All posts by Devon Scoble

Devon Scoble is a Toronto writer and food lover who specializes in approachable home cooking. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @devonscoble.
susur-noodle-soup-tips

How Susur Lee Pimps His Noodle Soup

Want to take your noodle soup to the next level? We spoke to Chopped Canada judge and world-renowned chef Susur Lee for his tips on turning simple soups gourmet. Whether you’re upgrading a homemade recipe or adding flair to a packaged version, soup it up with Susur Lee!

Ramen

Food Network Canada/Food Factory

Ramen

Pimp it with: Chinese BBQ duck breast and plum sauce.

“The idea of ramen noodles, it’s really about convenience, right?” says Susur. He suggests an easy upgrade by combining ramen with another delicious convenience food: BBQ Chinese duck breast. “I like making Japanese-style ramen, and getting Chinese BBQ duck breast in Chinatown, and just putting it in,” says Susur. “I think it’s perfect. And with a little bit of plum sauce on top, it’s the best, the most convenient, and you can really pimp it up! I would eat that any day.”

Hong Kong Macaroni Soup

Karon Liu

Hong Kong Macaroni Soup

Pimp it with: sake, marinated pork tenderloin, Vietnamese cilantro and lemon balm.

“If you’re making macaroni soup, your pasta has to be quite overcooked; it cannot be too al dente,” advises Susur. “If I eat that soup, it’s very soft.” Broth is also important, so make or select a good quality base and add a touch of sake for depth. Then, instead of the usual cold cut ham, Susur recommends marinating thinly sliced pork tenderloin with soy sauce, egg white, green onion, ginger and “quite a bit of black pepper.” Lightly poach the marinated pork in the hot broth just before serving, and top the soup with chopped lemon balm and Vietnamese style cilantro — “Not the Chinese, not the Spanish, the Vietnamese long one,” explains Susur. Since this dish will be eaten with a spoon, be sure to cut all your ingredients to bite size.

Alton Brown's Chicken Noodle Soup

Food Network Canada/Good Eats

Chicken Noodle Soup

Pimp it with: semolina dumplings, poached chicken slices and marjoram.

Turn your chicken noodle soup into a delicious meal experience with thin slices of poached chicken breast (follow the same method as the pork tenderloin above) and semolina dumplings. “It’s basically semolina, an egg, butter and Parmesan cheese,” says Susur. “You whip it together and turn it into a dumpling, and you just float it, almost like a matzo ball. It expands in the chicken noodle soup, and it tastes so good. And also chopped marjoram — that would make the soup taste really good… And that’s my pimped up noodles!”

PhoPho

Pimp it with: Don’t even…

“I think I wouldn’t ruin the pho,” says Susur. “I think pho is so perfect.”

5 Tips on Becoming a Better Baker

Spring Baking Championship season two has only just begun, but we’ve already learned a lot from the contestants and judges. Here are some of the best baking lessons we’ve picked up so far:

Spring Baking Championship Host and Judges

1. Set creative limits.

Spring shortcakes are almost always garnished with fresh seasonal berries, but when our Spring Baking Championship contestants were tasked with creating their own, there was only one rule: no berries. The result was a medley of cool and creative cakes, from cardamom and honey biscuits with caramelized fig to cherry pistachio shortcake with micro basil to peach and mascarpone shortcake with Italian genoise. In fact, some of the most interesting creations we’ve seen on our Baking Championship series come from the limitations imposed by the show’s challenges. The next time you set out to bake a favourite recipe, set your own challenge: choosing an ingredient you must or mustn’t use, using a new tool, or styling your dish in a way you’ve never tried before.  You might be surprised by how much creative freedom comes from adding a constraint.

2. Be bold.

A sprinkle of black salt here, a sprig of micro basil there — our contestants prove that these bold touches aren’t just beautiful, they’re flavourful too. Think beyond the standard sweets in your pantry the next time you set out to bake a dessert. The baby greens in your garden could add spring colours to a cake, while the smoker can infuse fresh fruit and compotes with exotic depth. Unlike our contestants, you’ve got time to experiment, so work in small batches to avoid wasting ingredients while you discover which funky combinations you like best.

3. Remember: sometimes less is more.

In a single episode of Spring Baking Championship, two contestants managed to raise our judges’ ire by including too much almond extract in their cakes. Even the contestant that only used a few drops because, in her words, “It’s a very, very strong flavour,” got flak. Judge Lorraine Pascale says, “Almond extract should be in one thing only, and that is in the garbage because it’s just so overpowering.” Judges also criticized another contestant for using too much tequila in her margarita-inspired cake.

4. Seek novel tools.

Acetate strips, available in baking stores and online, can help form a perfect layer cake, a smoker gun infuses fruit with a hint of campfire, and a marble slab tempers chocolate, Belgian-style. These are just three of the cool tools our contestants used in their creations. Hit up your local cooking store and ask staff to bring out a tool you’ve never seen before — who knows what it will inspire you to create!

5. Budget your time.

Let’s be real: it’s fun watching contestants scramble to complete their creations on time, but it’s an absolute drag doing the same at home. Judges reward bold experiments — when they turn out — but we suggest testing out new ingredients and techniques well in advance of big events. The day of a party is not the time to try smoking cherries.

Catch new episodes of Spring Baking Championship Sundays at 9 E/P.

ratatouille

Eden Grinshpan’s Mother’s Day Menu

Want to honour your mom like a star chef would? Let Chopped Canada judge and Le Cordon Bleu-graduate Eden Grinshpan be your sous-chef with these delicious ideas for celebrating the lady who raised you.

Love is in the details.

Eden Grinshpan (second from left) with her mom, Riva Grinshpan, sisters Arielle and Renny Grinshpan, and father Menashe Grinshpan.

Eden Grinshpan (second from left) with her mom, Riva Grinshpan, sisters Arielle and Renny Grinshpan, and father Menashe Grinshpan.

