Chuck Hughes Talks Foodie Films at the Tiff Bell Lightbox

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with my fellow foodies and Montreal chef Chuck Hughes as part of a Food on Film mini series presented by the Tiff Bell Lightbox. The movie nights pair celebrity chefs with foodie films for an evening of food, film and great conversation. When I heard I would get to be in the same theatre as Chuck, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity–would anybody?

 Chuck Hughes Food on Film Series

 

Chuck’s movie pick for the evening was Roland Joffé’s Vatel, a biography of the 17th century culinary legend François Vatel starring Umma Thurman and Gérard Depardieu. The film followed the trials Vatel faced while preparing his feast for King Louis XIV which eventually lead to his demise. Vatel was known for his opulent food landscapes and creative mind when it came to his culinary abilities. Chuck compared his time cooking at the Banff Springs Hotel to the extravagance and grandeur we witnessed in Vatel’s kitchen.

After the film, Chuck was joined on stage by Jason Bangerter, the Executive Chef of both Luma and O & B Canteen at the TIFF Bell Lighbox. The Chuck’s Day Off host opened up about his own journey as a chef and spoke to the opulence and artistic endeavors that Vatel embarked on. He pointed out that the most exciting part of the film was the fact that it was a true story. While explaining how much he loved the movie he lit up like a kid on Christmas morning.

Chuck described his style of food art as grungy and shared that his restaurant Garde Manger and cookbook of the same name represented this style. He also referred to it as more Vatel-like unlike his second restaurant Le Bremner, which serves up lighter fare.

When asked about his food as art Chuck admitted that after working 14-hour days in a hot kitchen art was the furthest thing from his mind. “Taking pictures and making dishes for the camera was torture,” reveals Chuck in regards to building his cookbook Garde Manger. “It’s not the way I view food, I’d rather cook for people who are eating.”

He also admitted that Iron Chef was one of the craziest things he had ever done.

“I’ve been doing a lot of TV and competitions and a lot of crazy stuff and they always throw in jelly beans and calamari, I’ve just now realized I don’t want to make that taste good, I don’t care if somehow we can make it taste good, it’s not something I want to do.”

The evening was a great window into the world of Chuck Hughes and his mega personality. He explained that no matter how many times you tell a piece of beef “I’m a celebrity chef” it still takes just as long to cook! His down-to-earth persona was incredible to see. Whether on his show or in person, what you see is what you get with Chuck and his energy and passion for his craft is something that cannot be denied or missed.

 

You haven’t missed your opportunity to take in one of the Food on Film series. Catch David Rocco and his screening of Mid-August Lunch June 6th.

 

Written by Paula Cilia

Live Blog: Top Chef Canada Season 2 Finale

TCCLiveBlogAre you ready to learn who will be Canada’s next Top Chef? I know I am! Watch the Top Chef Canada season two finale (watch the preview) this Monday at 10pm ET/PT and find out which competitor is crowned Canada’s Top Chef! In this episode, the chefs are faced with a surprise twist. Guest judge is renown master of contemporary Indian cuisine, Vikram Vij. Mark McEwan, Shereen Arazm and Lisa Ray will be joining in our live blogging fun–so get your questions for the judges ready!

 

Join us here Monday night and share your thoughts on the competition during the broadcast of the show via the live blog widget below. Pay close attention to the action in the Top Chef Canada kitchen during this final episode and look out for our Live Blog giveaways! We’ll also be pulling in Top Chef Canada related tweets from the Twitterverse, so make sure you include the hashtag #topchefcanada in any tweets you send about the show.

Finally, make sure to check-in to the Top Chef Canada GetGlue page to collect exclusive stickers of all of this season’s chefs and more. Looking forward to chatting with you as we watch the Top Chef Canada competition unfold–speak to you soon!

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Photolicious: Vietnam’s Hoi An Market

One of my favourite eating destinations in the world is Vietnam.

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As in many countries, especially tropical ones where temperatures soar by mid-day, the markets are the liveliest in the early mornings, however most Vietnamese markets are THE favourite lunch spot for locals and as you can see below for a good reason.

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THe UNESCO protected city of Hoi An, in central Vietnam, has a vibrant market with the best Cau Lau in town. This medley of sliced pork, leafy greens, crispy dough squares and bean sprouts on a bed of thick rice noodles is the local speciality.

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If you go to Hoi An, you must eat Cau Lau. You can get versions of this unique noodle dish outside Hoi An but, be warned, it won’t be authentic.

aparnabiopoicAparna Guha is the co-founder of Original Trails, Toronto-based boutique travel company. When not sampling street food in far-flung lands or writing about her recent escapades, she can be found customizing unique and ethical vacations for others to her favourite places around the world.

 

 

 

 

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Bobby Flay on Worst Cooks in America

Tonight is the finale of Worst Cooks in America Season 3 (9pmET/6pmPT) with hosts Anne Burrell and Bobby Flay.

In the final battle, the two remaining recruits must execute their own three-course menu for a panel of culinary titans at David Burke Kitchen, a restaurant in New York City. Bobby and Anne work with their respective recruits to design the menus, taking into account their personal culinary journeys.

Then it’s up to the panel of culinary experts — including David Burke, Marcus Samuelsson and Susan Feniger — to determine which chef has moved from worst to first and will walk away with the $25,000 grand prize.

When we caught up with Bobby Flay in Las Vegas for Uncork’d, co-hosting Worst Cooks in America came up. Here’s what he had to say.

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Top 5 Tastiest Homegrown Vegetables

Last week, spurred by Jamie Oliver’s recent Food Revolution Day, I ran down a list of my five favourite Canadian-grown fruits.

