In Prince Edward Island, the lobster is revered. It’s not just a dish simply served, the lobster is a cultural icon, keeping families of fishers together, supporting communities, and building industry. Our seas are also home to a changing culinary landscape, and Island chefs are becoming more and more creative in their presentations and their processes, making lobster part of the Island’s most unique and creative dishes.
We tracked down a few of PEI’s most revered chefs to ask them to dish their histories, their faves, and their menus —juice and all— so get your bibs out. Here were their replies.
Chef Chris Colburn, Dalvay By the Sea
“Lobster is one of Prince Edward Islands most luxurious treats and a true chef’s ingredient,” says Chef Chris. “It pairs well and highlights a vast array of flavour profiles.” With a hometown of Denver, Chef Chris’ first memory of the crustacean was “a lobster bisque at the legendary Left Bank restaurant in Vail, Colorado. It was delicious and decadent.” When Chef Chris is at home, he keeps it simple: butter poached lobster with softly scrambled eggs, crème fraiche, snipped chives, and lemon zest.
At Dalvay this summer, however, they’re running a fun dish called a “Native Lobster Okonomiyaki”. “An okonomiyaki is a Japanese style savory pancake and we flavor ours with PEI Lobster, Black Truffle Aioli, Pickled Ginger, Katsuobushi, and Nori Cracklings.” Looking forward to visiting you out at Dalvay, Chef Chris!
Chef Michael Smith, FireWorks
When Chef Michael Smith is at home, he prefers “a good old-fashioned feed of lobster, straight from the wharf boiled in saltwater and served cold with melted butter.” He loves not only the flavour of lobster, but the ceremony of it, which there is plenty of in PEI! Chef Michael says, ” It’s an intensely local way to create an instant occasion,” and we couldn’t agree more!
A memory he’ll never forget: “The first time I steamed out of the harbour at 4 am with a fisherman friend and spent the day pulling traps. We had a ‘lunch’ at 9am of freshly caught lobster and it was the best I’ve ever eaten!” When at FireWorks: lobster is served every evening in their award-winning chowder during the month of May and June as their daily fish course. Chef Michael gives credit to pairing lobster with the creativity of the FireWorks chefs, the hard work of their farmers and the sea vegetables he forages from their beaches. Forage on, Chef Michael!
Chef Kyle Panton, Sims Corner
Chef Kyle’s memories of lobster begin with the steam bellowing up from a big lobster pot at home, always served with new PEI potato salad. He loves lobster because it adds a “rich, bold flavour” to every dish. When I asked him how he eats it at home, he says he likes a barbequed lobster tail, with grilled asparagus and spiced potatoes. Yum, Chef Kyle! And what about at Sims? Try their lobster ravioli dish — Chef Kyle divulges it is a guest favourite.
Chef Ilona Daniel, Kitchen Party Cooking Classes
Chef Ilona’s favourite memory of eating lobster is when it was prepared according to the traditional Mikmaq way, that is to say it’s cooked in a sandpit oven with an elder of the tribe. The lobster came out tender, sweet, and buttery. When Chef Ilona is home, slow poaching the lobster in a classic lemon-garlic butter with some peaches n’ cream corn kernels served atop of some thickly sliced butter toasted with a smattering of chervil is her go to. As for her dining clients, she likes to prepare Lobster Thermidor, which she says is a mixture of, “such decadence, painstaking preparation & love. It truly shows my passion for lobster!” She recommends travellers to PEI to try a traditional lobster supper or a classic lobster roll.
Chef Cobey Adams, The Pearl Eatery
Hailing from Mississauga, Ontario, Chef Cobey’s first memories of lobster were that it was a delicacy —“having it at a cocktail party, beside a pool, and being fancy.” Seeing the east coast lobster at the wharf in buckets and barrels was “a refreshing change” for Chef Cobey. He loves the versatility of the meat, and his favourite ways to prepare it at home are what he calls, “bar-style,” meaning dips with tortillas, with local cream cheeses and fresh herbs he grows himself. He loves playing around with lobster gravies for poutine and makes sure that the local cheese makers know his number when they have one-off batches of curds or creams. Chef Cobey appreciates bringing light to the smaller suppliers, who he visits nearly every day. When at The Pearl, the lobster pappardelle is the dish to try.
Chef Megan Bairsto, Open Eats
An Islander through and through, Chef Megan’s first memories of lobster were watching her family’s boats sail out on setting day, an industry that has provided for three generations of fishers —that’s sixty years! Chef Megan admits she’s a purist when it comes to lobster, and her favourite way to eat it is “chilled and dipped in my nan’s old school double boiler ‘mayonnaise’ or warm and dipped into a sweet corn butter.” Don’t forget Nan’s homemade biscuits! At Open Eats, expect the unexpected — lobster sushi is popular, lobster salad rolled in nori, nan’s mayo and then toasted in breadcrumbs, but Chef Megan says their most popular item is lobster ice cream, made in house.
Finally, the best way to eats lobster in the summer in Prince Edward Island is exactly how you like it, whether that’s behind a bib, out in the open or within the mix. All chefs expressed their love of the versatility of lobster, and the ideas just seemed to get more and more extravagant with every reply! In PEI, our chefs thrive on mixing traditional with innovation, the weight of the old meets the brink of the new, and forges yet another path, another chapter, another recipe.