“I love making my mother dishes that make her feel great and resemble something we have experienced together or that she just loves and craves the most,” says Eden. Whether you choose to emulate a dish you’ve enjoyed together, feature an ingredient that sparks a happy memory, or just want to cook her very favourite dish, thoughtfulness is the best seasoning for any Mother’s Day recipe.

Appetizer

Anna Olson's Israeli Couscous with Olives, Arugula and Feta

Israeli salad with tahini is a dish that always reminds Eden of good times with her mom. “My mother and I can eat this dish everyday and when we are in Israel together we always eat it,” she says. “It’s one of our favourites. Every time I eat it, I always think of us at cafés in Tel-Aviv.”

Start your Mother’s Day meal with something similar: Arugula and Feta (pictured), Ruth Daniels’ Israeli Salad or Anna Olson’s Israeli Couscous with Olives.

Side

Eden Grinshpan's Ratatouille

“Ratatouille is one of my mother’s favourite ways to enjoy vegetables,” says Eden. “The way the tomato breaks down and turns into a sweet sauce around the perfectly cooked vegetables is such a treat. I love to incorporate some other unique elements like harissa and smoked paprika. The ratatouille goes really well as a side for the grilled fish.”

Get Eden Grinshpan’s Ratatouille recipe (pictured).

Main

Whole Baked Fish with Lemon and Herbs

“Whenever I am in Toronto visiting we always go to Joso’s which is my parents’ favourite restaurant,” says Eden. “The fish is so fresh and simply prepared. When I make my mom fish, I do the same, by either roasting it whole or grilling the fillets and dressing it with olive oil and fresh lemon. She could eat fish everyday.”

Take a page from her favourite restaurant menu and make a similar Mother’s Day main: Whole Baked Fish with Lemon and Herbs (pictured) or Bobby Flay’s Grilled Tilapia with Lemon Butter, Capers and Orzo.

Dessert

Anna Olson's Key Lime Meringue Pie

“I try to keep to keep my Mother’s Day dishes balanced and light, but also with a little decadence. It’s Mother’s Day, after all,” says Eden.

Eden’s mom is “obsessed” with lime, and can never turn down a slice of key lime pie. “It’s the perfect way to treat her on Mother’s day.”

Enjoy a similar Mother’s Day dessert: The Pioneer Woman’s Key Lime PieAnna Olson’s Key Lime Pie or Anna Olson’s Key Lime Meringue Pie (pictured).

7 Reasons to Love Chopped Canada Season 3

Chopped Canada Season 3 is so good we added an extra 6 episodes, but we still can’t get enough! Here are the reasons why this season takes the cake.

Face Value

Our judges are great chefs, but food isn’t the only medium they transform. Their very own faces serve as canvases for some of the most artful reactions we’ve ever seen on television. We’ve compiled them all here so you can revisit all the sulks, stink-eyes and moments of utter shock.

Family Matters

Brotherly love turned to sibling rivalry when brothers Dany and Pete Sok competed against Bijou and Imrun Texeira, and they all competed against each other. Don’t worry if you missed the epic Bro-Down Showdown – you can watch it here.

Sweet Redemption

It’s not easy getting chopped in the dessert round, but this season offered four returning chefs a shot at sweet, sweet redemption.

A Whole Host of Awesomeness

Sure, he was a good CFL star and a great Bachelor, but new host Brad Smith truly found his calling when he joined Chopped Canada. The Montreal native has charmed us all with his calm in the kitchen, judge impressions and megawatt smile.

Life’s Great Mysteries

The producers outdid themselves this season, turning familiar ingredients like flaky roll dough into huge challenges when they were paired with side stripe prawns, finger limes and a candy necklace!

Mic Drops

Contestants had better be upfront, especially when Roger Mooking’s in the house, as one competitor memorably learned when he called his scrambled eggs a ‘freeform frittata.’ And re-visit Chef Lynn Crawford’s disapproval when one contestant dared to “play it safe.”

Good Hair Days

“Judging by your hairstyle and your knife skills, I can see that you’re very precise,” is the comment that proved Mark McEwan considers the full package when he’s assessing a dish.

If you can stand the heat in the kitchen, apply to be a contestant! Application deadline is April 11, 2016.  Catch new episodes of Chopped Canada Saturdays at 9 E/P.

Carnival-Eats-Noah

Noah Cappe’s Ultimate Carnival Creation

As the host of Carnival Eats, Noah Cappe samples all sorts of wacky, decadent and over-the-top carnival food. But there’s one item he’s still looking forward to: a sweet and savoury creation he calls the ‘Clubbel’.

“I’m still waiting for someone to do the funnel cake club sandwich,” says Noah. “You’ve got funnel cake, your turkey, bacon, cheese and another funnel cake. Then, turkey cheese, lettuce, tomato, mayo, mustard, whatever you want, and put another funnel cake on top. Cut that in half and you have a funnel cake club sandwich. A Clubbel!”

As Noah explains, the Clubbel™ just makes sense.

Noah Cappe's Clubbel combines funnel cake with a chicken club sandwich.

Noah Cappe’s Clubbel combines funnel cake with a chicken club sandwich.

“Funnel cake is one of the pillars of carnival foods,” he says.

“The funnel cake itself is deep fried batter dough. It’s like a doughnut but sprung out in a twisted, curvy, tangle that gives you more of that crunchy golden outside part that everyone loves. It’s just around the outside because it’s intertwined within itself,” he says, stating that’s the key to the funnel cake. “That’s what makes it such an amazing replacement for bread, in the Clubbel sandwich.”

We couldn’t agree more!

In the meantime, we’ll be satiating our ‘Clubbel’ cravings by tossing homemade funnel cakes in a bowl with bacon, turkey, cheese, lettuce and tomato, dousing the whole thing with mustard and mayo and devouring it on the couch while we catch up on Carnival Eats.

Tune into an all new season of Carnival Eats starting Saturday, April 9 at 8 E/P.

