Yesterday we met
Steve Gonzalez who’s cooked at some of the best restaurants in
Today we’re getting to know Connie DeSousa. She’s the
Co-Executive Chef and Co-Owner of CHARCUT Roast House in Calgary
(I’m dying to go to this place having read the
rave reviews!). Be sure to head on over to the TCC site where you can read
Connie’s full bio and watch
her audition tape.
Come back tomorrow to meet another one of our accomplished
(Also just a reminder I’m simply featuring the competitors in
the order they returned my email — in case you were reading into
the order in any way — DON’T!)
Food Network Canada: Your favourite dish?
Connie DeSousa: I will never tire of the Rotisserie Chicken with
Duck Bacon and Arugula we create at CHARCUT. Inspired by a dish I
used to prepare at Alice Waters’ famed Chez Panisse in
Berkeley, the dish is flavourful, healthful and timeless. Each
element is tended — and when combined — work rather beautifully
FNC: Fave kitchen utensil/gadget?
CD: Like a lot of my kitchen gadgets, my favourite sounds very
boy-toy! It’s fire engine red. It’s Italian. Tiny but tough. I can
tote it with me in my suitcase – at just 10 pounds. Because I count
on my Tre
Spade sausage filler – a loyal stand-by — for consistent
results, it tops my list.
FNC: What would we find in your fridge on a typical
CD: Most people stock the fridge with comfort food and ready
staples. Even though I am a trained chef, at home I am no
different. The ingredients you will commonly find in my fridge
remind me of childhood Sunday mornings. They give a glimpse of my
heritage. Expect: St. Jorge, a raw milk Portuguese cow’s milk
cheese; fermented Portuguese red pepper sauce which is great for
seasoning almost anything; farm eggs; and house-made
FNC: Fave ingredient?
CD: I love lemons and all things citrus. Inherently
refreshing, they brighten any dish right up. Swapping heavy sauce
for a grilled lemon-half makes an effective and simple enhancement
for BBQ’d steaks on a hot summer’s day.
FNC: Where does your love of cooking come from?
CD: I attribute my heritage to the love I feel for cooking.
Canadian-born, I grew up with strong Portuguese and Irish cultural
and culinary influences from my parents and my grandparents.
Fabulous cooks. They nurtured deep, happy and important memories
making and sharing meals at home. They always invited and
encouraged me to help in the kitchen. I will capture these
memories in a cookbook one day, dedicated to them.
FNC: Your guilty food pleasure?
CD: Poutine. What is better than fries smothered with
cheese curds and gravy? The only dish I can think of is
Chuck Hughes’ take on poutine. Last year, he taught me how to
make his version … with lobster. YUM!
FNC: Food aversions? Dislikes
CD: Being adventuresome, I try and enjoy a vast range of
foods. I am up for everything from octopus brains
sashimi-style to Sunday night prime-rib dinner classics. However,
one peeve remains: bland, under seasoned food. Perfectly crisp
fries hot out of the fryer but without the benefit of a sprinkling
of salt are, in a word, blah. Salt, for example, evolves simple
FNC: Have you been recognized?
CD: So unique and out-of-the-gates successful, our Calgary
CHARCUT Roast House has gained a lot of attention in the news
and through social media. CHARCUT was an enRoute Magazine 2010 best
new restaurant winner. My business partner and co-chef John
Jackson and I were named top chefs under 40 by Western
Living Magazine. Our names and faces are out there, especially
since we are fixtures on the line. So within the Calgary community,
we are somewhat recognized by people in food circles and frequent
diners. But nothing prepared me for the flurry of attention and
recognition since word of Top Chef Canada started to
circulate. Our CHARCUT guests and regulars share the excitement
about me being on Top Chef Canada, representing
FNC: Fave cookbook authors?
CD: Karen Page and Andrew Dorenburg co-wrote one of my favorite
cookbooks called Culinary Artistry. This go-to book insightfully
reminds and encourages culinarians how best to pair ingredients and
flavour profiles like no other I have read. It is a gift to
FNC: Complete this sentence: People would be surprised to
find out that…
CD: I studied to become a ballet dancer for more than 12
years. Cooking and dancing seem worlds apart, but my drive,
endurance and stamina in the kitchen come from dance. These
qualities contribute to my professional success. And I thank
Be sure to check out our Top Chef Canada site and
don’t forget to watch In the Hot Seat with Head Judge Mark
McEwan — a super cute/fun video if I do say so myself.
(BTW I’m determined to hear Mark’s hidden talent one day).