 

It seems only fitting to follow up with five of the most delectable of our nation’s vegetables. Why not head to your local grocer or farmers’ market and pick up some of each? After all, healthy eating means enjoying seven to 10 servings of fruits and veggies every day!

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5. Bell peppers
Remember how Chairman Kaga, overseer of the original Iron Chef, would lustily bite into a bell pepper during the opening credits of that seminal food-competition show? He’s not the only one with a taste for the sweet capsicum! In Canada, bell peppers are largely greenhouse-grown in B.C., Alberta and Ontario, which means we can enjoy them fresh year-round. When served raw they make an excellent delivery vehicle for a nice, light dip, or toss them into a stir-fry for some extra colour and texture. If you have the time, roast a couple of reds in the oven—or on the barbecue—to really bring out their sweetness, then cut a few strips for a great sandwich or burger topping.

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4. Fiddleheads
I’m guessing this may be a controversial pick, though fiddleheads have definitely grown in popularity over the past few years. The young curled fronds of the ostrich fern are a springtime delicacy in Ontario, Quebec, and parts of the Maritimes, where they’re generally foraged. They’re a bit finicky to clean, and you’re advised to boil them for at least 10 minutes (some cases of gastrointestinal illness have been reported by people who’ve eaten raw fiddleheads), but once cooked, and paired with some butter and a bit of garlic, you’ll be rewarded with a vitamin-rich dish with a complex, asparagus-like flavour.

 

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3. Carrots
These deep-orange (and sometimes white, yellow, red or purple) roots are arguably the most popular snack vegetable, equally great for kids to take to school and adults to serve at social events. A serving of crunchy raw or soft steamed carrots (or carrot juice, if that’s how you roll) packs a healthy punch; the veggie contains valuable amounts of antioxidants such as beta-carotene and lutein, and has been shown to have significant cardiovascular and anti-cancer benefits.

 

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2. Corn
The quintessential late-summer vegetable—shucking cobs of sweet corn for the family dinner table is practically a right of passage for Canadian kids. It may not be quite so packed with nutrients as some other vegetables, but what corn lacks in, say, antioxidants, it makes up for with versatility; you can cook it on or off the cob, of course, and who doesn’t love popcorn and nachos?

 

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1. Tomatoes
Yes, yes. Botanically speaking, tomatoes are a fruit. For cooking purposes, however, they’re most often considered vegetables, and so I have no qualms about claiming them as such for this list. I also have no problem awarding them top spot! Cultivated across the country on farms, in greenhouses, and in home gardens, juicy, subtly sweet tomatoes work terrifically well in so many culinary settings. What would your pasta be without tomato sauce? Lacking a few tomato slices, would your burger, club sandwich or BLT be as satisfying? Your salad certainly benefits from that little extra kick of acidity. And who can resist popping fresh-picked heirloom tomatoes directly into their mouth?
Do these homegrown veggies set you salivating in anticipation for the bounties ahead? Or are you shaking your head vehemently at seeing tomato top my list? Let me know your thoughts.
Craig MoyCraig Moy is an editor at a Toronto-based city magazine. He also writes about all manner of cultural topics, including food culture. 
 

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Toronto Taste 2012: Highlights and Palate Pleasers

The ultimate goal for Second Harvest is to combat hunger and promote a healthier environment for folks in need here in Toronto. They do this by diverting perfectly good food from landfills and making sure that the food gets into the hands of those who need it- absue and homeless shelters, and 200 other agencies that gratefully accept the food Second Harvest works hard to deliver. Ensuring no one in our community goes hungry is at the very core of what Second Harvest does.

 

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This past Sunday, at their much-anticipated annual Toronto Taste event, no attendee, whether an omnivore or a vegetarian, walked away hungry. Three covered marquee tents, one live auction/live music stage and an entire corridor of silent auction items and more treats inside the Royal Ontario Museum’s main entrance meant there was literally something for everyone!

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A few culinary themes emerged– sustainably sourced fish dishes, an array of sliders from pulled pork to tofu and wild game were seen in many incarnations. With more than 60 of the finest food producers, beverage purveyors and chefs in the city preparing artfully crafted bites, it’s a tough job to choose some of this year’s highlights- but someone’s got to do it. This is by no means an exhaustive list; it’s a reflection of what tickled our taste buds and piqued our gustatory interest. Bon Appetit!

 

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• One of the highlights for us at this year’s Toronto Taste was Buca’s Chef Rob Gentile’s cured elk leg slivers, shaved in thin ribbons, beautifully presented with pickled radish slices, mustard greens, a spiked mascarpone dollop and Tuscan olives. An Italianate, edible still life on a plate.

• Chef Mark McEwan’s lamb Bolognese with chickpea and fennel served over a sturdy crostini and a generous smear of fresh citrus-nuanced ricotta. Like Tuscany in Toronto courtesy of Bymark.

• The team at Woodlot decided to craft a perfect little bite out of a firm rectangle of marinated tofu, topped with grated carrots on a toothsome brioche bun. The woman next to me was grabbing one saying, “My husband, who hates tofu raved about this- so now I have to try it.” Good thing we followed suit.

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• Rodney’s Oyster House didn’t disappoint with their signature R.O.D “Dukes”, PEI-grown oysters that are meaty, salty up front and sweet on the finish. Oyster discussion with Rodney himself- invaluable. His culinary team got busy with Sea Dogs- composed of lobster and shrimp wieners, crowned with a smoked ketchup, a tequila mustard, wild Haliburton ramp relish on house baked buns.

