Executive Chef John Cordeaux Brings Creativity Plus Fun to the Casino Rama's Restaurants
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“Honestly, I have a passion for everything that is food,” says John Cordeaux, the new executive chef in charge of Casino Rama's eight crowd-pleasing restaurants. “We have an amazing quality of product here now. It's very nice to see that in every single restaurant, the quality of the food and beverages is superb.”
Since his arrival in January, the chef has made it his mandate to thoroughly understand the restaurants' operations and become familiar with the resort's client base. It's a big assignment that covers eight outlets, including the casual dining experiences offered by Cedar, The Weirs Restaurant, Fire Starter Lounge and the Simcoe Yard House. International Asian cuisine is served at Willow and Noodle Bar. For buffet fans, the Las Vegas-style Couchiching Court is perfect, and upscale diners are drawn to St. Germain's steakhouse.

Menus at the restaurants are changed each spring and fall with old favourites remaining and intriguing new dishes added. In April, four of the restaurants' menus will contain new additions supplied by Cordeaux. The chef's selections were made on the basis of what Casino Rama customers want, and what foods can be sourced locally. He was also mindful of current food trends when planning the new menu items.
“As any chef does, I like to look at trends and the things we feel would be exciting, a change for the diner,” the chef says. “Of course, the season is very important, so the food must make sense seasonally. I'm a great believer in being authentically local and try to work with local purveyors.”
Casino Rama recently joined the Savour Simcoe Farm Association to support the resort's desire to serve their patrons fresh local foods and beverages.
To celebrate the sugaring season, the Tap Into Maple event features maple syrup by local producer Shaw's in menu selections in every restaurant. The chef is planning menus to celebrate festivals throughout the year, featuring such treats as strawberries and blueberries. As well, promotions in every restaurant will feature innovative items for diners.
The chef's culinary kitchen team of 100 employees, plus 84 staff in the kitchen services division, work together to prepare and serve about 40,000 meals a week during the resort's high season. Weekends are always busy, especially when shows by renowned entertainers are on stage in the 5,000-seat Entertainment Centre. Then, the meal count can rise to 5,000-6,000 in just one night.
“We joke that we have two seasons – busy and peak,” says Jenna Hunter, Director of Public Relations for Casino Rama. “With that in mind, we looked long and hard for an executive chef. We are definitely a unique property and consider ourselves an entertainment destination between the gaming floor, the dining, the hotel, the spa and the Entertainment Centre.”
Chef Cordeaux's well-travelled culinary career started in his native England. At 15, he apprenticed at The Royal Victoria Hotel in Sheffield and went on to work in Scotland and the U.S. John and his wife moved to Montreal in 1988 where he worked as sous chef at The Queen Elizabeth Hotel, and later became Executive Chef. In 1999, Chef Cordeaux relocated his family to Toronto where he spent six years in the kitchens of the Fairmont Royal York before becoming Director of Food & Beverage there in 2005. Four years later, he became executive chef for the multiple restaurants in The Fairmont Bab Al Bahr in Abu Dhabi, and held the same position starting in 2012 for dining rooms in Fairmont the Palm, Jumerirah in Dubai. Most recently, chef Cordeaux worked at The Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park.
During his wide-ranging career, the award-winning chef has cooked for Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh; His Holiness the Dalai Lama and prepared meals for participants at the 1995 G7 Summit in Halifax.
Despite having lived in some of the greatest cities in the world, Cadeaux is enjoying the charms of life in central Ontario.
“What's great for me is that I'm able to have this amazing job but also be able to live in the country,” he says. “I've always lived in cities, so I'm very happy to be here in Orillia. It's superb and, with summer coming, it will be even more so.”
The executive chef said he is equally pleased to be working with a fantastic team in Casino Rama's excellent kitchens, production kitchens and welcoming restaurants.
“What we do here at Casino Rama is honest cuisine,” John explains. “I think we are approachable, fun and playful. Perhaps people don't realize that we have a great quality of dining in this resort and many opportunities. What is fantastic is that here you can go from a gastro pub, to a very good Chinese restaurant, to a superb steakhouse and a beautiful buffet. Where in the world could you have so many choices so conveniently located?”
On May 23, Chef Cordeaux will be participating in the Taste the World event through the Casino Rama Cares program. Taste the World takes place at the Napoleon store in Barrie and features food from a variety of countries with proceeds going to support the Kempenfelt Rotary Club and their event partner, Grove Park Home. Chef, who is a key part of the Casino Rama Cares program, will prepare delights from St. Germain`s and meet participants who stop to sample the fare.
Meanwhile, if you're curious about the chef's gustatory flair, come and have a meal at one of Casino Rama`s restaurants this spring.
“This is such an incredible establishment and I'm very excited to be here,” says Cordeaux.


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