Hawaiian Pizza

The History of Hawaiian Pizza

Despite its tropical name, Hawaiian pizza is actually a Canadian creation. The pineapple-laden pie is the brainchild of retired cook, Sam Panopoulos, who first served pineapple on pizza at Satellite Restaurant in Chatham, Ont.

Hawaiian Pizza

By the mid 60s, Satellite Restaurant (now under different ownership) had been serving pizza for a few years, although Panopoulos, now 82,  says the dish was still a novelty for Canadians, who at the time topped their pies conservatively.

“People only put on mushroom, bacon and pepperoni, that’s all,” says Panopoulos. “I had pineapple in the restaurant and I put some on, and I shared with some customers and they liked it. And we started serving it that way. For a long time, we were the only ones serving it.”

As we know it today, Hawaiian pizza is a classic American-style cheese pizza topped with ham and pineapple. Variations may include bacon in place of or in addition to the ham, but Panopoulos says that his major contribution was simply adding the pineapple.

“You could have only pineapple, you could have bacon and pineapple, you could have mushrooms and pineapple, anything. Just like today, you could have a choice,” he says.

Panopoulos enjoyed a certain amount of media attention over the last few years, but the pizza claim overshadows what may actually be Panopoulos’ most enduring legacy: a passion for introducing diverse flavours to Canadian diners.

In the early 60s, says Panopoulos, pizza was considered ethnic food, an Italian-American curiosity that adventurous Canadians would try when they crossed the border. Back then, Panopoulos would drive to Detroit for a taste of the cheese-topped pie.“[Then] we bought a little oven and learned how to make pizza,” he says.

Panopoulos didn’t stop with pizza. Over the years, the Satellite Restaurant introduced a variety of novel flavours to Chatham residents, like Chinese food prepared by a Chinese cook, and dishes from Panopoulos’ native Greece.

“Today you can go to a Chinese place and have a chicken salad, Thai place they give you something else. But in those days there was no way you could mix flavours,” says Panopoulos. “When you told someone to try pineapple on their pizza they looked at you like, ‘Are you crazy?’

Say what you will about Hawaiian pizza, a polarizing dish that seems to attract as many fans as detractors. But it’s this spirit, exemplified by Sam Panopoulos and other culinary innovators, that has expanded Canadian cuisine beyond maple syrup and bacon, to represent the cultural diversity that makes this country — and its cuisine — great.

John Catucci is Bugging Out on April Fools’ Day

Want to mess with your kids this April Fools’ Day? Of course you do, and our resident joker, You Gotta Eat Here! host John Catucci, has got just the prank.

“Find a big plastic bug and when you make food for your kid, put that in the food when they’re not looking.”

YGEH-John-Catucci

Maybe don’t do it if your kid suffers from entomophobia, or fear of bugs, or you might “have a kid that’s traumatized by a plate of pasta,” says John.

No kids? No problem — this simple prank works on adults, too.

“That’s what my wife did on one of our dates,” says John. “She put a fake bug while I went to the bathroom. The food was at the table. I come back to spoon my pasta and there’s a bug in it! And she’s just laughing at me.”

Want to celebrate a gentler, yet still bug-themed April Fools’ Day with your little ones? Try our recipes for Ladybug and Spider Salad, Spider Burgers and Lady Bug Pops, instead.

ladybug pops

Looking for more foodie April Fools’ Day ideas? Fool all your friends with these sneaky fake foods.

CIYE - Jake Donaldson Chef Jordan Andino

Jake Takes the Cake as Chef in Your Ear Juniors Champ

When 14-year-old Jake Donaldson appeared on Chef in Your Ear Juniors, his goal was simple: be a better cook than his dad, who only makes cereal. Now the first Juniors champion can brag about his winning crab cakes — and about busting out his dance moves on national television.

Dancing helped Jake deal with his nerves.

First of all, who or what inspired you to go on the show?
When I found out what it was, I just really wanted to do it.  Even the name of the show, Chef In Your Ear, it seemed like a cool concept and I was hooked right away. Why not try new things?

Since winning, have you made any more crab cakes?
I haven’t made any more crab cakes because my life is really busy with music and dancing and singing. Now I at least know how to make crab cakes — maybe better than my mom or dad — so maybe one day I’ll do it again for the family!

What has the response been like from your classmates and teachers?
It’s actually really cool because a group of my friends invited me over when the show aired. We went to my friend’s house, had a party to watch the show. They all made fun of me, because I was holding the knife upside down, and I didn’t cut the lemon in half to squeeze it to get the juice out.

Any behind the scenes secrets you can share?
If anyone has seen my episode and saw how stressful it was, it was exactly that stressful. I didn’t know beforehand what I was cooking so it was stressful trying to figure it out, but tons of fun at the same time.

Jake's winning dish, King Crab Cakes with Lemon Aoili and Herb Salad.

Jake’s winning dish, King Crab Cakes with Lemon Aoili and Herb Salad.

What do you think of the host Greg Komorowski – is he as funny in person as he is on the show?
Greg is as funny in person, yeah. He’s cracking jokes left and right and it was so fun working with him. He’s as cool as when you see him on TV.

Your competitor Liv, you’d never met before right?
It was our first time meeting each other. I haven’t kept in touch with Liv. I have to find his social media so I can keep up with him. It was such a fun time working with Liv as well.

Hopefully he’ll read this interview and reach out! You were on Chef Jordan  Andino’s team – what’s so cool about him?
He reminds me a lot of myself. Very energetic, very fun but serious at the same time, knowing we had to get the job done. It was so fun working with him. He’s basically an older version of me. That energy came through, even just through the earpiece.

Jordan Andino, Greg Komorowski, Jake Donaldson, Chef In Your Ear

So if Jordan’s an older version of you, does that mean you’ll soon have a restaurant in the Hamptons?
I have no idea if I’ll have a restaurant one day. As I said before, I’m focusing my passion on my music and my dancing right now. But you never know, one day ‘Chef’ might be a good title.