• Three kinds of crudo from which to choose at Scarpetta’s table. I opted for the fluke crudo with yuzu and cucumber, the husband for the yellowtail with radish and pickled ramp. His was the winner of the pair. There was also a fresh looking trout tartare with fiddleheads for the taking but by then, we were beyond sated.

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• For dessert, Anne Yarymowich wow’ed us with her take on the Latin American favourite, the churro. Rolled in a traditional cinnamon sugar, the team at the AGO’s Frank restaurant, took the deep fried dessert to a new level by adding a splash of dark chocolate sauce, salted dulce de leche and a sprinkling of fine sea salt flakes. Balanced and addictive!

• Reunion Island Coffee- the roaster based in Oakville, Ontario prepared fresh cups of delicious blends á la minute in individual drip stations – like the folks at San Francisco’s Blue Bottle Coffee. We opted for the 100% Colombian (of course!) and were rewarded by a full flavoured, bitter-free, mellow cup of java. Buenisimo and the perfect way to end our tasting tour with those crisp churro fritters!

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• Other noteworthy mentionables: Gelato Fresco’s dark chocolate sorbet with cocoa nib flecks- you’ll swear there’s a carton of cream in there but there’s not a drop! Try his Valencian orange sorbet too with candied peel to transport you to the Mediterranean. BeerBistro’s pulled pork slider on a buttermilk bun was the best porky offering of the night and Ruby Watchco’s chicken liver parfait with the cherry preserve on top was picture perfect!
 

 

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Bobby Flay On His Barbecue Addiction

Which Food Network host do you think of when we say the words, “barbecue, grilling and swagger?”

 

Yup, we’re talking about Bobby Flay — who loves to barbecue as much as we love the celebrity chef. (If you don’t know, we scored a huge exclusive with the grill guru in Las Vegas at the Uncork’d culinary festival earlier this month, read my previous post. We’ll wait here.)

 

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So it’s not surprising that Chef Bobby has a new show premiering today (12pmET/9amPT) aptly named Bobby Flay’s Barbecue Addiction. Don’t worry if you miss it, it airs again Sunday at 10amET/7amPT (PVR it).
It’s a full-on instructional show with Chef Bobby showing you all his secret tricks on the grill.

 

Here’s the man himself talking about Bobby Flay’s Barbecue Addiction.

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Cheese Blintzes from Eat Live Travel Write

Adell Shneer is amazing. Not only does she have the patience to cook with little boys using only rudimentary equipment in a science lab but she does it all with good humour and a smile on her face. This is her third visit with Les Petits Chefs (you can read about her first visit here and her second visit here) and only a couple of weeks ago, she helped me with my huge “Pass it on” cooking class for Food Revolution Day).

 

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This time around, Adell wanted to give the boys a little taste of her Jewish heritage by showing them how to make Cheese Blintzes. Quite serendipitously, it also happened to be Shavuot where dairy is eaten (you can read one version of why dairy is eaten on Shavuot here). Blintzes are basically a thin pancake, in this case filled with pressed dry cottage cheese mixed with egg yolks and sugar. After filling and rolling the blintzes, you fry them to cook the cheese/ egg yolks. Traditionally served with applesauce, we served ours with blueberry jam and Greek yogurt.

 

We were missing seven Petits Chefs off on a field trip, so the remaining boys worked collectively to make the pancake batter and filling. On a day when it was super hot and muggy in a room with no air conditioning, this was a great choice!

 

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 Adell showing the boys how to crack eggs!

 

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 Adell helps the boys separate the egg yolks from the whites

 

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 Crêpes à go-go!

 

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Making the filling for cheese blintzes

 

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Adell shows the boys how to fill and roll the blintzes

 

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Frying up blintz-y goodness!

 

To be honest, I had never had a blintz ever in my life (and didn’t get one on Monday!) but with the leftover ingredients, I plan to make these very, very soon (as in, on the weekend!). So easy, so tasty, and so much fun!

 

Thanks, Adell, for bearing with over-excited little boys in the heat! We can’t wait for you to come back in the Fall!

 

You can find the recipe for the United Bakers Cheese Blintzes here.

 

Mardi_Michels Mardi Michels is a full-time French teacher and part-time food blogger based in Toronto. Her blog, eat.live.travel.write, focuses on culinary adventures both near and far because she travels as often as she can!

Grilled Lobster with Fiddleheads from Derek’s Kitchen

This is a great little dish that really takes advantage of seasonal ingredients. I adore fiddleheads, so when they start appearing in markets I make sure to grab them while I can. Fiddleheads are the tips of young ferns and can only be harvested in the spring, so once they are gone, they’re gone. The season for fiddleheads is incredibly short, so if you see them, grab them right away! They have a wonderful green vegetable flavour similar to asparagus or rapini, but they also have a certain, hard to explain, tanginess that is completely unique.

 

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Be careful when working with fiddleheads, because the raw plant contains toxins that can be bad for you. Soak your fiddleheads in cold water for at least one hour before cooking. Also, you should blanch the fiddleheads twice, straining the water and starting with fresh water each time. If you can’t find fiddleheads, rapini (broccoli rabe) is a good substitute for this recipe.

 

We are also in the middle of lobster season right now, so I’ll be posting another lobster recipe next week. Because the warm weather is now here, I decided to grill the lobster to go with my fiddleheads. Usually, though, grilling is not my favorite way to cook lobster, because it is so easy to overcook it on the grill. It’s a damn shame to take such an amazing ingredient and then ruin it by cooking it until it’s dry and chewy. You can prevent that by following a few simple guidelines to avoid overcooking your lobster.

