Nest Food

More to the Menu: Chef Brian MacAskill Elevates Local Flavours at Nest

The French Laundry. Café du Monde. Eleven Madison Park. All Michelin star restaurants in the heart of crowded cities, far from the places where the food is raised, grown and harvested. Here in York Durham Headwaters, we prefer something a little different. Something simpler, but with just as much passion and flavour, where food is locally grown for maximum freshness, and where a connection to the land is respected and showcased in each dish. Surrounded by nature, with sweeping vistas of natural spaces to admire, we prefer a magical dining experience that is a world away from the never-ending bustle of dense urban life.

Dish at Nest

Trail Hub in Uxbridge is home to Nest, an upscale farm-to-table dining experience that you will not soon forget. Trail Hub is one of our newer experiences here in YDH. Founded in 2021, it is a central spot to enjoy over 240 kilometres of trails suitable for hiking, biking, skiing and more. After all, Uxbridge is the official Trail Capital of Canada. Located in what was once the beloved Skyloft ski hill, Trail Hub is more than just a destination; it is a community, a place for celebrating milestones, and a retreat where one can seek solace and connection with the outdoors.

Nest is the vision of Chef Brian MacAskill, and it’s a vision in which atmosphere plays an important part of the overall experience. When you turn off of Uxbridge’s rural roads, onto the long, winding drive that opens to the picturesque Trail Hub chalet, you will know you’ve arrived in another world. Inside, the restaurant is lit by candlelight, soft music is playing, and beyond the huge picture window of the dining room, the grounds are gently illuminated. “We want you to feel that this is something different,” Chef Brian says. “The magic of Nest is that it is small and intimate. We showcase local food and local products in an atmosphere that is welcoming and relaxing. When your meal is done, you can go outside and sit by the onsite firepit in our Adirondack chairs and enjoy the view—there are times when it can go all the way to the lights of Toronto. It’s more than just a meal, it’s a retreat from the everyday world.”

Trail Hub View

Chef Brian began his career four decades ago, and back then, his mindset was one of wanting to conquer the world (as he puts it laughingly) and to do things nobody has ever done. “I travelled through France for a while and came back and imported all kinds of different ingredients,” he says. “I used to have a burger on the menu called The Kitchen Sink Burger because it had over 20 ingredients in it, and I just thought that was the best thing. Other people I knew had philosophies like a carrot should look and taste like a carrot, whereas I would take a carrot and turn it into something where you wouldn’t even know it was a carrot anymore. I have quite a different outlook now,” he adds with humour. “I guess you have to mature through cooking.”

It was in the 1990s that Chef Brian became involved with local food. But at the time, he didn’t have a venue to share that view. As executive chef at the Chelsea Hotel in Toronto, and also at the Courtyard by Marriott Downtown Toronto, Chef Brian’s menus were celebrated in terms of technique, flavour and on-trend approach. But because of the nature of these hotels, he was not able to share his personal philosophy quite as easily as he can now. “My career has been 40 years long,” he says. “I’ve been in corporate environments, catering environments, retail stores, hotels, golf courses, you name it. When you’re in a hotel, you have to be mindful of appealing to a wide range of travellers with a broad base of food. You can create things that have a bit of a signature, of course, but more than half your menu has to include things that people are going to be familiar with no matter where they’re from. So that can be a bit limiting.”

Nest, however, has been the first standalone restaurant where he and his team have been able to do just about anything they wanted. “Going to Nest has given me the opportunity to showcase food simply and honestly,” he says. “Most of our dishes don’t have more than five ingredients. For me, if you can’t taste it, then it shouldn’t be there. A chicken should look and taste like a chicken. That’s the goal: to make everything as good as it can be while keeping true to the characteristics of the food.”

Plating at Nest
Nest Table
Nest Dish

It is important to Chef Brian that he knows where the food he serves comes from, and it’s important to him that his guests know this, too. Because Nest is small and intimate, he has the opportunity to talk to guests, and share stories about where the food came from. “I share a lot of the beliefs of the local food movement,” he says. “It’s about that attachment to the ground, and being able to go out and meet the farmer. To pet the cow that is going to give you the milk that is going to make the butter we serve. That, for me, is the strongest connection. Traceability is very important.”

As such, Nest has connections with local farmers that are producing their own goods—butter being one of them. “We use butter from St. Brigid’s Creamery,” he explains. “It’s a small herd of jersey cows, and a family-run operation. They produce their own butter with a high butterfat concentration, and it’s got such a great flavour. And you can go and meet these people and talk to them about what they do. That’s one of the stories I like to share most with our guests.”

“I don’t know if it makes the food taste any better,” he adds in jest, “but it heightens our guests’ enjoyment of the food at least. It’s not just me, though, that makes Nest what it is. I have a great team here. When I’m out in the dining room connecting with guests, I know that my team is back there doing the cooking and producing our food with the same energy and love. We’re all invested in this vision together.”

Nest at Trail Hub

722 Chalk Lake Rd., Uxbridge

Katherine Ryalen is a freelance writer and author based in Durham Region, Ontario. Connect with her online at

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