With over 25 years of culinary experience, Jason McLeod has traveled the world to train with several of the most prestigious chefs in the industry, including culinary icons Raymond Blanc and Marco Pierre White. His resume is punctuated by the kind of success chefs dream about. In 2009, as opening Executive Chef at RIA in Chicago’s 5-Star Elysian Hotel, McLeod led a luxurious seafood-driven restaurant from being relatively unknown, to receiving two Michelin stars during its first year of operation—an honor that only two other restaurants in Chicago (Charlie Trotter’s and Avenues) were awarded that year.
Today, as Executive Chef/Partner at Ironside Fish & Oyster in San Diego, McLeod’s goal is to provide America’s Finest City with a rich oyster culture—one that is deeply engrained in British Colombia where he was born and raised. Growing up a mere 90 minutes from Fanny Bay, an oyster mecca, it comes as no surprise that oyster liquor runs rampant through McLeod’s veins. So what does surprise us about him? Plenty!
Q: Why did you become a chef?
A: Because of the people I met working in my first restaurant, everyone had been traveling and liked to have a great time. I thought to myself this is a great way to see the world and meet new people. I was just lucky every time I moved I met and worked for amazing people who helped guide me in the right direction and I started dot realize that I was pretty good at cooking and really loved it.
Q: Describe your cooking style in three words.
A: Simple. Honest. No Fuss.
Q: What is your signature dish?
A: I don’t know if I have a signature dish per se but at Ironside, The Chowder Fries, Lobster Roll and Clam Chowder are extremely popular. The Chowder fries have become a huge guest favorite.
Q: Where do you get your culinary inspiration?
A: I am a total chef groupie, still, after all the years, and I love to follow chefs from around the world. I love Instagram for that reason as you can follow so many passionate, artistic chefs and every day you get inspired. I love to collect cookbooks, and stumbling across used book stores – I spend hours in them just looking at old cookbooks.
Q: What do you cook when you’re at home?
A: Very simple food really. My wife and I purchased our home three years ago and it was always a dream of mine to have a great built-in BBQ in my backyard. So we saved our pennies and built a beautiful BBQ with fridge, sink burners and I just love hanging out there grilling everything.
Q: Go-to comfort food?
A: Pork chops and roasted sweet potatoes. I have been buying my pork from The Heart & Trotter Butchery and the best comment in the world is when my wife says, “Oh my God, this pork tastes like pork.”
Q: What restaurant tops your bucket list?
Q: Top five favorite ingredients to cook with?
A: Fish, miso, lime, carrots, yogurt.
Q: Go-to kitchen tool?
A: Microplane zester.
Q: Biggest cooking-related pet peeve?
A: Cooks not tasting the food.
Q: What food trend do you wish would go away?
A: The “I am a Foodie” comment.
Q: Culinary school. Required to be a good chef?
A: Absolutely not, don’t go to culinary school.
Q: Any advice for aspiring chefs?
A: Research top chefs around the world and then go work for them.
Q: If Hollywood made a chef movie about your life, who would play you?
A: Mark Walberg or Justin Timberlake.
Q: What music do you listen to in the kitchen?
A: Motley Crue.
Q: Something people would be surprised to learn about you?
A: I am an introvert.