 

First of all, you will have to buy live lobsters. Precooked lobsters will dry out the moment you put them on the grill. If you can, get bigger lobsters (2lbs+) because they will take longer to cook and are more forgiving. Big lobsters can be hard to find and/or expensive, so don’t worry too much if yours are closer to 1lbs. When it’s time to cook your lobsters, bring a large pot of water to just under a boil and cook them for three minutes, just long enough to kill the lobsters. Transfer the par-boiled lobsters to ice water to stop the cooking. Then, while you crack the shells of the lobsters, pre-heat your barbeque as hot as you can get it, so that you can quickly get a nice char on your lobster without overcooking it.

 

One final note on the choice of sausage for this dish. Pretty much any sausage will do. I like to use a garlic sausage because garlic and lobster is obviously a great match. Toulouse sausage would be a good choice. I found some game sausage (boar, duck, and venison) that was garlicky and herbaceous and worked really well with the lobster.

 

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cooking time 15 minutes

Serves 4

 

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Ingredients:

2 live lobsters

4 cups fiddleheads

4 garlic sausage

3 lemons

2 tablespoons olive oil

 

Instructions:

1. Soak the fiddleheads in cold water for one hour and then rinse thoroughly. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and then blanch the fiddleheads. Strain the pot and blanch the fiddleheads a second time in a fresh pot of boiling water. Transfer the fiddleheads to an ice bath.

 

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2. Bring a pot of water large enough to fit the lobsters to a gentle boil and then cook the lobsters for 3 minutes, then transfer to a large bowl of ice water. Remove the tails and then use a knife to split them down the center. Remove the claws and use the back of the knife to crack open the claw. Hit the claw at the top, followed by the bottom and then once more in the center to crack the shell evenly in two. Finally, cut a slit in each part of the “knuckles” attached to the claw.

 

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3. Preheat the grill to high heat. Poach the sausages in boiling water for 5 minutes and then transfer to the grill. Cook until browned on all sides. Place the lobster on the grill with the tails meat side down. Cook 5 minutes for a 1 1/4 lbs lobster, 8-12 minutes for larger lobsters. Cut two lemons in half and brown on the grill.

 

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4. Heat a small amount of olive oil in a frying pan and add the fiddleheads. Cut the grilled sausage and then toss in with the fiddleheads. Add the juice of one lemon.

 

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5. To serve: Divide the fiddleheads and sausage among four plates. Place one claw, half a tail and a piece of grilled lemon on each plate.

 

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DerekBocking Derek Bocking is a professional chef with over 15 years culinary experience. On his blog, Derek’s Kitchen, he shares restaurant-style recipes for amateur gourmets to try at home, from quick and easy meals to more elaborate showstoppers.

Cake as Art: Magnificent, Mouth-Watering Masterpieces

Cake is my kryptonite. Cake is like a good woman – sweet, smells good, and I just can’t say no to it!

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When I found out about The Cake Show hosted by The Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary Arts in Toronto, I was beyond excited. The theme of this year’s show was Cake as Art. Competitors were encouraged to draw inspiration from art, architecture, music, and fashion.

 

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Strolling through the rows of cakes was like walking through a museum. All the cakes were truly works of art – from the sunflower cake inspired by  Van Gogh, to the theatre stage cake featuring complete cast of the Muppet Show. Each cake was meticulously designed, with a keen eye on the finer details. The highlight of my cake walk was a black and blue cake, adorned with a traditional theatre mask painted in white and gold.

 

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Throughout the day, instructors from the Bonnie Gordon College paired off in teams of two to compete in the Instructor Face-Off. It was fun seeing the cakes take shape, from the layering of fondant at the base of a cake, to the intricate, hand-painted designs. I love watching Anna Olson create amazing sweets and desserts on the Food Network, and it was awesome to see the magic and imagination of cake design right in front of me at the Cake Show.

 

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The bouquet challenge redefined my definition of a cupcake. Three bakers participated in a live, hour-long competition in front of an attentive crowd. One competitor creatively assembled her bouquet into the shape of a peacock, with cupcakes piped in frosting of vibrant colours and accented with bright feathers. Another competitor created a Parisian-inspired basket of cupcake flowers. The winning design complete with shiny, edible jewels was inspired by a wedding table centerpiece.

 

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The Blown Sugar Demonstration provided the show’s pyrotechnic entertainment. One brave baker used a blow torch to model sugar into various shapes and designs. I was fascinated to discover what you can create with a pinch of melted sugar, a pound of courage and a blow torch. I have a new appreciation for cake designers. I can barely work a box of matches, let alone a high-powered blow torch!

 

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But for me, the proverbial icing on the cake was the We Bake In Heels table. The recent start-up is run by a pair of graduates from the Bonnie Gordon College. They’ve successfully set up shop, and are currently enjoying success with a new bakery at Vaughan Mills. They presented a spread of flavours including strawberry champagne, chocolate, Oreo, vanilla, and red velvet, at just $3 a pop. I happily left the show with strawberry frosting and a smile smeared across my face.

 

I had a great time at the Cake Show, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the designers come up with next time. In the meantime, check out our gallery of cake porn from the event!

 

 

Glenn CalderonGlenn Calderon is a Toronto-based writer and self-proclaimed “bachelor foodie.” He enjoys trying new restaurants and writing about them. Currently, he’s attempting to teach himself how to cook, but always has a fire extinguisher nearby… just in case.


 

 

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Top Chef Canada: Season 2, Episode 12 – Which Dish Should Dan Recreate?

We’ve challenged Calgary-based blogger, Dan Clapson, to recreate a dish from each episode of this season’s Top Chef Canada.

