Just outside the beautiful community of Port Perry, Ontario resides the stunning Nestleton Waters Inn. An oasis of rural luxury, this charming country inn features a delicious, farm-fresh, made-from-scratch culinary adventure from the hands of Executive Chef Aaron Moss and his team. Here, it’s all about showcasing local ingredients as a way to celebrate food. We at York Durham Headwaters had the opportunity to speak with Chef Aaron and find out what it is about food that inspires him. And, with the holidays right around the corner, we share with you the memories and traditions which have made Christmastime special to Chef Aaron and his family.
Since taking the culinary reins at Nestleton Waters Inn nearly four years ago, Chef Aaron has embraced the spirit of local flavours. The inn is the perfect place for him to flex his creative muscle when it comes to food in all its forms. On the one hand, Nestleton Waters Inn is a popular venue for weddings, and these types of glamorous events allow him to keep his technical and presentation skills sharp as he creates simple but elegant dishes worthy of any bride on her wedding day. But in the off-season, when the inn welcomes more local diners to specially planned dinner dates, Chef Aaron takes the opportunity to allow fresh ingredients from Port Perry’s surrounding farms to inspire him as he experiments with seasonal flavours and deliciously unique combinations.
Supporting the community and ensuring that it thrives is a responsibility which Nestleton Waters Inn takes seriously. “Without them, and without their support, we couldn’t do what we do,” Chef Aaron says. “Showcasing an ingredient that is local and from the farm is a way of enlightening visitors on what we have that they might not know of. When I can show our guests what is available in their own community, and show them how to present it and make it and give it the love it deserves—for me, that’s what drives my passion for local food: making sure that we really shine a light on what is available.”
At 32 years old, Chef Aaron’s love of food has never wavered—he has been actively interested in the culinary arts since the tender age of 12! It is a dedication rooted in the thrill of new and exciting challenges each time he steps into his kitchen. “Food is joy,” he insists. “It’s a passion. It’s whatever you want it to be. There are so many avenues to food, and it has evolved over time in interesting ways.”
In today’s modern society, Chef Aaron finds that tradition is necessary when it comes to food. Heritage and history are as important a part of the equation as innovation and experimentation. While blending these two concepts of moving food forward while respecting where food has been, he feels that education has become a third significant feature in today’s culinary landscape. “Teaching people that it’s important to buy local, and showing them what they can do with the food they buy is a big part of what I do,” he explains. “It doesn’t have to be rocket science; it can be as simple as taking three ingredients and turning them into something mind-blowing.”
Of course, any chef who wishes to be successful must possess a passion for food, and must be willing to learn and grow constantly. This, Chef Aaron points out, isn’t something that can be taught. “It’s something you’re born with,” he says. “It’s that instinct, that creativity.” For those who have this innate passion for food, it is often a nurturing influence which turns the passion into something extraordinary. It is a collection of life experiences and little moments of inspiration over the course of a life. For Chef Aaron, it was his mother that influenced and nurtured his love of cooking the most. “She cooked a lot, she baked a lot,” he says. “Some of my earliest memories of food are cooking with her and getting to lick the bowl and the spoon.”
One of five children, Chef Aaron originally came from England. He was raised in what he describes as a very happy family, by two wonderful parents. Naturally, a household with five kids means big Christmases. Food was a large part of the Moss family’s Christmas traditions. “The turkey would go in the oven at 7 a.m., and it would come out at lunchtime,” he recalls. “Vegetables were put in the steamer, we would have beef gravy with our turkey dinner, we would have Yorkshire pudding, and we would have Christmas pudding and Christmas cake. I have fond memories of eating an absurd amount of food.”
To this day, his mother sends Chef Aaron a Christmas cake. “You can’t have a Christmas without Mom’s cake,” he states. “The smell of her baking it, how it would permeate the whole house for days was, for me, a huge comfort. When you smelled that, you knew all the good memories and the good times were coming.”
Today, family is Chef Aaron’s number one priority, thanks to his upbringing. “Anyone who knows me knows that about me,” he says. “I have three little girls and I have a beautiful wife that I am very proud of. For me, family and that family experience is a big part of Christmas. When I look back over the holidays and I think about the memories, I’m only ever filled with joy. There was no other feeling.”
This holiday season, Nestleton Waters Inn encourages you to be its guest, and to taste for yourself Chef Aaron Moss’s love of cooking inspired by fresh, local ingredients. For more information, visit nestletonwatersinn.com, or call (905) 986-0670.
Nestleton Waters Inn
3440 Beacock Rd.,
Nestleton, ON L0B 1L0
Story by Katherine Ryalen