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Composite image of the season 9 cast of Top Chef Canada

This Year’s Top Chef Canada Contestants (Plus Season 9 Predictions!)

We all need nice things in our lives right about now, and what’s nicer than a brand new season of Top Chef Canada? The ultimate culinary competition is back for an anticipated ninth season, with a whole new batch of chefs ready to slice and dice their way to the top.

But first, this diverse group (which for the first time includes a married couple competing against each other) will have to cook their way into the hearts of a notoriously tough judging panel. This year that includes returning judges Mark McEwanMijune PakChris Nuttall-Smith and Janet Zuccarini, along with host-with-the-most Eden Grinshpan. Who will rise to the challenge, and who will fall faster than a collapsed soufflé?

We have a few first-look thoughts and impressions to get you started heading into the brand new season before it premieres on April 19 at 10p.m. ET/PT. Call it our amuse-bouche for all of the fierce competition to come.

Aicia Colacci, Montreal

Previous Gig: Chef de Cuisine at Impasto

First Impressions: This chef is going to bring the heat this season, and probably more than a few plates of spaghetti, rigatoni and raviolis in between. Aicia reveals that growing up food was always at the center of everything, and after getting her start in advertising she completely switched gears to the culinary world. Naturally, she’s never looked back.

Our Predictions: Passion in the kitchen can never be understated, but here’s hoping that this pepperoncino can keep her cool when the competition really heats up. As for her penchant for pasta? Well, that will definitely impress the judges at the start, but Aicia will need to prove that she has other bold plates that she can bust out too in order to rise to the ranks of Top Chef Canada.

Alex Edmonson, Calgary

Current Gig: Personal Chef and Owner of AE Chef Services

First Impressions: As a former model and current social media star, Alex is used to all eyes on him. But now he’s out to prove that he’s more than a pretty face (or a pretty food picture on Instagram), by showing that his flavours and techniques are just as impressive. The chef knew he wanted to be in the kitchen ever since he saw the movie Ratatouille in his teens, and now as a personal chef, he brings the restaurant to the people.

Our Predictions: Alex isn’t the least bit nervous about entering the Top Chef Canada kitchen, but maybe he should be. While his multitasking experience as a business owner could serve him well, not being in the pressure cooker environment of a working kitchen for a while could ultimately be a disadvantage.

Andrea Alridge, Vancouver

Current Gig: Chef de Cuisine at CinCin

First Impressions: Being a young chef at a renowned restaurant can come with its share of challenges, but that also means that Andrea is hungry to prove. Meanwhile, although this chef cooks a lot of Italian at her regular gig (where she fell in love with cooking with fire), she is also eager to showcase tons of other flavours—including those from her Filipino-Jamaican heritage.

Our Predictions: Andrea may be our chef to beat in terms of best fusion flavours this season. After all, she herself has said that she’s a rule breaker. But her desire to grow and passion for food could also mean that she will learn from any potential stumbles along the way, which makes her a strong contender in our books.

Emily Butcher, Winnipeg

Current Gig: Chef de Cuisine at Deer + Almond

First impressions: Emily grew up with a strong awareness of the magic that cooking can conjure up. After all her grandfather ran a butcher shop, her grandmother had a pie business, and her dad is “a pretty awesome home cook.” This chef sees cooking like a dance, and is very much looking forward to the day when the magic of dining returns following the pandemic.

Our Predictions: Emily seems fairly driven to become the first Top Chef Canada winner from Winnipeg. But first she may need to loosen her perfect standards just a smidge in order to keep up with the tight timelines and pressure cooker challenges featured on the show. She may also need to take the judges’ criticism to heart without letting it weigh her down, a challenge for any passionate chef on this show.

Erica Karbelnik, Toronto

Current Gig: Head Chef, Elmwood Spa

First Impressions: This fierce competitor is here to prove herself to everyone. That includes her former mentor Mark McEwan, her family, and her husband/fellow Top Chef Canada competitor, Josh. Erica definitely brings a lot to the table this season, but we’re especially excited to see her cooking, which she says will be a mix of Polish, Israeli and Moroccan influences.

Our Predictions: How will husband and wife competitors fare in this kitchen? It’s hard to say because that’s definitely a Top Chef Canada first, but we can’t wait to see how they compete with each other. Meanwhile, we’re even more jazzed to see some of the new flavours and fusion fare that Erica promises to bring—something tells us it’s going to be spicy.

