Chef’s first task: serving the PM, caucus

ST. ANDREWS, N.B. — Even before Ron Kneabone officially started his full-time job as executive chef at the Algonquin Resort, he hosted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

By Colleen Isherwood, Editor

ST. ANDREWS, N.B. — Even before Ron Kneabone officially started his full-time job as executive chef at the Algonquin Resort, Autograph Collection, in St. Andrews, he hosted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his caucus at the property. “It went very well, it was amazing,” Kneabone said. “The ministers were great people, really relaxed. The RCMP officers were nice and down-to-earth. [The Prime Minister] took the time to greet everybody and thank everyone at the retreat.”

Kneabone brings both European and Canadian experience to his new position. He graduated from the Culinary Institute of Canada in Charlottetown, and apprenticed at the Calgary Winter Games. He spent most of the next 11 years as a chef in France, Switzerland and Germany, working in properties ranging from local bistros to Michelin three-star restaurants.  Then he returned to Canada to work with celebrity chefs Michael and Anna Olson at On the Twenty in the Niagara area. In addition to television and live cooking demonstrations, he has spent the last 10 years as executive chef and food and beverage director of the Marriott Fallsview in Niagara Falls, Ont.

It’s not the first time Kneabone has hosted a world leader — he had met Trudeau in Niagara Falls at a Liberal Party pre-campaign event, he hosted what was then the G-10 Summit leaders in France, and has cooked for the president of France and former German chancellor Helmut Kohl.

Kneabone’s father is from McAdam, N.B., just 80 km north of St. Andrews, and he has happy memories of summers spent in the area. “When the opportunity arose, I took it,” he said. He also likened St. Andrews to Niagara-on-the-Lake. “One has wine on the lake while the other has seafood on the coast, and they both have that Victorian appeal,” he said.

The resort is now open all year, and Kneabone said the historic property offers a private golf club, an upscale hotel, fine dining and casual dining all in one property — plus one of the world’s richest sources of seafood. 

At press time in mid-February, Kneabone had been on the job for two weeks and was rewriting the menus for Braxton’s fine dining, banquets, the golf club and poolside. “We have all kinds of special occasions and parties booked for the next six months, including a Prohibition Murder Mystery and dinner, with menus, characters and uniforms from the Roaring Twenties.” 

Starting this month, the executive chef plans to participate in farmers’ markets, serving specials in conjunction with local suppliers. The local clientele is key to the Algonquin’s success in the off-season, whereas the summer clientele consists mainly of hotel guests. 

As for future plans, Kneabone noted that he is very competitive. “We don’t just want to be one of the top five resorts,” he said. “We want to be the top one.”