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This week Dan will be recreating a dish from episode 12, but which one? Will it be Carl’s winning Crispy Euro Sea Bass Salad? Or maybe we have him go the pie route with Trevor’s Apple Bacon Tart or Carl’s Cheddar, Ham and Chanterelle Quiche. Vote Now!

Top Chef Canada: Season 2, Episode 12 – Which Dish Should Dan Recreate?

 

 

 

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Top Chef Canada: Season 2, Episode 12 Recap – Final Three

It’s getting down to the wire on season two of Top Chef Canada.

 

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But before we examine what transpired on this, our penultimate episode, I’d like to turn your attention all the way back to recap of show number one.

 

Now, perhaps I didn’t make a firm prediction at the time, but you’ll nonetheless note that I pegged both Carl and Jonathan as favourites to the later rounds. And guess who’s still in the running? Oh, why it’s Carl and Jonathan!

 

Let’s find out which of them, along with David and Trevor, were able to make it to the final three.

 

Quickfire
If it wasn’t already apparent that there’s no more time for fooling around, badass chef Marc Thuet and his partner Biana Zorich showed up to judge this week’s quickfire.

 

The test? Craft two pies—one sweet and one savoury—to please the palate of one of Canada’s most renowned pastry makers.

 

Almost uniformly, and somewhat disappointingly, our cheftestants stuck to the basics for their sweet pies, basically putting some fruit in a pastry as you might expect. Trevor was the exception, plating an apple bacon tart with walnut crust and blue cheese cream.

 

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That combination was praised by the judges, but was beat out in the overall contest by Carl’s savoury cheddar, ham and chanterelle quiche with duck fat pastry. He went straight for Marc Thuet’s heart with that duck fat, literally and figuratively, and earned the quickfire win for his efforts.

 

Elimination
Technique and plating were paramount in our next-to-last elimination challenge, as our chefs were tasked with creating a lunch for a highly fashionable crowd. I’d say this test was right in Jonathan’s wheelhouse—he’s been offering up haute cuisine in the majority of his challenges, and he seemed confident going into this one, too.

 

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He got a further boost when Lisa announced that the chefs would each be assisted by a competitor from Top Chef Canada’s first season—one of either Rob Rossi, Connie DeSousa, Francois Gagnon and Dustin Gallagher. Jonathan got lucky and managed to select Dustin, whom he once worked with at Susur.

 

Actually, all the chefs looked pretty pleased with their partners: David and Connie were acquainted with each other as they’re both chefs for Hotel le Germain properties (he in Toronto, she in Alberta); Carl and Rob share the rustic-is-better cooking philosophy; and Trevor seemed glad to have workhorse Francois to help him with whatever grand schemes he had in mind.

 

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The prep period really hammered home the fact that being a chef is quite like being in an exclusive club—the camaraderie was really refreshing and everyone appeared to be having a great time in the kitchen, even though the stakes were very high.

 

We found out just how high, of course, once dishes were served and the judges vented their collective spleen. Maybe they were just being ultra-picky, but Mark, Lisa, Shereen and guest Jennifer McLagan had a lot of negative things to say about Jonathan, Trevor and David’s offerings.

 

They didn’t, however, find any fault with Carl’s dish, a “Euro bass” salad with colourful flourishes of zucchini aioli and roasted red pepper coulis. In fact, according to Mark, “the only thing negative about the dish was that it wasn’t large enough.”

 

And so the younger of our two remaining Toronto chefs—and one of my early favourites, you’ll recall—won his second challenge of the episode and took his place amongst the final three!

 

Who would be joining him? We found out quickly enough. Despite the fact that the only “high fashion” factor of his dish was that it was labour-intensive, B.C. chef Trevor managed to pull through to the endgame. The flavour of his lamb must have been spot on, because his plating was as rugged as the Rocky Mountains.

 

Strangely, the bottom two dishes were both Asian-inspired. Drawing on his experience working under Susur Lee, Jonathan offered a trio of dim sum offerings that had none of the bold, exciting flavours one expects from the best Chinese cuisine. “Bad cocktail party food,” is how Jennifer put it. Jonathan was also penalized for his plating. Though delicate, it was not particularly artful.

 

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David’s dish—a sushi-style beef wellington with a series of miniature Japanese-fusion accompaniments—looked beautiful, but based on the judges’ reactions, it was perhaps his worst tasting of the entire competition. Most egregious, apparently, was a chive puree that Mark compared to eating grass.

 

I’m thinking it was probably that little mistake which cost David a spot in the finale. Of course it must be difficult to come so far only to lose out at (almost) the last possible moment, but I feel as though the veteran chef had the right attitude about it. He’d entered the competition hoping to reinvigorate his passion for cooking; based on what we’ve seen over the past twelve weeks, he clearly accomplished that goal. I suppose it doesn’t hurt that he also won $20,000 along the way.

 

And so that, faithful readers, gives us three young and hungry chefs for the final: Jonathan, Trevor and Carl. Place your bets for next week!

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Heat Meter
Who was hot (and who was not) in episode 12?

Hot: Carl. First he impressed Marc effing Thuet with a rustic quiche. Then he did a U-turn and gave Shereen the outside-the-box, “non-mechanical” dish that she’d been urging him to create for the past number of weeks. Win both challenges in an episode of Top Chef? I’d say you’re hot. Win both challenges in the second-to-last episode of Top Chef? I’d say you’re the favourite to win the final.

Not: David. The mad man of the Top Chef kitchen finally overreached with yet another culinary experiment he’d never previously attempted. Given the judges’ comments, one has to wonder if David, too, knew that he’d erred in the flavour department. He must’ve tasted everything before he sent it out, right?
Craig Moy

Craig Moy is an editor at a Toronto-based city magazine. He also writes about all manner of cultural topics, including food culture. 

