At Langdon Hall, a luxury hotel in a century home in the countryside near Cambridge, Ont., Jonathan Gushue has spent the last six years running one of Canada's best kitchens, attracting international accolades for his work. But for more than a week he has been missing, leaving the country's culinary community without one of its brightest stars.
Mr. Gushue, Langdon's executive chef, worked the evening of Dec. 29, the Saturday before New Year's Eve. Afterward, he made the 100-kilometre drive to Toronto to meet a colleague for a late dinner. The 41-year-old stayed at the tony Park Hyatt on Avenue Road, checking out two days later. No one has heard from him since.
Langdon first noticed something was amiss later that day, when Mr. Gushue did not arrive for the New Year's Eve dinner service.
His family reported him missing to police. Mr. Gushue's cellphone was found at the hotel and his car was also located in Toronto, but investigators have been unable to turn up any trace of the man himself. They decided to go public with their search in hopes of generating new leads.
It is not the first time Mr. Gushue has gone missing. There's no evidence of foul play, police said.
"It appears that he has done this before, but usually it's for a couple of days. This time, his family is concerned because of the length of time that has passed," said Olaf Heinzel, a spokesman for the Waterloo Regional Police.
Mr. Gushue has been known to go by the name "Jonathan Herder" – substituting his middle name for his last – and may be using that moniker, Mr. Heinzel said.
A father of three small children, Mr. Gushue is originally from Newfoundland. He began his career at a Northern Ontario chalet as a breakfast cook. Over the years, his work took him to restaurants from Vancouver to London and included a stint as executive chef at Truffles, in Toronto's Four Seasons hotel. He first achieved a five-diamond rating at the age of 32.
Mr. Gushue joined Langdon Hall in the fall of 2005. He was designated a grand chef by Relais & Châteaux, an international association of hoteliers and restaurateurs, in 2009. In 2010, his was one of only two Canadian eateries listed among the top 100 in the world in Restaurant magazine's prestigious poll.
Mr. Gushue's menus have featured local ingredients sourced from the hotel's own vegetable garden and farms in Southern Ontario.
Food writer Mark Schatzker describes Mr. Gushue as "creative, extremely enthusiastic," with an eclectic culinary knowledge. The first time they met, when Mr. Schatzker was promoting a book at Langdon, the pair ended up talking for three hours straight, he said. He saw Mr. Gushue's commitment to local cuisine first-hand and introduced him to Ontario farmers.
On one occasion, Mr. Schatzker said, he brought a farmer to Langdon and Mr. Gushue promptly cooked them several dishes, including some made from the beef the farmer had brought.
"I think a lot of people are very worried about him. For those that know him, he's a really, really wonderful guy," Mr. Schatzker said of his friend's disappearance.
Langdon is closed for a week of annual maintenance but will reopen Wednesday. Chef de cuisine David Sider, who has worked with Mr. Gushue for the past five years, will fill in for him.
"To tell you the truth, we're just terribly sad and upset and terribly upset for Jonathan's family," said Mary Beaton, whose family owns Langdon. "I just wish we could find him and he'll be healthy and well … I just hope he turns up very soon."
Editor's note: An earlier version of this online article incorrectly stated that Mr. Gushue also goes by the name "Joseph Herder." In fact, the name that police say he goes by is Jonathan Herder. This online version has been corrected.