Chef Portraits: Kyle Proulx

Last week I had the opportunity to catch up with and shoot the second member of the Bytown Chefs Collective (BCC), Kyle Proulx, Head Chef at Lowertown Brewery.

kyle proulx

I met up with Kyle at his new restaurant, Lowertown Brewery, in the uber-busy Byward Market in downtown Ottawa. Lowertown Brewery is the latest addition to the Ontario craft beer scene, which has really become a major part of Ottawa. Literally working around the corner from his friend and Bytown Chefs Collective partner Paul Dubeau (my first shoot in the series), Kyle’s restaurant and working style posed a stark contrast to Paul’s, which I think (and hope) help makes this series an interesting one.

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In my first shoot at Stella, Paul’s kitchen was exactly what I imagined a restaurant kitchen to be – compact; efficient; hidden from view; and with the head chef at the centre of the action, calling orders and plating the dishes. Kyle’s kitchen however, was an enormous open concept; and set up so that Kyle faced the cook team, called out the orders, made finishing touches to the plates, and summoned the servers. Think of a quarterback at the line and you’ll get the gist.

Kyle has an intensity that I don’t see in very many people. Many people at my age and younger seem to take life for granted and demand the riches without working for it. Kyle does not appear to be that type of young professional. As we talked and walked through the Market, I learned a bit about his background and how he got to where he is today. kyle proulx rooftopI can only imagine that to succeed in the restaurant industry you have to have your game face on at all times. You have to be aware of what’s going on around you, and you have to find ways to set yourself apart, especially in a densely populated restaurant location such as the Market in Ottawa. With smart phones tucked into the front pockets of their aprons, Kyle and the other members of the BCC show just how important social media and engagement are to their businesses. Without missing a step, these guys can prepare a dish while simultaneously sharing posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Having said all that, Kyle has a great personality and a great gift for gab. He knows how to work hard, have fun, and entertain, and I look forward to seeing him in action with the Bytown Chefs Collective later this year. For now, here are two galleries from the shoot…

 

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73 comments

  1. Amazing portraits … I’d like to See more about (the change of ?) hierarchical relations in these places.

      1. When I was a student at university, I used to work in a kitchen myself. Even when looking back, the social structure of this kitchen (and later others I heard of) seemed hierarchical to a degree that they showed complete disrespect for some of the groups involved: dishwashers, unlearned cooks helping, women/waitresses. There was also a clear sense of rascism involved – with coloured people standing at the bottom of this system.
        I am not saying that hierarchical work systems cannot be respectful or that there aren’t areas where hierarchical organization isn’t necessary – restaurant kitchens could be such a place.
        That is the background of my curiosity: did things change in that special area of interest that you are documenting? Do we see the social structure of thise workplaces that you are portraiing? Do you want us to see it or should er concentrate in other aspects?

      2. Hi Shane,
        when I was a student at the University of Freiburg I used to work in a kitchen. Then and later professional kitchens seemed like THE place for experiencing old-style hierarchical workplace organization, disrespectful treatment of women (and younger people) and rascism (if you were coloured the place to be was dish-washing, nothing else). I was just asking myself, if thing changed in those workplaces, too? If Chefs are able to organize their cooking in a way that is more respectful to their co-workers?

    1. Thank you so, so much! I really appreciate that. My main goal was to make the chefs happy with the images, and I think I’ve managed to please them as well as others… so I’m over the moon.

  2. Wonderful portraits, but also some fabulous sequencing here, Shane – really like the whole post as an entirety… Looking forward to seeing the follow-ups! 🙂 Kat

    1. Thanks Thays! I really appreciate the comment and thank you for stopping by my blog. Over the next little while I’ll be writing about four more chefs as part of this series, so please come back to see them.

  3. Nice set of portraits—my favorite kinds, mostly candid. He has a great smile. Glad you caught it—much better than his stern look with his arms folded. That’s a little pet peeve of mine—seeing all these people posing for the camera, looking down at you with their arms folded with a smug look on their faces. Still, it’s a nice set. And thank you for stopping by and liking my Photo Challenge and leaving your nice comment. 🙂

    1. Thank you for stopping by. The lighting in these restaurants is so low and varied so black and white work well. I’ve been thinking of writing a post on how I processed the dimly lit images.

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