroeter/Salty


Serving locally-produced food also enhances the dining experience, Panton noted. “There’s something about being able to say, when a server goes to a table, ‘these actually came out of the chef’s garden this morning.’”

Fall Flavours is a great chance for enthusiastic diners to sample the Island’s best food, for both land and sea. “You get some of everything,” Panton said of the month-long festival that brings foodies from far and wide to taste the best of PEI.

About Evan Ceretti

Evan is a vegetarian foodie and freelancer based in Charlottetown. His two greatest loves are food and travel, which just so happen to be the perfect pairing. A graduate of Holland College’s journalism program, and of UPEI’s print journalism program, Evan enjoys writing about the local food scene as well as writing about gastronomic journeys from the other side of the world. He’s had to luxury of visiting 30 countries and traveling for more than 1,000 days. In Charlottetown, you’ll either see him riding his bicycle, eating curry, taking photos, or playing ultimate frisbee. Follow him on IG @Evanontheroad, and on Facebook at Evan on the Road.

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