Watch Jake’s episode “Let Them Eat Cakes”, and catch up on Chef In Your Ear Juniors with a March Break marathon starting Tuesday, March 15. See schedule here

Le Roy Jucep Poutine

The History of Poutine: One Hot Mess

When it comes to poutine, three things are certain: it was invented in Québec, it’s best made with fresh cheese curds and it’s undeniably delicious. What’s less clear is who first made it, and when.

The very history of this palate-pleasing, artery-clogging French Canadian masterpiece is a hot mess, peppered with colourful characters and laced with a distracting array of secret sauces and gooey melted cheese curds.

Jucep Poutine

Two Québec restaurants in the region south of Trois-Rivieres claim to be first to serve up the now-iconic dish. Café Ideal, later re-named Le Lutin Qui Rit (The Laughing Elf), has the earliest claim. Story has it, the Warwick, Qué. café was serving poutine — or something quite like it — as early as 1957. But detractors suggest that even if Café Ideal served it first, their piping hot bag of fries and fresh cheese curds was missing a key ingredient — the gravy, known in Québec as ‘sauce brune.’

The more widely accepted claim to serving all three key ingredients together comes from Drummondville’s Le Roy Jucep, once owned by the late Jean-Paul Roy. Le Roy Jucep holds the trademark as “l’inventeur de la poutine” but just like their menu, which offers 23 options for cheesy, sauce-smothered fries, their origin story comes in several flavours. Some say it was an out-of-town customer who first asked his waitress to toss fresh cheese curds — widely available in the dairy-rich region — onto his plate of fries and gravy. Others claim the culinary ménage a trois was a frequent off-menu request from the diner’s regulars – so frequent that Roy decided to make it an official menu option around 1965 or 1967.

Le Roy Juce

Le Roy Juce, is one of a few restaurants claiming to be the birthplace of poutine.

“Whoever’s the first human to put cheese, gravy and fries on a plate, we’ll never know for sure,” says Charles Lambert, Le Roy Jucep’s third owner and current protector of the diner’s secret sauce recipe. “[But] the first restaurant to write the letters P-O-U-T-I-N-E on a menu is for sure Le Roy Jucep. And that represented fries, cheese curds and gravy.”

According to Lambert, in the mid-60’s wait staff grew tired of writing “fries, cheese curds and gravy” each time a customer ordered the increasingly popular dish, and decided it needed a name. Lambert has a few ideas for how the now famous moniker came to be. “Poutine” was regional slang for “pudding,” and another way of saying “mix” or “mess” — both appropriate adjectives. Moreover, one of Le Roy Jucep’s cooks went by the nickname “Ti-Pout,” so “poutine” was a name that honoured both the dish and its maker.

Café Ideal’s name story is a similar, albeit saltier tale. Popular history has it that when Eddy Lanaisse, reportedly the first customer to ask for cheese curds with his fries, made his request, owner Fernand Lachance exclaimed, “Ça va te faire une maudite poutine!” or “That will make a damned mess!”

On that point, at least, we have accord: poutine is a mess, but damned if it isn’t delicious.

Can’t get enough poutine? Try these delicious 9 Fun Facts About Poutine.

ice wine

Canadian Icewine: From Bitter Cold to Liquid Gold

Canadians aren’t ones to brag, but when it comes to icewine, we’ve got the world beat. Icewine, like Canada itself, is the sweetness born of warm summers, cold winters and rich agricultural traditions. It’s no wonder we come out on top in quality and quantity.

ice wine

With notes of honey, caramel and fresh fruit, icewine is a fragrant treat. However, typical Canadian humility may be interfering with the homegrown appreciation of our internationally coveted export.

“When you’re talking about something sweet, people get scared,” says Marco Celio, sommelier and general manager of Toronto’s Ovest. “Generally they want something a little bit more powerful, dry and bitter. But if you know how to pair it, I think icewine is one of the most enjoyable drinks you can have from grapes.”

Ovest sommelier Marco Celio

Legend has it that the first batch of icewine, produced in 18th century Germany, was a lucky accident. Unseasonably cold weather had frozen grapes on the vine before they could be harvested. Struggling to make the best of things, the German vintners pressed the grapes. To their surprise, the resulting wine was so delicious they purposefully let future grapes freeze whenever conditions allowed.

Luckily for Canadian icewine enthusiasts, conditions in Ontario’s Niagara region and British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley almost always allow. Warm summers and cold – but not too cold – winters are the ripe conditions that make Canadian icewines the most consistently delicious.

Ironically, that consistency requires flexibility. True icewine can only be made from grapes frozen on the vine, which are typically handpicked at night to maintain proper temperature.  Harvesters wait for the call, and when conditions are optimal, bundle up and get picking for results that are true north and sweet.

Serving

True to its name, icewine is typically served chilled. Celio recommends refrigerating your bottle a few hours before pouring into a standard, wide-mouth glass. “The beauty of icewine is that it’s something that really has to be enjoyed from the nose,” he says, “So you don’t want to use a small glass. You want a nice open glass where there is perfect ventilation and all the aroma can come out.”

Tasting

When including icewine in a tasting, Celio suggests letting it warm a bit, to better release its unique fragrance. Then enjoy it exactly as you would any other wine. “You want to see the colour, because you’re going to have different icewine with white grapes and dark grapes,” says Celio. “You want to understand the nose, because the nose is very different than what you’re tasting – usually it’s much sweeter than what you get on your mouth.” Finally, be sure to serve it alongside complimentary nibbles. “Icewine is something that needs to have a friend,” says Celio.

Pairing

Pairing icewine requires care, but modern sommeliers are challenging the idea that it’s only fit to serve with dessert. In addition to dark, bitter chocolate and chocolate hazelnut-based desserts, Celio suggests serving icewine with cheese, particularly strong blues for a playful contrast. If you do serve it with dessert, be sure to choose a treat that’s less sweet than the wine itself, to avoid overpowering the food.

Cocktailing

Marco Celio is a wine purist, and while he wouldn’t personally dilute icewine’s special flavour with other spirits, he concedes that others might like mixing it with aperol or bitters.

