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Mockingbird adds Chinese cuisine to Collingwood's culinary scene

From the husband-and-wife team behind The Pine, the new set-menu restaurant features traditional Chinese flavours in a 'way that makes sense to us,' says chef

The husband-and-wife team behind the award-winning restaurant, The Pine, have unveiled a new culinary adventure, this one venturing into Chinese cuisine.

Chef Jeremy Austin and his wife, Cassie announced their new restaurant, Mockingbird, earlier this month.

The Pine will move to Creemore and the new restaurant is on Hurontario St. in Collingwood. The Mockingbird menu draws from Jeremy's culinary journey, which took him from Italy to China and back again. 

“We are really inspired by regions in China, so that is the base of our food,” said Jeremy. “Mockingbird is pretty much as authentic as you can get to Chinese dishes. We don’t restrict ourselves to using things we get here in Canada.”

Jeremy and Cassie's journey to Collingwood restaurateurs began with a postgraduate stint in a small town in Italy, where Jeremy immersed himself in Italian cuisine. His time along the banks of the Po River instilled in him a deep appreciation for the farm-to-table ethos, where ingredients are cherished and sourced locally. 

“Everything they had they produced themselves,” he said. 

Next, Jeremy’s culinary journey took him to China, where he gained an appreciation for the diverse flavours and traditions of Chinese cuisine. From Wuxi to Shanghai to Hong Kong, Jeremy embraced the challenge of adapting to new tastes and techniques. 

When Jeremy and Cassie returned home to South Georgian Bay, they decided to combine these experiences to lay the foundation for The Pine, where Chinese cuisine meets Italian philosophy. 

“As if an Italian was making Chinese food,” Jeremy said. 

And it paid off. In 2022, The Pine ranked 51 on Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants — and it has remained on the list ever since. 

As The Pine continued to grow, Jeremy and Cassie knew they needed to grow their space along with it. They found a new location in Creemore and started plans to relocate and reopen later this spring. 

However, abandoning their previous location didn’t feel right. 

Jeremy had always wanted to offer the Collingwood community Chinese food in a less restricted way.

“We decided to risk everything and try to open Mockingbird at the same time as moving The Pine to Creemore,” he said. 

From the bold and spicy flavours of Sichuan cuisine to the delicate and nuanced dishes of Cantonese cooking, Mockingbird is about taking traditional Chinese flavours and putting a unique spin on them.

“Mockingbird was always the idea of a restaurant that I had because it was the story of my life — doing things that weren’t completely authentic but doing it in a way that made sense to us,” he said. “Similar to how a mockingbird sings other songs.”

Cassie plays a crucial role in Mockingbird's day-to-day operations, ensuring that everything runs smoothly from front-of-house management to creating an inviting atmosphere for guests. For Jeremy and Cassie, Mockingbird is more than just a restaurant—it's a testament to their passion for pushing culinary boundaries and sharing their love of food with the community. 

“We were just like hey, let’s do this crazy thing because we want to,” Jeremy said. “We were OK if it failed, but we couldn’t live with ourselves if we didn’t try.”

The restaurant officially opened on Feb. 7, and Jeremy and Cassie couldn’t be happier with their first few weeks in business. 

“The team is doing a very good job,” he said. “It’s like watching your baby grow up or go to college, you have to let go of the reins and let them do their own thing. And I was very pleased with the result.”

Mockingbird offers a set menu of eight shared plates with a per-person cost. The restaurant has only 12 seats, so dinner is offered in two two-hour seatings with all guests in each seating served at the same time. 

Located at 203 Hurontario St, Mockingbird welcomes guests Wednesday through Saturday, with seatings at 5:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. For more information, visit their website.

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Maddie Johnson

About the Author: Maddie Johnson

Maddie Johnson is an early career journalist working in financial, small business, adventure and lifestyle reporting. She studied Journalism at the University of King's College, and worked in Halifax, Malta and Costa Rica before settling in Collingwood
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