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Sep 21

Cabot Leadership Feature: Trevor and Darcy

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 Trevor and Darcy photo 2.jpg

Nestled between the Cabot Links Lodge and the main street of Inverness, The Cabot Public House is a bustling spot featuring an expansive patio, casual pub fare, lobster boils and local craft beers. Behind the scenes, you’ll find Trevor Penney and Darcy MacDonald leading the charge in the Public House Kitchen. We took a few minutes to chat with Trevor and Darcy to learn more about the Public House's culinary offerings, and what it’s like to work in a Cabot kitchen:

  1. What is your culinary background and experience?

Trevor:
I started cooking in high school as a part-time job. I didn't really think anything of it. I quickly fell in love with the flow of the kitchen and the intensity and the camaraderie. I cooked all my way through high school. Originally, I went to school for engineering but eventually made the decision to pursue culinary completely. I moved to Toronto when I was about 18 and did my apprenticeship at the Royal York Hotel. I spent three years there and studied at George Brown College at the same time. Once I finished my apprenticeship and graduated, I got my Red Seal and then started working as a sous-chef for various Toronto restaurants. I started globe-trotting a little bit. I worked in Turks and Caicos for a year and then came back to Toronto where I heard about this opportunity and here we are!

Darcy:
I started off in kitchens in high school – dishwasher, Stewart, prep cook. After high school I took carpentry. I lived out in Alberta for about a year and a half before realizing that construction wasn’t for me, and came back to take the two-year culinary program at NSCC in Port Hawkesbury. I did that for two years, followed by my work term. I worked for another year and a half after that at Gabrieau’s Bistro in Antigonish before moving to Halifax to round out my experience. In 2014 I came home to visit in the summer and ended up with job offer. I’ve been here ever since.

 

  1. How did you hear about Cabot and what made you make the decision to come work in Inverness, Cape Breton?

 Darcy:
I’m from Inverness so it was simple for me; it was a chance to move home. Growing up, there was never an idea that I'd be able to live and work here year-round and start a family. When the job offer came my way, it was a whole different story. I came home and I was in love with the place.

 Trevor:
I've been here since February of this year and it’s my first season. A chef that I used to work with in Toronto got into recruitment and he mentioned that there was an opportunity in Cape Breton. I laughed at him. But then I did some digging and saw what Cabot was doing and how quickly it was growing. With all the innovation and exciting growth potential, it didn’t take me very long to come around. A half an hour research and I was sold. I got in contact with the General Manager, signed some papers and I was on the next flight out.

 

  1. Has Cabot lived up to your expectations?

 Darcy:
It's kind of shocking just to see the massive growth that happens every single year.

When I first started, I was in the original pub kitchen which wasn't much bigger than a dry storage room in any other restaurant. We made it work and then we got the expansion. It just keeps getting bigger and better. I knew coming into it that I’d be a part of something kind of special and it’s lived up to that expectation.

 Trevor:
As far as the town goes, everyone is super friendly. It's a laid-back atmosphere. It’s much different than being in the city where people tend to be a little impersonal. It's nice to be somewhere where people are very genuine. We're having a lot of fun in the kitchen and getting a lot of rewarding feedback.

 

  1. What is your favorite aspect of living in Inverness? What do you do outside of work?

Trevor:
Well, it’s beautiful! Especially coming from kind of a concrete jungle - not a skyscraper in sight and the sunsets are something to behold. I'm trying to improve my golf game right now and we go for hikes as much as we can. There's beautiful trails and even just going for a drive is great. There's a lot to take in. Again, you can't say enough about the Sunset – it’s unreal. I heard a lot about it before I came out here, but to see it consistently every night – it just blows your socks off.

Darcy:
The beach. Being with my family and getting to see my little niece. I do a little bit of studying and when I can get some time with my wife Lauren. We try to make little road trips to wherever we can go. You don’t have to go very far.  I also go golfing when I can.

 

  1. There have been some record sales at the pub this year which is exciting. What factors you both think has contributed to the success?

 Trevor:
My philosophy has always been to bring really good food to our guests at a fair price so that's what we're trying to do here. Everything's made from scratch in-house. Pubs can have a reputation of everything being greasy and deep-fried from the freezer so we've tried to change the dynamic and include a couple healthier options on the menu. We also have a strong focus on seafood because, well, it's in our backyard. We can’t go without mentioning the renovations on the patio. Our outdoor space is exceptional now and guests really seem to be enjoying it. We’re still very young but the things that are being accomplished year-on-year and the plans for the future are tremendously exciting. This is the only the beginning.

 Darcy:
I think the increased variety on the menu has been a big factor. There’s people that come in here every night and they order something different every time. They have their go-to’s but there is a wide variety of other menu items to choose from. Family of mine just came home to visit. They ate at the Public House every single day for lunch for the last two weeks and I don't even think they've gone through three quarters of the menu!