Storing

Keep opened bottles of icewine in the fridge. The less frequently they’re opened, the longer they’ll last, says Celio. Regardless, the flavours in most bottles will start changing in about five to six days. If you can’t finish the bottle on the first go, grab some wide glasses and a few friends and enjoy a second round of sweet times.

Chopped Canada: Signs Things Are Going Awry in the Kitchen

It’s one thing to cook from the comfort of your own restaurant kitchen, but finding yourself on the set of Chopped Canada means two things: you’re good enough to compete on national television and the heat is on.

Claudia Bianchi can tell when a contestant is in over their head. The Chopped Canada culinary producer shares the warning signs that a contestant is headed for trouble.

888_chopped-canada-kitchen

They’re frantic in the pantry.
“Sometimes they have a missing ingredient, where they’re looking and searching,” says Bianchi. “One time a chef yelled out, ‘Any red onion?’ and another competitor replied, ‘I’m a Canadian and I’m happy to share.’” That chef was lucky, says Bianchi, as a missing ingredient means switching plans in the middle of a round, which can throw off a chef’s concentration — and their final dish.

They’re scrambling.
It’s normal for chefs to break a sweat during Chopped Canada’s timed challenges, but there’s a difference between hustling and struggling, and you can see it on the plates, says Bianchi. “Not having enough time to plate the dish and scrambling with not enough time for presentation at the end,” are clear indications of trouble.

They’re bleeding.
“Most competitors come to the Chopped Canada kitchen with confidence in their cooking and knife skills — these are almost a given because it’s what they do everyday,” says Bianchi. “But nerves can get the best of some of the competitors, and we see nicks and cuts on their fingers.” Some chefs recover quickly from these uncharacteristic cuts, while others start to unravel.

They’ve got pots on every burner.
If you can’t multitask, you can’t run a restaurant kitchen, and you certainly can’t compete on Chopped Canada. But it is possible to have too many things on the go at once, says Bianchi. “Sometimes the whole stove is full, then they’re running to the deep fryer. And things are burning and bubbling over. We see burns.”

Watch Chopped Canada on Saturdays at 9 E/P.

Chefs Share Their Most Memorable Valentine’s Day

Most chefs spend Valentine’s Day feeding other peoples’ flirtations, but our lovable stars have had their share of romance, too.

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From a morning with Parisian pastries to an evening that literally went up in flames, here are their favourite Valentine’s Days memories.

Anna-Olson-Chef-Head-01

Anna Olson’s Sweet Morning
“My most memorable Valentine’s Day was on a layover in Paris,” says the Bake with Anna Olson host. “My sweetie, Michael, and I had a romantic bistro dinner on Valentine’s Eve, but what I remember most was getting up incredibly early on February 14th to catch the patisseries just as they were opening. I loaded up on pastries of all sorts, to bring as carry-on. Happy and delicious memories all the way home!”

Devin Connell

Devin Connell’s Hot Night
“My most memorable Valentine’s Day moment was when my husband tried to make me steak frites and started a grease fire in our kitchen,” says the Chef in Your Ear star. “Thank goodness for fire extinguishers!”

Craig Harding

Craig Harding’s Engaging Dinner
“Since I’m always working on Valentine’s Day, I usually look for something exciting to happen at work,” says Chef in Your Ear’s Craig Harding. “The most memorable night was when we had three proposals all in the same seating. By the end of the night we were all drinking champagne, and to my knowledge the couples were all strangers before that night, and still maintain friendships to this day.”

Josh-Chef-Heads

Josh Elkin’s Burning Love
“I especially love creating holiday-specific recipes,” says the Sugar Showdown host. “A few years ago on Valentine’s Day, I created some bacon strip roses and assembled them in a nice ‘floral arrangement’ for a special someone. Upon presenting her with this delicious bouquet, I realized that there was still grease coming off the bacon petals, and I ended up burning her leg. The burn wasn’t too bad, but it certainly left a lasting (yet delicious) impression on her.”

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Susur Lee’s Labour of Love
“Sadly, most of my Valentine’s memories are actually other people’s,” says Chopped Canada judge and Top Chef Masters star Susur Lee. “As you can imagine, Valentine’s Day is huge in the restaurant industry, and I have never had a Valentine’s Day off. I’ve seen proposals, rejections, people stood up… I’ve seen it all! But mainly I’ve seen a lot of people making an effort to do something special and make their own memories.”

Cory Vitiello

Cory Vitiello’s Casual Date Night
“I’ve spent every Valentine’s Day (and Mother’s Day and New Years Eve) of the last 15 years in the restaurant,” says Chef in Your Ear star Cory Vitiello. “A couple years ago at Harbord Room, we just blocked off a whole room and invited our closest friends for Valentine’s Day, and cooked them a menu at cost. We had a nice party among friends and it didn’t have to be this contrived date night.”

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Michael Smith’s Double Date
“My most memorable Valentine’s Day memory was making heart-shaped pancakes for my two girls before school,” says the Chopped Canada  judge. “They were pretty impressed with Dad’s breakfast chops!”

Chopped-Canada-ostrich-egg

Lynn Crawford on How to Cook an Ostrich Egg

Chopped Canada ostrich egg episode

Ask Chef Lynn Crawford about ostrich eggs, and her enthusiasm is as obvious as a five-pound embryo. “They’re beautiful bone white, they’ve got this lovely patina to them and unbelievable thickness. And the yolk! It’s a beautiful, beautiful product,” she says.

But for the contestants who found ostrich eggs in their Chopped Canada mystery baskets, surprise trumped enthusiasm. Chef Lynn loved watching their facial expressions as they registered the enormity of the eggs before them.

“The sheer weight of them is what I find just astonishing,” she says. “They can be anywhere from three and a half to five pounds, and the equivalent of two dozen chicken eggs. So right then and there, to come up with a dish to use the entire ostrich egg — would they cook it in time?”

But deciding how to cook the ostrich eggs was the contestants’ second problem — figuring out how to crack them was the first.