 
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Top Chef Canada: Taking the Challenge Home Week 11: Grilled KD Sandwich

Oh Kraft Dinner…I’m sure all of the remaining contestants were very happy to cook with macaroni in the quick fire challenge this past week.

 

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I’m sure everyone can admit that there’s a box of prepackaged mac ‘n cheese lurking in their cupboards. Yes, definitely a guilty pleasure for many a Canadian. Many of the chef’s creations seemed interesting, but David’s winning dish from this challenge, the ‘Mac ‘n Cheese Grilled Cheese,’ looked like a guilty pleasure on a plate. A sandwich that would be most fitting for the late night (post-party) weekend crowd no doubt. The mac ‘n cheese grilled cheese sandwich won by a landslide in my poll this week, which I was definitely ok with!

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Since I didn’t have the time constraints of a quick fire challenge, or six cameras recording my every move, I decided to make some mac ‘n cheese from scratch. The ingredients for the grilled cheese sandwich itself were fairly simple, so I decided to go with a cheese with some flavour. The grocery store just down the road from me has the largest selection of cheese in the city, so I knew I would be able to find something perfect there.  After perusing the aisles, I finally settled on a double smoked cheddar cheese. Once I started to grate the cheese, it had the most amazing smell. It took all my will power to need eat the majority of the cheddar before I cooked with it.

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If you’ve never made mac ‘n cheese at home before, I would encourage trying to. It takes about 15-20 minutes maximum and you always end up with a big bowl of cheesy goodness. Now, I’m not saying you should make this all the time (everything in moderation), but the next time it’s a grey and rainy day outside, I suggest trying to whip up a batch yourself! What I do not recommend, however, is leaving a bowl of the freshly made mac ‘n cheese unsupervised on a counter. You may discover your pet trying to sneak a bite behind your back (like my parrot, Baub, pictured!). Trust no one!

 

To make the asparagus relish, I just did a quick pickling of some asparagus spears and red onion. Since relish is generally fairly fine in texture, I used my magic bullet to get a nice mince on the vegetables. Man, what can’t a magic bullet do? A food processor would have worked just as well, but the bullet was already plugged in on the counter. It was almost like it was just waiting to help me out…I let the vegetables sit in a pot pickling liquid for about ten minutes, then I strained them, mixed them with some grainy mustard and black pepper, and let the, let’s call it ‘cheat’, relish chill in the fridge.

 

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Instead of directly sandwiching the hot pasta between bread, I poured it into a baking dish and let it cool in the refrigerator first. That way, it could spread easily onto the bread slices without making a big, gooey mess. Now, when it comes to grilled cheese sandwiches, there is always room for a bit more cheese. So, even though the mac ‘n cheese was rich enough, I figured a few more slices of smoked cheddar wouldn’t hurt. I also like to grill these kind of ‘bad for you’ sandwiches in butter as well. No one is counting calories here, right?

 

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For the taste testing of the final product, a part of me wanted to stay out late on Saturday night to really appreciate the magic of this sandwich. Sadly, this weekend I was relatively well-behaved and in bed before midnight. Although, now that I have this recipe in my repertoire, I’m sure it will come in handy one Saturday night very soon…

 

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Mac ‘n Cheese Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Asparagus Relish

What you’ll need…
Grilled Cheese:
• 1 TBSP butter
• 1 TBSP flour
• 2 cups half and half
• 1 cup smoked cheddar (grated)
• 1 TSP paprika
• 1 TSP chili powder
• 1 TSP garlic powder
• 3 cups cooked macaroni
• salt and pepper
• 1 loaf sourdough bread (sliced)
• 2/3 cup smoked cheddar (thinly sliced)

Asparagus Relish:
• 2 cups white vinegar
• 2 TBSP sugar
• 2 TSP salt
• 1 TSP celery seeds
• 1 TSP whole black peppercorns
• 1 ½ cups asparagus spears (minced)
• ½ cup red onion (minced)
• 1 TBSP grainy dijon mustard
• ground black pepper

Grilled Cheese
Melt butter in a small pot on medium-high heat. Stir in the flour to form a roux. Next, pour in the cream and whisk to break up any clumps of roux in the pot. Once the mixture returns to a simmer, stir in the grated cheese and spices. Stir or whisk until the cheese has incorporated completely into the sauce. Pour the hot cheese sauce over the cooked macaroni and mix until evenly coated. Set aside to cool (When the mac ‘n cheese has cooled, it’s easier to assemble).

When you’re ready to assemble the sandwiches, spoon some of the mac ‘n cheese mixture onto a slice of bread, top with some sliced of smoked cheddar and place a piece of bread on top. Melt some butter in a medium pan on medium-high heat and cook the sandwich until golden brown on both sides!

Asparagus ‘Relish’
Bring the first five ingredients to a simmer in a small pot on the stove. Place minced asparagus and onion (mince them easily using a food processor) in a medium, heat-safe, bowl. Pour vinegar mixture on top of vegetables and let sit for 10 minutes. Strain, add the grainy mustard and black pepper to the mix, stir, then place in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

 

Dan Clapson Dan Clapson is a food writer and culinary instructor based out of Calgary. He is constantly creating new recipes and striving to expand his culinary horizons. He thinks yam fries are overrated.
 

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Top Chef Masters Season 3 Premieres Tonight

Friends, get ready for some sizzling kitchen action because Top Chef Masters (season 3) is airing tonight (9pmET/6pmPT) with a brand new host, a new judge and a new format.

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Curtis Stone –yes that sexy Aussy celeb chef who has a son with TV star Lindsay Price (sorry ladies!) —  hosts season three with James Oseland and new judge Ruth Reichl.