Galasa Aden, Calgary

Current Gig: Executive Chef, Cliffhanger Restaurant

First Impressions: Galasa is all about infusing his plates with heart and soul, whether he’s making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or whipping up a dinner party for 20. The young chef is excited to showcase his Canadian-Ethiopian cooking style in the competition, a style he started refining as a young guy cooking with his mother in the kitchen.

Our Predictions: Galasa is aware that some of the other chefs may underestimate him because he’s the chef at a golf course, but where you cook is really only a matter of geography. This chef is definitely here to inspire and prove himself, and as a result, the other chefs may pick up a thing or two from this young star along the way.

Jae-Anthony Dougan, Ottawa

Current Gig: Owner, Chef Jae Anthony Pop Up

First Impressions: This seasoned chef has owned restaurants across Canada and cooked for basically every Canadian celeb possible (think Drake and The Weeknd). Now he’s ready to crush it on Top Chef Canada. Jae-Anthony wants to represent underrecognized Black chef talent, and he’s all about changing the game for his community… not to mention for his son.

Our Predictions: Winning this competition is quite personal for Jae-Anthony, so we’re fully expecting him to be one of the fiercest chefs out of the gate. His array of Caribbean flavours will be game-changing, and we have a feeling he’ll unknowingly push some of the other competitors to put their own passion and flair on the plate too.

Josh Karbelnik, Toronto

Current Gig: Chef de Cuisine, The Broadview Hotel

First Impressions: This fierce competitor (and former Chopped Canada winner) is all about bringing luxurious and refined plates with big flavours. He saw the power of perseverance firsthand as a young kid when his single mom would work three jobs to take care of the family. And he himself has had to push through, having lost two fingers nine years ago in an ice cream machine accident.

Our Predictions: If anyone can persevere through tough challenges this season it may be Josh. However let’s not forget that one of the people he’s competing against is his high school sweetheart and wife, Erica. Josh seems pretty sure that he and his partner will be the last chefs standing, so if that dream doesn’t come true it will be interesting to see how this couple rebounds.

Kym Nguyen, Vancouver

Current Gig: Sous Chef at Pidgin

First Impressions: Kym is here to put themselves on a plate, whether that means an Asian twist on a Shepard’s Pie or coating everything with soy sauce. The non-binary chef is all about interesting flavour combinations and mixing different culinary experiences together. And, although they didn’t go to culinary school, they definitely represent a new wave of chefs—chefs that leave aggression and anger behind in the kitchen in order to bring light into the industry that they love.

Our Predictions: Kym may seem quiet compared to some of the other competitors, but their food will speak for itself. The former architect student made a commitment when they first started their culinary career to practice civility in the kitchen, so we can probably expect that next-level outlook to be on full display on the show.

Siobhan Detkavich, Kelowna

Current gig: Demi Chef de Partie at Terrace Restaurant at the Mission Hill Family Estate Winery

First Impressions: At 21-years-old Siobhan may be a young competitor, but that doesn’t mean she won’t bring experience. So far in her culinary career, she’s turned heads winning over competitions and palates alike, and she’s definitely not one to be underestimated when things get tough in the kitchen.

Our Predictions: As a young, Indigenous competitor Siobhan admits she feels a bit of pressure to represent. This chef knows what she wants, and what she wants is to win. Even if she doesn’t make it all the way to the finale, it seems like she’ll be taking in every single learning opportunity along the way, which means she has everything to gain from doing this series.

Stéphane Levac, Nova Scotia

Current Gig: Chef, Maritime Express Cider Co.

First Impressions: This self-proclaimed casual-to-fine-dining chef is self-taught and tends to whip up comfort fare in his taproom, but he’s ready to take his bagels and foraged plates to the next level on Top Chef Canada. For him, food is a way of reconnecting with his Indigenous roots, and now he’s ready to share those plates with the rest of Canada.

Our Predictions: Stephane may be this season’s biggest wild card, as self-taught chefs typically are on this show. That isn’t a bad thing—sometimes it’s the chefs that think outside the box that come up with some of the most show-stopping plates. In that vein, we can’t wait to see what tricks Stephane may possibly have up his sleeve.

Watch Top Chef Canada April 19 at 10ep and stream Live and On Demand on the new Global TV App, and on STACKTV. Food Network Canada is also available through all major TV service providers.

Gail Simmons and Chris Nuttall-Smith On Stepping into Kitchen Stadium and the Uniquely Canadian Vibes of Iron Chef Canada

Iron Chef Canada is all about spectacular Canadian food and host Gail Simmons and floor reporter Chris Nuttall-Smith bring the viewers that much closer to the incredible dishes created in Kitchen Stadium. As respective Top Chef and Top Chef Canada judges, the duo has plenty of experience tasting, critiquing and pontificating on plates from a wide array of culinary experts across the country.