Chef Lynn keeps a carpenter’s hammer in her kitchen toolkit to achieve this challenging task. “You can’t expect to break that egg with a spoon or crack it over the side of a mixing bowl,” she says. “It’s extremely hard, the shell. You need either a hammer or a chisel or some sort of power tool to get into the egg.”

Chopped Canada Lynn Crawford

If you ever want to challenge yourself to cook an ostrich egg, scrambling is the simplest preparation. You can coax the liquid interior from a small hole without worrying about keeping the yolk intact. A small hole also preserves more of the shell for later use as a serving dish.

“In New York we had scrambled ostrich egg if it was for special brunch, with the addition of caviar,” says Chef Lynn. “I think caviar and lobster is delicious, and straight up parmesan cheese. But you’re not going to have a soft boiled egg on your restaurant menu because it would take an hour and a half to cook.”

Topped with haute additions, and served in its own shell, scrambled ostrich egg is easy to cook and stunning to serve. “It has a lot of wow factor and it’s a beautiful thing,” she says.

If you’re lucky you might come across the gigantic eggs at your local butchers or specialty grocers, but if you don’t see them there, ask for a special order. Better yet, find an ostrich farm in your area and visit it directly for a peek at the mammoth birds.

“Look at the size of the shell — it’s a real showstopper,” says Chef Lynn. “I think everybody should try to cook an ostrich egg at least once. And for some of those chefs that did compete, it’s probably the last time they will, too.”

Missed the episode? Watch Chopped Canada contestants battle it out using this egg-cellent ingredient online.

Chopped Canada airs Saturdays at 9PM E/P.

Dishes That Still Stump Our Chefs

Call it the dish that got away, your Achilles heel — or more simply put, rice — but rest assured, we all have a recipe that never turns out the way we’d like. Yes, even the pros have them. Here are the dishes that still frustrate our very accomplished Chef in Your Ear stars.

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Baked goods

Baking, admits Craig Harding, is a temperamental science that depends on factors like time, location and weather. “There’s not one correct way, you just need to understand how it works,” he says. “Baking, bread, pastries — they’re temperamental and challenging for sure.” This doesn’t stop him from baking entirely, but you’re not going to see Harding on Sugar Showdown any time soon, either. “I just try and keep pastry extremely simple,” he says.

Diet food

Healthy eating is one thing, but Devin Connell can’t stand curbing her creativity for the sake of a few saved calories. “I would never make a low-fat health dish,” she says. “That would bother me, if I had to restrict anything.”

Cookies

Jordan Andino won’t use recipes unless they’re his own, which makes baking a particular challenge. “There are established rules for baking and you can’t deviate,” he says, “But I hate using recipes, and I rarely get cookies right. I can do bread without a recipe, and I can do some other things, cakes and stuff. But I just can’t get cookies right — it’s frustrating.”

Rice

Cory Vitiello doesn’t like following recipes or leaving food to do its own thing. “Rice is one of those where you just set it and forget it. It’s one of those dishes I try to stay away from,” he explains. Rob Rossi feels the same. “You know, I can definitely cook risotto but beyond that I have a hard time even cooking minute rice. I don’t like to follow recipes, for one. And I’m not patient enough to leave the lid on and let it actually go for 25 minutes. I can’t do that. I have to be involved.”

Watch new episodes of Chef In Your Ear Mondays at 10 E/P and catch up on episodes online.

Chefs Share Their First Job in the Industry

The Chef In Your Ear stars make it look easy, but they didn’t begin their careers as pros. For the most part, these TV chefs began their careers in entry-level positions, cooking, baking, tasting and most importantly, working their way up.

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Craig Harding

Craig Harding’s first job was working as a line cook — “If you want to call it that,” he says — at McDonalds. Eventually, he was fired from that gig, but it’s all in the past now that he’s a household name.

Jordan Andino

Jordan Andino remembers joining his chef dad at the North 44 kitchen as early as nine years old, but it’s tough for him to pinpoint the official moment he started working there. “My dad’s the chef — he’d have to babysit me,” he says. “And he said, ‘You don’t just sit around in the kitchen.’”

Devin Connell

Compared to her Chef In Your Ear colleagues, Devin Connell’s first industry job was pretty sweet. “I started my own cookie business selling cookies to a local health food store,” she explains. “It was called Devin’s Delights and I was 10. I made peanut butter cookies, chocolate chip cookies and oatmeal raisin cookies, and I even got a t-shirt made that said Devin’s Delights.”

Cory Vitiello

“I was a dishwasher at a restaurant when I was fourteen at Pizza Chief in Brantford,” says Vitiello. Although he claims he was “a great dishwasher,” it wasn’t long before management noticed his potential for more. “I was quickly promoted to the buffet line where I was serving dessert toppings on people’s cheesecake,” he says.

Rob Rossi

Like Cory Vitiello, Rob Rossi started as a dishwasher at a pizza joint — in his case, Pizza Hut. “I absolutely hated it, it was an awful job,” he admits. “But it got me in the business and it made me want to experience more. So as much as I didn’t like it, it led me to bigger and better things.”

Watch new episodes of Chef In Your Ear Mondays at 10 E/P and catch up on episodes online.

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Greg Komorowski

Comedian and slinger of zingers, Greg Komorowski is a man of many strengths but put a Neapolitan pizza in front of the Chef in Your Ear host and he goes weak.

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Here are some other fun facts you may not know about the Food Network Canada star:

1. He’s got a sweet tooth

Greg Komorowski works with some of the biggest names in the food industry and is no stranger to gourmet cooking. But if you want to stay on his sweet side, a chocolate bar from the corner store will do. “I’ve got a real big sweet tooth,” he admits, “so any kind of peanut M&M or O’Henry, for sure. I’ve got a big problem with those.”

2. He loves Italian food

“Even though I’m Polish, I love Italian food,” says Komorowski. He even re-enacted his own version of Eat, Pray, Love – kind of. “She eats at like this place in Naples called Da Michele. I’ve been there too.”

