Always Cooking With Soul - Jeff Beltran
WORDS: Stef Richardson | PHOTOS: Alyssa Fleming
There are certain people you meet in your life that have a way of leaving an impression. Whether it be for their stand-out cackle, their never-ending kindness or their ability to create such love and comfort through food. These small but memorable traits are what bring me happiness in my every day encounters – ways that I can differentiate my friendships and things I can think about even on the quiet rainy days.
Let me tell you about a guy who falls into the above category. He deserves this.
Known for his Ch’waffle creations and most recently his ramen pop-up events at Gibson and Company, Collingwood local Jeff Beltran deserves a high-five and gold star for his flavour packed dishes. Dishes likes the breakfast poutine he whipped up for me a few years ago that I’m STILL talking about. In sum, Jeff is the guy who brings pogo’s to the potluck or brings a stack of McDonald’s hamburgers stuffed with queso con queso to your backyard BBQ. Yup – and we love him for it. He’s creative in and outside of the kitchen and has a way of getting people excited about food and that right there is exactly what I admire most.
Jeff was born and raised in the heart of Mississauga and lived the city life until just 10 years ago when he and his beautiful wife, Maureen packed their bags and headed this way. Who knew one visit to Blue Mountain and a trip to the hot tub would ignite their new journey, a life together in Simcoe County. True story.
Though he makes incredibly delicious food, I’m excited to share a few behind the scenes, itty bitty deets of Jeff that you may not know.
What was your fave thing to eat in your early 20’s?
J: Believe it or not, it’s gotta be jasmine rice, spam topped with a green onion omelette (and the spam needs to be the holiday brand).
Favourite song or type of music to get you feelin’ groovy in the kitchen?
J: There is this one playlist on Apple Music by Q-tip that I’m into but enjoy anything old, soulful or R+B/hip-hop.
How does cooking as a whole make you feel?
J: It’s in my family’s culture to cook. I never went to a family function or to my own parents’ kitchen without being offered copious amounts of food. It’s our peace offering, our welcome mat, and icebreaker, a reason to get together amongst family and friends to talk, discuss and celebrate. Above all, it’s about celebrating family and friends.
You get a day off, what are you and Maureen doing?
J: Day off, we’d be going for a hike and then hitting up the Flying Spatula for brunch.
Which candy are you reaching for at the Bulk Barn?
J: Hard sour keys or hot, back of the pocket wine games (insert laughing here)
Favourite movie of all time?
J: The Breakfast Club
Do you have dreams of opening up your own spot?
J: After working at several restaurant companies and even running my own café for a while, I always feared that I would be stuck in this industry forever. If you had asked me 3 years ago, I would have said “absolutely not”. Now, after 5 years with a 9-5 job, bathed in fluorescent lights while staring into a computer monitor – the hot flames and late nights in the kitchen are starting to look exciting again. Would I ever open up my own place? Yes I would! A small place serving small plates of street/comfort food paired with a great atmosphere, great cocktails and a team worthy of being the next Avengers. Always having your back!
If the cards fell right and you could open your spot up next week, where would you draw your inspiration from?
J: There are a lot of things that have inspired me and that have contributed to this notion of opening up shop, but the most important of inspirations would have to be from my time working at “Just Desserts” in the early 90’s. We were a small coffee shop in downtown Mississauga that served coffee and cake and stayed open until 4am. There was never a night we weren’t packed! The lights were dim, the music was loud and the smoke so thick. But what truly was the most amazing part about that place had to have been my coworkers. We were a family! All the rules, codes of conduct, and respect – they all applied. We knew our positions, we showed up ready to work and on our day off we would plan ski trips, camping trips or grab a bite at late night breakfast joints. We were a team and it was SO important.
When you have a good team, everything becomes easy. And the food that comes out of the kitchen becomes a reflection of the team dynamic.
Just Desserts is my benchmark.
Alyssa and I had the pleasure of having Jeff over to our place to whip up his most recent creations – including this week’s line-up for the 3rd pop-up at Gibson + Co. If you haven’t been, we highly recommend cancelling all dinner plans this Thursday May 9 and sliding into town for a noodle bowl. It’s first come first serve and he usually sells out so best to get in earlier. Noodle service begins at 4:30pm.
Stay tuned on the Gibson + Co website to stay updated on all future pop-up events.
Ramen Line-Up - May 9
Coconut ginger chicken w/ a hint of Thai red curry, Shanghai bokchoy, soft boiled egg, dry roasted peanuts, shiitake mushrooms, Thai basil, cilantro, scallion and pickled chillies
*Vegetarian will be stewed sweet potato instead of chicken
Next time you’re slurping up one of Jeff’s ramen bowls (it’ll happen, trust me) know that it was made with love, with curiosity and a lot of intention. Collingwood is glad to have ya, Jeff! Alyssa and I both thank you for your friendship and for introducing us to your way of life. You’re a freakin’ kitchen wizard!