They also happen to love their jobs, which is obvious when you sit down to chat with them about all things food. Here they break down what it’s really like entering Kitchen Stadium for the first time, how the Iron Chefs handled the intense pressure, and which Canadian restaurants they’re really digging right now.

How did it feel walking into the Kitchen Stadium for the first time?

Simmons: Awe-inspiring. I wasn’t mentally prepared for the grandeur of it. I’d never been in one otherwise, and it was beautiful. The lights are so dramatic.

Nuttall-Smith: There are huge spotlights coming down from everywhere!

Simmons: And it’s dark and moody…

Nuttall-Smith: The altars. The altars are where the secret ingredients are showcased in all their glory. They were amazing things to see and behold. These incredible ingredients everywhere. Spotlights. Smoke.

Simmons: Yeah it just feels so dramatic and magical.

Nuttall-Smith: It intimidates chefs, I think. Everyone that walks in is a little intimidated by it.

Simmons: If they’re not intimidated by us, they’re intimidated by Kitchen Stadium. [Laughs.] Your heart beats a little bit faster and that’s the beauty of it.

What was the energy like? Was there any trash-talking going on?

Simmons: There wasn’t trash-talking but there was definitely a lot of egging on, pun intended. This is the highest mountain of culinary accomplishments. You can’t help but get really pumped up and nervous—I mean we were nervous and we weren’t even competing. It’s great to see these incredible chefs just doing what they do best as they spur each other on. They actually sort of take the energy from the Stadium and it just lent itself to amazing work. You get really inspired by where you are.

Nuttall-Smith: It’s a high-wire act with knives and smoke and fire. That gets to the chefs and yeah there’s a little bit of trash-talking for sure but ultimately it doesn’t come down to you, it comes down to what you put on the plate. Every week the best food wins.

Simmons: The laser focus was unbelievable. We tried to rattle them—Chris is down there sticking his hands in things, The Chairman is giving them culinary curveballs.  Some of them are so focused on their craft and are so completely in this tunnel of what they have to do, and it is kind of a revelatory thing that they get it done after an hour. What they accomplish is unbelievable.

Nuttall-Smith: It’s amazing what they’re able to do. They will do a five-course meal and a cocktail.

Simmons: They know we’re booze hounds!

Who had the best trash-talk?

Nuttall-Smith: Let’s just say there was trash-talk from some of the chefs you might not expect at first, which was the best part. One chef, in particular, was asked about her craft and she was quite pointed about the advantages of what she does. It was a lot of fun.

What can Canadians expect from Iron Chef Canada?

Simmons: It’s the highest level of cooking from chefs in this country. Not only are Iron Chefs obviously accomplished, but the chefs that come here to challenge them every week are the best chefs running restaurants. I was just so amazed at the quality of their cooking and their innovation and the breadth of what they’re doing. I live in New York so I can’t help but think that I’ve kind of seen it all, but you come to Canada and you forget that the products here are so interesting and that there is a distinctly Canadian feel to the food. It’s intangible sometimes but it is so beautiful to see. The connection to nature and the connection to the outdoors, to the game meat, to the beautiful produce. For me, that was really interesting to watch.

Nuttall-Smith: I’m with Gail. She is so right.

Simmons: We almost take it for granted in Canada; you don’t see the difference until you leave. I grew up in Canada and I have now lived in the States almost as long as I’ve lived in Canada and it just made me really excited to be home.

What made the show uniquely Canadian to you?

Simmons: There are some chefs here that do things you just can’t do anywhere else in the world. Obviously, there are the products they have access to, but it’s the cooking traditions.

Nuttall-Smith: The cooking traditions—you see chefs make food that no one else is going to make anywhere else on the planet.

Simmons: Using meat, and protein, and vegetables, and wild berries, and leaves, and things that I had never seen before so that was a really unique experience and an amazing experience. I love how much I learned in the process and it definitely made me realize that I just can’t afford to be jaded.

Nuttall-Smith: It’s a constant debate, ‘What is Canadian food?’ that drives me a little bit crazy, but the answer is it’s all the food. In Canada if you’re a chef you cannot afford to just keep your head down and do your thing. You’re always looking around to see what these great chefs [are doing]. Like Susur Lee—he’s not just cooking the Asian food I think people expect of him, he is bringing in so many influences. You see Lynn Crawford, Hugh Acheson, Rob Feenie, Amanda Cohen, their competitors… they have super wide frames of reference and that is what makes it so Canadian. They are dipping into so many different ideas, and traditions, and ingredients, and cultures.