3. Seriously, he LOVES Italian food, especially Da Michele’s pizza

“Da Michele’s pizza is one of the best things I’ve ever tasted,” says Komorowski, joking that it’s even better than his mom’s cooking. “It’s so good you can’t leave it for leftovers. You know when you have that problem, like, I’m so full but there’s half a pizza and I won’t appreciate it but I’m still going to eat it? Yeah, absolutely that.”

4. His last meal would be . . . huge

For his last supper in this life, Komorowski would start with a bagged kale salad with seeds and cranberries, move on to king crab legs and bisque from Tracy’s King Crab Shack in Alaska, and top it off with Wagyu beef. For dessert he’d down Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked ice cream with smashed peanut M&Ms and sip on Royal Tokaji ice wine.

5. Perogies made him the man he is today

“My favourite thing to eat when I was a kid was definitely perogies,” says Komoroski. His grandma and aunt handcrafted them, stuffing them with meat, potato and cheese – his favourite. “There’s nothing like starch that’s packed inside of starch,” says Komoroski. Or perogies filled with sweet fruit! “Cherries, berries, they might even mix up the sugar with the smetana, the sour cream. And that’s why I am who I am today,” he says.

6. Europe changed him

“I always liked cooking,” says Komoroski, “but when I went over to Europe it was like a wakening, a food wakening. I was like in my late twenties or early thirties. And then I realized what food could be, which is art.”

7. He’d love to have a moment with Gordon Ramsay

“I think Gordon Ramsay is really interesting because he is so focused and frighteningly so,” he says. “I’d love Gordon Ramsay to call me a donkey. It would just be so fun to have him lay into you.”

8. He can’t resist chicken and waffles

If Greg Komorowski sees chicken and waffles on a menu, that’s what he’s getting. “This is one of my life problems because it’s kind of like a goal now,” he says. “When I see chicken and waffles, I order it.”

9. He’s a great listener

“Active listening is what we do in improvisation a lot, which is where I’m hearing what you say – every single word – and after that I will compose my thoughts based off that,” he explains. It’s a skill that’s particularly handy on Chef in Your Ear. “You kind of have to be as supportive as possible, especially with these new rookies because you don’t want to scare them off. They’ve already admitted they’re not great at what they do, which is a hard thing.”

10. He thinks every Chef in Your Ear contestant leaves a winner

“Sure there’s a winning chef and a losing chef but it’s really all about the celebration of creating food and people who never thought they could cook discovering they can,” he explains. Best of all, the food always tastes good and he loves watching contestants discover that. “What’s really cool is when people are done, they do want to taste what they’ve created, and they also want to taste the other person’s. And it’s great to see the difference because the dishes somehow always end up completely opposite ends of the spectrum. Somebody went with this theme and somebody went with that theme and then you try it and everyone thinks it’s delicious and feels good about it.”

Catch Greg and all the Chef in Your Ear action Mondays at 10 pm E/T. See more show details here.

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Mark McEwan

You know his face, you know his voice, you may even know the taste of his lobster poutine — but did you know that Mark McEwan adores his wife’s meatballs and Susur Lee’s jokes? Here are 10 fun facts about the newest Chopped Canada judge you’ve probably never heard before.

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1. He Can’t Get Enough of Susur Lee

Mark McEwan enjoyed meeting new colleague Antonio Park, and catching up with old friends like Lynn Crawford and Michael Smith, but Susur Lee is the chef who knows how to best season McEwan’s funny bone. “Susur, we had a hilarious time together,” he says. “I had so much fun with Susur. It was just hysterical.”

2. He Suffers for His Art

Mark McEwan is an experienced judge, but Chopped Canada presented challenges that his previous gig on Top Chef Canada didn’t. He thanks the mystery basket for that. “Well, there was a lot of bad food,” he admits, “And that’s what happens when you give chefs peculiar ingredients they don’t have the experience with. You always try to put yourself in their shoes, but at the end of the day, I judge the plate on whether it tastes good or not.”

3. It’s Possible to Stump Him with a Mystery Basket

It’s rare for McEwan to come across an unfamiliar mystery basket ingredient, but it has happened. This season mochi, the sticky Japanese rice flour dessert, appeared in contestants’ baskets, and he admits it would’ve given him trouble. “If you had the advantage of [experience], sure, you’ll figure something out. But on the fly? Very, very challenging to turn it into anything.”

4. He Worked His Way Up

All great chefs have to start somewhere, but McEwan’s first job was one of the industry’s dirtiest. “I was 16 years old and I was a dishwasher in Buffalo, New York, at Mindy’s Wine Cellar,” he explains. “I made $1.60 an hour. That was the first restaurant job I ever had.” One day the restaurant needed a cook, “so they dragged me out of the dishroom.”

5. He’s Organized, Really Organized

An early mentor taught McEwan that organization is a key component in a chef’s toolkit. “How you set your station, how you put your tools away, how you cut your chives, your shallots, how often you clean your stove, how you keep your uniform,” he says. “It creates efficiency and lack of wasted movement. All those things that make for an efficient day.”

6. He’s got a Soft Spot for Bologna Sandwiches with Mustard

“My mom used to make it all the time when I was a kid,” says McEwan of the school lunch classic. “Good, simple working class family.”

7. He Loves Junk Food

“I fly a lot, and what do I buy when I fly the most often? I’ll buy a bag of Peanut M&M’s,” he says, adding that sweets aren’t his only temptation. “Who doesn’t like potato chips? If someone puts a jar of Heluva dip in front of you, are you going to not stick some potato chips in it? I have a hard time not eating the whole jar. I love it.”

8. His Wife is His Favourite Cook

“My wife just makes the most amazing spaghetti and meatballs,” he says. “She makes a perfect tomato sauce that any nonna would love. She knows how to cook pasta; she makes perfectly tender, little veal ricotta meatballs that are to die for. Reggiano, olive oil, fresh basil… done. You put that in front of me any day and it puts a big smile on my face.”