 

  1. A common theme at Cabot is the importance of teamwork. How has teamwork impacted the public-house operation?

Trevor:
I see Darcy way more than I probably should. We’re in this building from sunup to sundown and sometimes a little bit longer. We wouldn't be able to achieve anything here without - not just the culinary team, but everyone who is super supportive and helpful. Whether it be housekeeping making sure we have linens to pick up our hot pans with or reservations making sure we know who's actually coming into the building that night.  It's really nice to see that the whole team is unified - no one says ‘that’s not my job’ or ‘you’re on your own, good luck’. Especially being from away, it can seem a little challenging or scary when you're coming and you don't know anyone or how the business runs but I can speak for myself and (my girlfriend) Mandy who came with me - we were accepted with open arms and we have a solid crew here that's helping to get everything done.

 Darcy:
Nothing to add to that one, Trevor hit the nail on the head.

 

  1. What is your favorite aspect of working at Cabot?

Trevor:
I think the biggest thing that I could say is that I actually like coming to work. I've had many jobs over the past couple years where I wake up in the morning like ‘oh boy, not again’ but here, I actually look forward to coming to the pub and working with all the people that I’ve built relationships with. We just have a nice routine going. We've got a nice menu to offer and everyone's working extremely well together so it's kind of a pleasure. The days just go by - even the longer ones. Sometimes we're pulling you know 14 or 15 hour days and you're tired by the end of it but she goes by and we have a good time.

Darcy:
For me, it’s the family-like atmosphere. Everybody knows everybody. You can’t walk somewhere without running into somebody and talking to them, ‘How are you? Did you get out for a round?’ It’s just a comfortable atmosphere.

 

  1. You both said that you were introduced to culinary in high school. How did you get into that and did you think at that time it could become a career for you?

Trevor:
I never dreamed it for a second. A friend of mine was working at Montana's and they were looking for kitchen staff. I needed a job so he got me in there. I started working the fryers, making chicken wings and fries and I just I fell in love with the pace and the camaraderie. You spend so much time working so close with everyone who's around you and you develop strong relationships and it's beautiful when you have a bunch of guys that have worked on a line together. There is a dance that happens in the kitchen - It’s hectic, fast-paced, hot, and a little dangerous. You just have a bunch of burly dudes doing somersaults around each other, making magic happen. I was wowed and I fell in love with it. It didn't matter what I was Cooking. I've done it all, from scratch cooking, molecular gastronomy, reconstituting and deconstructing, and I've learned a lot from all those places and I think I've kind of put it all in one basket here. But yeah, never a day in my life, probably until I moved to Toronto, did I think I'd ever really get a long-term career out of it. Now I don't see myself doing anything else.

 

Darcy:
It was the fairly early 2000's and there were very few government grants, especially in this area. There were very few summer jobs so if you had any opportunity at all you took it. I started off in the dish pit when I was 13 years old at the Inverness Lodge. I was also mowing two properties for extra work. I started out just doing small dish pit stuff for the first few months and then eventually they started getting me to slice some tomatoes and assist with portioning. I’d observe the guys cooking the line and I still remember the moment when I was 14 or 15, seeing the chef at the time cooking a steak. I remember watching him and thinking 'how does he nail it every time medium-rare'? And that’s when my interest in cooking really started. After high school, everyone seemed to be going ‘out west’ to make big money. I thought I should go out west as well, so I moved to Alberta to do construction. I was miserable though and I decided to pursue something I enjoyed, so I headed back east and took up culinary.

 

  1. Darcy mentioned that seeing the chef nailing the steak was a defining moment. Do either of you experience that feeling of satisfaction yourself now that you are a chef?

Darcy:
A good example is one of our first-year culinary students, Drew. He’s here for his work term. When he gets something right for the first time you can just see it in his eyes. He gets so excited and it’s just great to see that passion building up and knowing that he is doing a good job.

Trevor:
There are very few careers or jobs where you can consistently get that sense of satisfaction. Any cook who doesn't leave our kitchen better than they came in - we've done a disservice to them. I had great chefs and mentors growing up and I feel like it's part of our duty to pay it forward. Nothing excites me more than seeing the young cooks realize that they have done a great job.

 

  1. Do you have any advice for those who are thinking about joining Cabot’s culinary team or Cabot’s team in any regard?

Trevor:
Just apply. The potential for growth is astounding. There’s already plans for expansion. Cabot is one of the better companies I've worked for. I’ve worked for a lot of kitchens where you never see upper management or they just don't care. It's very genuine here and it’s apparent that everyone follows the unofficial motto – “work hard and be nice to people”. I’ve never felt more directly attached to a place. Even the owners - you see Ben Cowan-Dewar roll through and he knows your name and gives you a shake of the hand. It feels very familial, even though we have upwards of 300 staff. If you are coming here, get ready for a bit of a culture shock, it’s nothing like any company I've worked for in the past.

Darcy:
Come in, apply, work hard. It’s amazing how much opportunity there is, especially in a small town like this.

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