Simmons: The diversity is incredible. The diversity of our challengers’ backgrounds was so interesting. They’re all Canadian, they’re all proud to be Canadian, but their ancestry is from all over the world. So there’s everything from every corner of Asia to the indigenous people of this country and everything in between. References from Latin America and from Europe… you really get a sense of the mosaic of this country.

How did you guys tackle bringing the experience of the food to the audience at home?

Simmons: The million dollar question of working in food on television is why should viewers care if they can’t taste the food? So our job is to be the tasters for the audience. My gauge of if I’ve done a good job is if I make people hungry. Interestingly on this particular show, Chris and I aren’t tasting the food ourselves. We leave a lot of that work to the judges to explain how things taste. But we certainly dive into how everything looks and are explaining the process and the techniques and making it accessible to the viewers at home. It’s our job to really break that down and make it appealing and there’s just so much visual sensationalism in the kitchen. There’s so much to watch, so we need to catch it, we need to explain it, and that’s the only way to do it.

Nuttall-Smith: There were so many instances where the two of us were just generally surprised by the techniques, the ideas, and what showed up on the plates. So much of this was spectacular to witness and it’s really hard not to convey that when you’re in the middle of it. Our job is to call what we see.

Simmons: The clock is ticking the whole time too, so you’re under so much pressure as a chef cooking in the Kitchen Stadium and our question is always, ‘Are they going to make it?’ Because every time it comes down to the last five seconds.

Nuttall-Smith: Exactly. Until the bitter end, they’re always trying to do something spectacular. You see some of them come in and in the first 20 minutes of the clock they’re strolling around a little thinking, ‘I’ve got this’ and then the clock keeps ticking and then you see the stress. Or you might see them screw up a challenge, and it becomes incredibly intense very quickly.

What’s one Canadian restaurant you can’t get enough of right now?

Simmons: When we were here shooting I got to eat at a lot of good restaurants I was excited about. And [recently] I went to a really great and really interesting Thai restaurant that was serving food I thought was different than a lot of restaurants, it’s called Kiin. It was really great, it was really beautiful and lovely and nuanced and so I was really happy to eat there. But there’s so much good food in Canada.

Nuttall-Smith: This is so hard, it could be a tiny place like One2 Snacks that serves the most amazing Malaysian noodles. It could be a Tamil place that makes amazing lump rice, so like rice with anchovies, and eggplant, and all sorts of curries. It could be a fancy place like Edulis, which is Spanish and French but they use the most amazing Canadian ingredients. It’s so hard to choose. I think that’s what makes it so incredible and exciting. And these are just Toronto restaurants that I’m naming. The Vin Papillon in Montreal makes me absolutely crazy, it’s so good. Raymonds on the East Coast. There’s so much great eating on the West Coast. I hate being asked this because there’s so many I could never just live with eating at one restaurant.

Who do you want to see next in the Kitchen Stadium?

Nuttall-Smith: I want to see Riad Nasr, from Montreal. He’s an incredible chef, he’s at the top of the New York restaurant food game.

Simmons: He’s a Canadian hockey boy. He was the chef at Balthazar for 20 years and now he opened his own place called Frenchette.

Nuttall-Smith: I would be fascinated to see him. There are so many great Canadian chefs around the world as well though that are doing amazing things. Nobody outside of the intimate centre of the industry knows who they are but they’re doing things at the highest level. There’s a guy, David Zilber who just did a book on fermentation, at Noma in Denmark. Amazing, amazing chef.

Simmons: Also you were talking about Raymonds. Jeremy Charles, I would love to see him in Kitchen Stadium. He’s amazing.

Nuttall-Smith: He would be an amazing competitor.

Watch Iron Chef Canada Wednesdays at 10 PM E/P

New Season of Top Chef Canada Introduces Next Generation of Canada’s Culinary Elite

Top Chef Canada, the country’s most prestigious culinary competition returns April 8 for an exciting new season! Eleven extraordinarily talented, up-and-coming chefs from across Canada are vying for the illustrious title and the opportunity to be catapulted into Canadian culinary stardom alongside previous winners Dale Mackay, Carl Heinrich, Matt Stowe, René Rodriguez and Nicole Gomes.