9. Bugs Are Not the Weirdest Thing He’s Ever Eaten

“I’m not a big fan of the larvae group of bugs. Or eyeballs, or anything of that nature,” says Mark McEwan. But the weirdest food he’s ever eaten was raw chicken, in China. “Chicken sashimi I thought was really weird. I didn’t get that one at all.”

10. He’s Got a Solid Hangover Plan

“Generally I try not to have hangovers — they’re pretty difficult to handle at 58,” says McEwan. But when they do happen, he’s got a delicious cure for them. “Water and two Advil, and fatty foods,” he says. “I really like bacon. With extra bacon. And more bacon. A really wicked BLT with lots of mayonnaise on it. You get fat and salt and more fat.”

Chopped Canada returns with more high-stakes, heart-pumping competition on January 9 at 9 E/P. See schedule information here.

4 Things Every Beginner Chef Should Know

Our Chef in Your Ear experts have a host of skills between them, but one thing they’re especially great at is giving advice.

It’s taken years of mentorship, experience and training for them to learn these important lessons, but you can apply them immediately.

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1. Experiment. Fail. Repeat.
“The thing about cooking is that the more you try, the more you experiment, the more you fail, the better off you’re going to be,” says Toronto-based restaurateur Craig Harding. If there’s something new you want to make, hop online, look in a book or turn on your favourite cooking show and just try it. “I still don’t know how to make everything, and if I have an idea, if I see something I like or if I taste something I enjoy and I don’t know how to make it, I always go try and figure out how to do it,” he says. “And it may fail, but then I try again.”

2. Cook from the heart.
“The best cooking advice I ever got was from a chef of mine,” says Top Chef season one runner-up Rob Rossi. “He told me that if I would always cook the dishes like I would for my family, they would always come out really well. And I think that you have to know who you’re cooking for, and appreciate them, and you’ll love the food you’re trying to make them.”

Cory Vitiello, the owner of three successful restaurants, agrees. His mentor, Scaramouche’s Keith Froggett, once told him to stop cooking what other people wanted and figure out what he loved most. “Put all your emphasis into that, and if you’re truly cooking the food that you love and you’re not worried about cooking for anybody else’s palate, that’s going to come through in your food.”

3. Taste test at every step.
“One of the things that I had done with all of the cooks [on Chef In Your Ear] is that I get them to try what they’re making every step of the way,” says Craig Harding. “Taste it when you’ve started the cooking so then you know where it is after.” If you only have the time or inclination to learn one cooking skill, focus on seasoning. “Forget about knife skills and all that,” says Harding. “Even if they can’t cut something perfectly, whatever, as long as it tastes good.”

4. Learn the basics of flavour pairing.
“If it grows together, it goes together,” says seasoned chef and business owner Devin Connell. Items that grow together in the summer – like basil and tomatoes – pair well. Same goes for winter produce like squashes, root veggies and onions, all of which are complementary. “Think about your flavours in a seasonal way, because that will never fail you,” she says.

Watch all new episodes of Chef in Your Ear Mondays at 10 E/P. Click here for full schedule.

What’s the best cooking advice you’ve ever gotten? Tell us in the comments below, or tweet us @FoodNetworkCA.

Grocery Shopping Tips From Chefs: When to Splurge, When to Save

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Say what you like about the latest “it” ingredients, but you can’t feed a family on truffle salt, and knowing when to save – and when to splurge – is as important for home chefs as it is for professionals.

Thankfully our Chef In Your Ear stars were eager to share their tips on which items they never feel bad splurging on. Save your spare dollars for these key ingredients so you can save elsewhere.

Splurge on…

1. Meats, fish and proteins

Most of our Chef In Your Ear experts mentioned meats, fish and proteins as worthy splurges, but Rob Rossi offered specific advice on how to get the freshest quality. “Not all grocery stores are great,” he says. “Some of them are better for produce and [then] you go to the meat aisles and you just don’t find stuff that you want. And that’s why I think you should completely separate your shopping. Go to the butcher’s, visit your fish market. Because the one stop shop [is] convenient, but it’s not always the way to go.”

2. Olive oil and vinegar

Our chefs agree that good olive oil is a must, but Craig Harding adds that a quality vinegar can also take your cooking from ho-hum to yum, whether it’s an aged balsamic, rice wine or red wine vinegar.

3. Herbs, spices, and seasonings, including salt and pepper

“Don’t cheap out on saffron, don’t cheap out on paprika, don’t cheap out on vanilla,” says Harding. “Those things that are expensive in your pantry? Well, there’s a reason.” To ease your financial burden and get the most out of your herbs, spices and seasonings, he suggests buying in small batches. “Buy fresh and don’t buy too much, because things don’t last long. Buy what you need and buy it frequently.”

4. Fresh produce

“When I’m cooking [I] put a lot of emphasis on the vegetable components of the dish,” says Cory Vitiello. “For me, that means going to the market, figuring out what’s in season and selecting the best produce.” Jordan Andino adds that it’s important to spend money on items “that are less cooked,” like salad greens. “So, the more cooking you do and the longer something cooks, the less money you need to spend on it. And it’s a completely inverted scale. So more time, then less money; more money, less time.”

Save on…

1. Items that take a long time to cook

It’s likely that your favourite slow-cooker recipes are also some of the most economical items in your repertoire, so if you’re looking to cut back on your grocery budget, plan to increase the number of Crock-Pot meals you serve. Long-cooking beef cuts include brisket, short ribs and stew cubes; pork shoulder and lamb shanks are also good meat choices, while dried beans and legumes are time-consuming (but delicious) veggie proteins.

2. Dry goods and flours

Go ahead and buy the good stuff if you can afford it, but “you don’t necessarily” need to, says Harding. Average-quality dry goods are easily elevated with awesome oils and superior spices.

What are your favourite items to splurge on, and where do you find the best savings? Share with us in the comments below.

Watch Chef In Your Ear Mondays 10 E/P. Click here for full schedule.

Devon Scoble is a Toronto writer and food lover who specializes in approachable home cooking. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @devonscoble.