Inside the kitchen of Taylor McMeekin, the new executive chef at the Drake Hotel

Inside the kitchen of Taylor McMeekin, the new executive chef at the Drake Hotel

Featuring 14 boxes of cod tongues, a dozen De Buyer saucepans and a full floor dedicated to McMeekin’s home bar

Taylor sitting at his home bar, wearing a black t shirt and a black baseball hat

The Drake, which has launched the careers of some of the city’s most beloved chefs (Anthony Rose, Ted Corrado, Alexandra Feswick, Matt Ravenscroft) celebrated its 20th anniversary last month. When it opened, on Valentine’s Day in 2004, Taylor McMeekin, the hip hotel’s new executive chef, was still cooking in his hometown of Owen Sound. When he moved to the Big Smoke two years later, he was thrilled by the vast selection of international ingredients in the city’s stores. In Toronto, a chef could get their hands on just about anything. Back in Owen Sound, most restaurant suppliers would balk at requests for gochujang—they’d never heard of it, let alone had to source it.

Related: Inside the kitchen of Julio Guajardo and Kate Chomyshyn, the head chefs and co-owners of Fonda Balam

Soon, though, McMeekin realized that not everything imported is better. “Those close-to-home farms in Owen Sound were amazing,” he says. “I didn’t appreciate their produce until I was living three hours away.” Now he’s a staunch farm-to-table proponent who spends his limited leisure time foraging, fishing and preserving.

McMeekin's kitchen, which is small with white and cabinets

McMeekin shares his post-war Christie Pits walk-up with a roommate, but most of the decor and kitchenware are his. “I may be on the verge of becoming a hoarder,” he says. “But I’m organized, which I think makes me a collector.” In this pocket-sized kitchen, you’ll find a dozen De Buyer saucepans (McMeekin swears he uses all of them); two blenders; a vacuum sealer (for meal prepping and sous-vide cooking); an industrial-grade stand-up mixer from Hobart; a Breville espresso machine; a pencil drawing of a sprouting potato by Canadian artist Abel Lee; and a HomeSense-level array of culinary gadgets, including a Microplane grater and canning tongs.

The array of kitchenware that hangs over McMeekin's stove

More of McMeekin's cookware collection

Typically, McMeekin’s fridge is pretty bare. Not because he doesn’t enjoy cooking at home—he does—but living 50 metres from independent grocer Fiesta Farms makes it easy to shop like a European. He’ll stock up on grazing nosh (charcuterie, cheese) but do mini daily shopping trips for whatever he feels like making. Today, his fridge is stocked with Grey Owl (one of his favourite cheeses), Mountain Oak gouda, Salumeria il Tagliere hot cacciatore, Murray’s Farm heritage eggs, herbs, St. Brigid’s butter and—according to McMeekin—far more condiments than one human really needs.

A peak inside McMeekin's fridge

To keep his soft herbs (chives, tarragon, parsley) fresh, he stores them together in a single Tupperware container. These morels are from Fiesta Farms, but McMeekin does go foraging for mushrooms in the spring and fall. He won’t tell us where, though—he keeps his foraging spots close to the vest.

A tupperwear full of herbs with morel mushrooms on top

Some of McMeekin’s other favourite retailers include Affinity Fish (he’s really impressed with the fishmonger’s sourcing and aging), PAT (for kimchi and Korean spices), Sanagan’s (for locally raised meats) and Cheese Boutique (for splurging on gourmet goodies).

Related: Inside the kitchen of Peter Sanagan, the owner of Sanagan’s Meat Locker

The kitchen is such a squeeze that the chef keeps his own stand-up freezer in the next room over, tucked in beside his desk. It’s stocked with tons of homemade heat-and-serve food (soups, curry pastes, stews and stocks); beef trimmings for making jus; and three pints from Good Behaviour, which McMeekin thinks is the best ice cream in town.

McMeekin's fridge, which is tucked in beside his desk

A closer look at the Good Behaviour ice cream

The freezer itself is a leftover from McMeekin’s nearly three-year stint working for Fogo Island Fish, a Newfoundland social enterprise that helps fishers preserve their centuries-old way of life while supplying restaurants and retailers with ethically caught Canadian fish. This line-caught squid and these cod tongues (one of a whopping 14 boxes in the freezer) are also from Fogo Island Fish.

A close look at McMeekin's line-caught squid and cod tongues

McMeekin's fishing rods, which are displayed on the wall

Here’s the pantry, which is back in the kitchen proper. The top shelf is all dry goods (everything’s nicely labelled with painter’s tape and a Sharpie, which McMeekin says is a chef’s most important tool). The bottom has various types of hot sauces and pickles—some McMeekin canned himself and others he received as gifts.

McMeekin's pantry shelves, which are under his counter

This cutting board was made by McMeekin’s uncle, who carved it from a walnut tree that grew by his childhood cabin. Every Christmas, McMeekin’s mom gives him one of these spoons, which are made by the Owen Sound Artists’ Co-op. The knife was a gift from Chris Locke, the last chef to helm Marben before it shuttered.

A walnut cutting board with wooden spoons and a small knife on it

During the workweek, McMeekin wakes up around 6:30 a.m. and makes himself an espresso-based drink with Chocosol beans and Sheldon’s Creek A2 Milk. The milk is purportedly easier for lactose-sensitive folks to digest, but McMeekin likes it for its taste. Then, after a few hours of answering emails, he’ll head into what’s often a 12-hour-plus shift. McMeekin doesn’t tend to eat any substantial meals during the day—except for a family meal with his team, a late lunch that tides him over until he finishes his shift, around midnight. After work, he’ll sometimes swing by Vịt Béo or Japas for a late dinner.

McMeekin's espresso machine

On his days off, McMeekin recharges with long walks and good food. In the evenings, he’ll either host friends or go out to one of his favourite restaurants: Donna’s, Imanishi, Foxley or Dreyfus. If he’s feeling more parched than peckish, he’ll hit up a wine bar like Grape Witches, Midfield or Archive.

A wide shot of McMeekin's home bar, which takes up most of the third floor of his apartment

The apartment’s top floor is dedicated to McMeekin’s home bar, complete with a dart board, an epic vinyl collection, a half-dozen bottles of agave spirits, multiple gins (his favourite is from Copenhagen’s Radius Distillery), a big bottle of baijiu, an array of brown liquors and fortified wines, and a mason jar of moonshine. When fixing a cocktail for himself, McMeekin tends to keep it simple: an old fashioned or a gin and soda (served with lemon, not lime).

A closer look at McMeekin's sizable liquor collection

The beer fridge is stocked with Burdock’s special releases, Collective Arts’ booze-free seltzers and Chef D’s sorrel rum punch. The neon sign originally hung at a pub in Owen Sound.

McMeekin's beer fridge, with a Labatt's Blue neon sign

A look at some of the beers that McMeekin keeps at home

Here are a few of McMeekin’s cookbooks. He gravitates toward books with narratives rather than just glossy photos. His collection includes classic tomes (Auguste Escoffier’s Le Guide Culinaire) and modern releases (Ideas in Food: Great Recipes and Why They Work, which explores the science of cooking). McMeekin also appreciates books like The Nordic Cookbook and Mourad: New Moroccan, which dive deep into regional cuisines. For anyone interested in foraging, he recommends Stalking the Wild Asparagus.

A stack of McMeekin's favourite cookbooks