Beautiful, Thoughtful Food and Service

By on January 11, 2023

The famous adage ‘to acquire wisdom one must observe’ couldn’t be more fitting as I watched Chef Jason Laurin, owner of Essence Catering, create flavourful and stunning dishes for his clients. If truth be told, witnessing Laurin work in the kitchen with meticulous precision and incredible ease was brilliant!

A Cordon Bleu Cuisine and Pastry graduate, Laurin’s ingenuity, creativity and thinking outside the box with an enthusiasm to do better, are key traits that embody this chef and his 32-year career in the culinary industry.

Great catering is expensive, but if it’s an important day in your life, do you want to leave it to just anyone to cater? I wouldn’t – Jason Laurin, Chef/Owner of Essence Catering

Having attended numerous Ottawa-based culinary and charity events over the years, I have had the distinct pleasure of tasting Chef Laurin’s offerings. And, I can attest that he always delivers outstanding flavourful dishes. Case in point, on the day of the interview, I watched Chef Laurin infuse a labneh dish with smoke in order to elevate its flavour profile. This type of ingenuity and creativity is exactly what clients desire when seeking out a reputable caterer. However, it should be noted that Essence Catering isn’t your typical catering business. Essence is a full-service caterer that takes care of ALL your party and event needs. Everything from staffing of servers and bartenders, rentals, floral arrangements, and entertainment to the main attraction, the exceptional food. For these reasons, Essence is very much-sought after for weddings and private engagements.

Essence Catering’s lemon tart, torched marshmallow, raspberry and Tonka bean dessert. Photo credit: JVL photography

In fact, Essence averages approximately 25 weddings a year and could easily take on more, but in order to provide the impeccable bespoke service that they are known for, they would rather stay within that range. Laurin explained that one of his favourite clients are those planning their second wedding since they know exactly what they DON’T want when it comes to meeting their needs. As such, Laurin always strives to ensure the focus is on the needs of the client as well as the level of execution.

Chef and owner Jason Laurin of Essence Catering, onsite at a culinary event. Photo credit: JVL photography

Our bites are little plates in a bite, that’s the view of our canapes – Jason Laurin, Chef/Owner of Essence Catering

One-on-one with the chef

For this fellow Cordon Bleu graduate, I appreciated seeing this chef in his element, working on his craft and seeing first-hand his passion come to life. At present, I wanted to know more about Chef Laurin and Essence Catering.

Where did you train to be a chef?

I began working along my current path in 1990 with a job at a cafe. Essence was founded in 2005 and opened our doors in early 2006. I trained with chefs before ever considering culinary school. I did a hotel hospitality management program in Dallas, Texas in ’95-’98 and then came to Ottawa in ’99 to attend the Cordon Bleu. At that point, I had already achieved the role of Chef but really wanted to hone my skills even further.

What has been your biggest life lesson, in regards to owning a prestigious catering business?

The biggest lesson? Hmmm. Be flexible. I don’t do buffets, breakfasts, or drop offs. We do events, big and small. But always with staff and beautiful, thoughtful food and service. I left the restaurant industry because I no longer wanted to be a slave to a door. Meaning, I am open when the signs says I am, which is near always.

Where do you get inspiration for your menus and dishes?

There is no place in particular that I get inspiration for food. Inspiration in any profession that inspires creativity, requires one to be present in all situations in order to get inspiration from everywhere. For me inspiration can be for a plate of food, or the plate itself. I love to create and don’t restrict myself to just food. 

What is the biggest misconception that people have regarding catering companies?

That catering can somehow bring fine food and all that entails to your house for the cost of a happy meal per person. Great catering is expensive, but if it’s an important day in your life, do you want to leave it to just anyone to cater? I wouldn’t.

What makes Essence Catering stand out amongst other catering businesses? 

We stand out because we are really very good at what we do. My team has been working together for a long time. All staff are empowered to do whatever is necessary to elevate a guest’s experience. We have an incredible amount of attention to the small details be it food or service. I am certainly a different kind of biz owner. I say it like it is, at least as it is to me. I don’t promise anything we cannot deliver. 

Chef and owner Jason Laurin of Essence Catering working his pasta cutter to make his famous fagottini pasta purses. Photo credit: Brigitte Hasbron

Talking with Chef Laurin as he made fagottini pasta stuffed with lemon ricotta โ€“ think cute pasta purses filled with deliciousness โ€“ was very mesmerising and fitting of a sophisticated palate. Actually, during her Ottawa visit for the start of the Tulip festival, HRH Princess Margriet of the Netherlands enjoyed Essence’s catering, which included the highly coveted fagottini purses.

Essence Catering’s Fagottini pasta stuffed with lemon ricotta – the perfect pasta purses. Photo credit: Brigitte Hasbron

Laurin’s biggest takeaway lesson that he learned early in his career is also a powerful sentiment that speaks volumes about Laurin’s work ethic, ‘Anybody that walks in the front door should be treated like they’re walking through your living room – treat them that way’. Whether it’s catering for a regular client or for royalty, for Chef Laurin, it’s about fulfilling and satisfying his client’s needs to the highest degree.

**This article was first published in the lifestyle magazine Luxe Ottawa Magazine and was given permission to post on the authorโ€™s site.

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