The first episode kicks off the competition with something familiar, the most notorious of all Top Chef challenges — Restaurant Wars! Twelve award-winning chefs compete against each other in weekly challenges in elimination-style challenges. Unlike previous seasons, chefs will not be judged on a five-star rating system.

You’ve seen how grueling Top Chef challenges can be so when we were in Vegas, we asked past Top Chef: Masters cheftestants to offer some words of advice. Here’s what Susan Feniger, Hubert Keller and Rick Moonen had to say. Their answers may surprise you!

If you’re a Curtis Stone fan you’re in luck. He’ll be back co-hosting alongside Iron Chef America’s Cat Cora in a new culinary reality show called Around the World in 80 Plates premiering June 11th. The series follows 12 chefs competing in a culinary race across 10 countries in 44 days. Stay tuned.

 

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Stuffed Mussels (Choros Chalaca) from The Hot Plate

During my first trip to Peru, I fell in love with food all over again. It may have something to do with the fact that my fiancé is Peruvian but truly the flavours and ingredients brought out a type of emotion I have never before felt. There is so little that I don’t love about food (sorry, bananas), but this country created dishes with such flavour intensity I found myself eating almost without coming up for air the entire three weeks.

 

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So what makes Peruvian food so special? For starters, the main spice used is a pepper called aji amarillo (yellow pepper). They resemble a slightly more plump jalapeño and are yellow instead of green. The heat is a slow smouldering burn that creates an addictive tingling sensation on the lips and down the throat. Despite its reputation for being spicy, Peruvians make a lot of creamy sauce like huancaina with aji so the intensity can be adjusted to your liking.

 

Today’s dish, Choros Chalaca, was made using a sparing amount of aji to avoid setting anyone on fire. It is a simple dish that mimics the flavours of Peruvian ceviche but in mini bite-size form. If you choose to go for a more ceviche-style route, you can also let the mussels cook in the lime juice while they marinate in the fridge. If you choose this option, make sure that the mussels are as fresh as possible and that each one smells like the sea. You don’t want to poison anyone.

 

Stuffed Mussels

 

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Serves: about 20 mussels

 

Ingredients:

1/2 lb mussels, debearded

1/2 small red onion, finely diced

2 plum tomatoes, seeds discarded and flesh finely diced

2 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro

2 tablespoons lime juice

1/2 teaspoon lime zest

1 tablespoon aji amarillo paste*

salt

(*available in Latin specialty stores)

 

StuffedMussels_TheHotPlate_1

 

Instructions:

1. Make the salsa by combining the onion, tomato, cilantro, lime juice, lime zest and aji in a small bowl. Season with salt. Set aside.

2. Bring one cup of water or white wine to a boil in a pot large enough to fit the mussels and let them expand. Once boiling, add the mussels and cover. Cook for three minutes, stir and cook for an additional two minutes until mussels have opened.

3. Drain the mussels in a large colander.

4. Remove one half of the mussel’s shelf. Using the other half as a small bowl layer the mussel with a heaped teaspoon of the salsa. Continue to do this with remaining mussels and salsa.

5. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes and up to two hours until cool.

 

Amanda_GarbuttAmanda Garbutt is the host of The Hot Plate, a free online cooking show dedicated to inspiring culinary confidence in new cooks. The Hot Plate also offers regular cooking tips and advice, how-tos, and information on seasonal ingredients. 

Top Chef Masters Seaoson 3 Premieres Tonight

Friends get ready for more sizzling kitchen action because Top Chef Masters (season 3) is airing tonight (9pmET/6pmPT) with a brand new host, new judge and a new format.

Curtis Stone –yes that sexy Aussy celeb chef who has a son with TV star Lindsay Price (sorry ladies!) hosts season three with James Oseland and Ruth Reichl as judges.

The first episode kicks off the competition with something familiar, the most notorious of all Top Chef challenges, Restaurant Wars! Twelve award-winning chefs will compete against each other in weekly challenges, chefs will not be judged on a five-star rating system as previously, but in elimination-style challenges.

You’ve seen how grueling Top Chef challenges can be so when we were in Vegas, we asked previous Top Chef: Masters contestants to offer some word of advice. Here’s what Hubert Keller, Susan Feniger and Rick Moonen had to say. Their answers may surprise you.
If you’re a Curtis Stone fan you’re in luck. He’ll be back co-hosting alongside Iron Chef America’s Cat Cora is a new culinary reality show called Around the World in 80 Plates premiering June 11th. The series follows 12 chefs competing in a culinary race across 10 countries in 44 days! Stay tuned.

 

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Photolicious: Vegas Uncork’d 2012 Highlights

Not to state the obvious, but there was a lot of really good food at Vegas Uncork’d 2012. It’s taken me a couple of weeks to digest (pun fully intended) all the offerings but I can honestly say of all the food events I’ve attended in the last decade, I’ve never been to anything like Uncork’d.

 

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Gordon, Nobu, Guy and so many more — more than 50 of the world’s top celebrate chefs — were in attendance in Sin City cooking up a storm to my greedy delight. Here are some highlights:

Wolfgang Puck kicked things off with lunch celebrating 20th anniversary of Spago at Ceasars Palace. Did you know he was the first celebrity chef to open a place on the Strip? He’s credited with kick starting the fine dining revolution on the Strip.
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Grilled French Sea Bass Loup de Mer with Shaved Fennel Salad, Red Onions, Heirloom Tomato Vinaigrette and Basil Oil

 

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The Saber-Off (in 40 degrees heat mind you) which official opened the 2012 Vegas Uncork’d.

