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Apr 24, 2024

3 min. read

What's Your Favourite, Albert Ponzo? Image courtesy of Jordan Barlow. Text by Alison LaMantia.

“Farm to table” has had a deeper meaning for Albert Ponzo since he became executive chef at The Royal Hotel in Picton. After a long career in some of Toronto’s top fine-dining establishments, Ponzo moved with his family to Prince Edward County in 2017, where they traded city sidewalks and crowds for beehives, market gardens and connections to the local food scene.

Is there a favourite kitchen, or an experience, that helped shape you into the chef you are today?

My trips to Italy as a child helped form my love of fresh ingredients. Here, we have Edwin County Farm—they definitely helped form that love and appreciation for seasonal and local. And recently, I did a stand-out event in Tuscany. I got to cook, and there were many other chefs there— Christian Puglisi from Denmark, Amanda Cohen from the restaurant Dirt Candy. That was such a cool week. It inspired a trip to Denmark, where I researched the pizza dough that we do here at the hotel.

Your pizza dough is inspired by Denmark?

Yep. Christian’s parents are Sicilian and moved to Denmark, so we had a connection. His place in Copenhagen does Italian food really, really well and his pizza place often wins awards. I was inspired by his doughs.

Your current home is also a farm. What have you enjoyed about learning to farm? There’s a real sense of do-it-yourself. I bought a tractor made in 1969, then realized I had to fix the thing. So, suddenly I’m on YouTube, understanding how diesel engines work and ordering parts. It’s that attitude of I can do it. You moved your life from Toronto to Prince Edward County after a career in some of the city’s top kitchens.

Would you do it all again?

Yes. Toronto was my home, but this is the new chapter. The rural Albert and the rural life have really felt good. I often say I was cooking farm-to-table in Toronto, but I didn’t really understand it in detail. Using local ingredients from here—a cheesemaker from here, Lighthall Vineyards—all that kind of brought the pieces together.

Where would you take a friend who is visiting the County?

I’d take them for dinner to the Royal, for sure. I’d take them to my farm to see the bees and our horses and dogs. And I’d take them to Edwin County Farm, the Royal’s farm, and the beach.

Speaking of beaches, is there a beach where the locals go?

Yeah, there is. It’s called Secret Beach.