 

 

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Food Network superstar Bobby Flay addresses attendees at his Spices fo LIfe Master Series Dinner at Mesa Grill in Caesars Palace. Did I mention that we scored an exclusive interview with Mr. Flay?!

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Follow That Food Truck event with various goodies from chefs Todd English, Jean-Georges Vongerichten (his take on grilled chicken sandwich above) and Michael Mina to name a few.

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Gordon Ramsay opened his much-anticipated Steak restaurant and Nobu Matsuhisa gave a private sneak peak (complete with appetizers) of Nobu Restaurant and Lounge.

 

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The much-anticipated Grand Tasting at the Garden at Ceasars Palace featuring 50 award-winning chefs and over 100 of the best wines and spirits from around the world.  It was grand indeed.

Thanks Vegas! and Uncork’d.  Check out the gallery below for more highlights.

 

 

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Family Fun: One-Bowl Banana Bread

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I have at least three banana bread recipes in rotation but this is the one I use when Felix wants to help.  It makes a really moist, dense loaf (or muffins) and can be done in one bowl with no electricity required (other than the oven).  Perfect for a 3 year old, and easy for older kids.
The chocolate chips are optional (depending who you ask!) and you can add nuts, seeds or raisins instead.
Preheat oven to 350° F.
ffbananas

Start with three bananas.  Ripe is best but whatever you have on hand. My son does the peeling.
ffbutter

Cut 3 tablespoons butter and let soften.  Melting this will allow it to combine quicker.
ffsugar

Measure 3/4 cup brown sugar.   I let Felix pack down the sugar with his fingers as we fill.

ffflour

And then measure 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour.  Whenever we use flour I show Felix how to be careful not to pack it down and demo for him how to sweep the top to even it out.  Yes, it can get messy, but it’s a learning experience!

ffvanilla

Set aside 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
ffbakingsoda
1 teaspoon baking soda
ffsalt

And a pinch salt.  An easy one for little hands.
ffingredients

 

You don’t have to pre-measure any of the ingredients unless you have the time and it is fun with your kids to do the “prep”.

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You can just start with mashing the bananas-
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Then add all the other ingredients into the bowl.  If you want you can pre-mix the dry ingredients before adding them but this is guerrilla-style banana bread and always works if you combine well.  Mix until you have a batter, some banana chunks are OK.
ffchocolatechips
Add ½ cup chocolate chips.  (Highly anticipated moment in our house.)

ffbatter

And then divide the batter between greased muffin molds (12) or a small, greased loaf tray.
fffinishedmuffin
Bake the muffins about 13-15 minutes, until they have firmed and a knife comes out clean.  The loaf will take about 50-60 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean.

 

One Bowl Banana Bread
Ingredients
3 bananas (mashed)
3 tbsp butter, room temperature (or melted)
¾ cup brown sugar
1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
pinch salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup chocolate chips (optional)

Directions
1. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl using a fork and/or a spatula.
2. Pour into a small, greased loaf pan (8 1/2” x 4 1/2 “) or regular muffin tins.
3. Bake for 13-15 minutes for the muffins.  Bake 50-60 minutes for the loaf.  Remove from oven when firming and a knife comes out clean from the centre.
4. Cool before slicing/eating.
 

sue_riedleheadshot 

Sue Riedl is a Toronto-based food writer with a passion for cheese who writes a column called The Spread for the Globe and Mail.  She loves to push stinky cheese on her 3-year old.   

Live Blog: Top Chef Canada Season 2, Episode 12

TCCLiveBlogTop Chef Canada episode twelve (watch the preview) premieres Monday at 10pm ET/PT! In this episode, the chefs create sweet and savoury pies for master baker chef Marc Thuet in the Quickfire Challenge. For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs must create a “stylish” dish for a special fashion-focused lunch at Toronto’s Shops at Don Mills. Each chef is given the help of a surprise sous chef. Restaurateur Biana Zorich and noted food stylist and chef Jennifer McLagan act as guest judges.

Join us here Monday night and share your thoughts on the competition during the broadcast of the show via the live blog widget below. Pay close attention to the action in the Top Chef Canada kitchen during this episode and look out for our Live Blog giveaway! We’ll also be pulling in Top Chef Canada related tweets from the Twitterverse, so make sure you include the hashtag #topchefcanada in any tweets you send about the show.

Finally, make sure to check-in to the Top Chef Canada GetGlue page to collect exclusive stickers of all of this season’s chefs and more. Looking forward to chatting with you as we watch the Top Chef Canada competition unfold–speak to you soon!

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Chef-Studded Toronto Taste Fundraiser this Sunday

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Work up a huge appetite friends because the annual Toronto Taste fundraiser for Second Harvest taking place this Sunday (May 27th) at the Royal Ontario Museum.

 

Food Network Canada’s Bob Blumer and Roger Mooking will be hosting the event, now in its 22nd year, so you know good times are guaranteed.

 

And it’s all for a great cause — one ticket ($250) provides 250 meals to Torontonians in need. (There’s still time to get your tickets here)

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Your ticket is your pass to a smorgasbord of incredible offerings  from 60 of the city’s top chefs and 30 outstanding beverage purveyors.  What makes this event so fun is that you’ll be able to get up close and personal some of Canada’s incredibly talented chefs including our very own Mark McEwan, Michael Smith and Lynn Crawford to name a few. See the complete culinary lineup here.
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We’ll be there to bring you all the mouth-watering coverage with Terry tweeting live from the event (@FoodNetworkCA)  In the meanwhile check out last year’s photos for a sampling of what to expect. My taste buds are tingling in anticipation.

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(Photos: Clive Champion and Toronto Taste)


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