The new lineup of next generation chefs competing this season on Top Chef Canada are (from L-R in above image):

Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef Eden Grinshpan returns as host, guiding the chefs through their challenges and helping to deliberate at judges’ table. Culinary legend Chef Mark McEwan is back as head judge along with the esteemed resident judges, renowned food journalist and critic Chris Nuttall-Smith, food blogger Mijune Pak and powerhouse restaurateur Janet Zuccarini.

“You really felt a fresh new energy walking into this new season and meeting all the chefs,” Eden revealed.  “There was an overwhelming sense of excitement. Everyone brought their A-Game. Everyone really wanted to win. I found there were so many new, creative ways these chefs were bringing their food to the table.”

Head Judge Chef Mark McEwan has been with Top Chef Canada since it launched in 2011. Looking back on the past seasons, he shares, “Every year’s been good but every year’s gotten better. This year the chefs are hitting a new level. This was our best season yet for food.” He elaborates,  “The young chefs show a great sign of maturity and really excellent dexterity and ability to make flavours happen. Some real, great surprises!”

Not only will the chefs have to impress judges’ panel, they’ll also need to win over the palates of celebrated guest judges featured throughout the series. This season, guest judges include chef-owners of some of Toronto’s best-known restaurants, such as Lynn Crawford (Ruby Watchco), Susur Lee (Fring’s, Lee), Rob Gentile (Buca, Bar Buca) and Alexandra Feswick (Drake Devonshire). Top Chef Canada alum returning as guest judges include Steve Gonzales of Baro, Dustin Gallagher of 416 Snack Bar as well as Top Chef Canada: All-Stars winner, Nicole Gomes of Calgary’s Cluck ‘N’ Cleaver. Additionally, Evan Funke, L.A.-based chef and co-owner (with Janet Zuccarini) of the acclaimed Felix restaurant, and Danny Bowien, chef-owner of New York’s Mission Chinese Food join as guest judges.

Each week during the season, topchefcanada.ca will be your destination for everything Top Chef Canada! You’ll find full episodes online, exclusive exit interviews with each of the departing chefs, behind-the-scenes secrets from life on set, chef cooking tips, episode recaps and our must-see interview with the winner.

Top Chef Canada Returns With All-Stars Season

Food Network Canada has been cooking up a delicious secret and it’s time to share it with all of you. Top Chef Canada is coming back in an all new way. Canada’s most prestigious and high stakes culinary competition returns Sunday, April 2 at 10 ET/PT with an All-Stars season for its fifth installment.

Mark McEwan, revered chef and restaurateur, is back as head judge and is reacquainted with 12 chefs from past seasons, who return to see if they can win the previously elusive Top Chef Canada title.

Mark is excited for what fans will see in Top Chef Canada: All-Stars.

“Top flight ingredients, driven and proven chefs, full on challenges and the best food I’ve seen in five seasons, epic!”

If this doesn’t make your stomach rumble with excitement, you might want to check if you have a pulse!

Top Chef Canada: All-Stars Judges
From Left: Eden Grinshpan, Mark McEwan, Mijune Pak, Janet Zuccarini, Chris Nuttall-Smith.

Mark McEwan is joined by a new cast of refined palates including resident judges Chris Nuttall-Smith, Mijune Pak, Janet Zuccarini and host Eden Grinshpan. Chris Nuttall-Smith previously worked under the cloak of anonymity as the restaurant critic for The Globe and Mail. On Top Chef Canada, comes face-to-face with the chefs he’s critiquing.

“When we [judges] lost our heads about how incredible a dish was, it was beautiful to be able to say that in the moment to the chef’s face and to see them light up.”

Chris heaped praise on his fellow judges, noting that “every single one of them really is at the top of their game.”

Mijune Pak is the Vancouver food writer behind the award-winning food blog and restaurant guide, Follow Me Foodie. When asked about the reboot of Top Chef Canada, Mijune didn’t hold back.

“It’s the crème de la crème of cooking competitions on television,” she says. From the chef challenges to the guest judges, “it’s all about the food.”

Janet Zuccarini, is a powerhouse restaurateur, owning Toronto hot spots Trattoria Nervosa, Gusto 101 and Pai Northern Thai Kitchen, with more restaurants in the works. Janet says that one of the best parts of being on the series was how the judges, from various backgrounds and with different opinions, worked together as a panel.

Eden Grinshpan, a judge on Chopped Canada, steps into the role of Top Chef Canada host, guiding the chefs through their challenges and weighing in on their fate at judges’ table. She brings with her Le Cordon Bleu chef credentials and a disarming personality. Eden loves watching the chefs evolve and grow throughout the competition and seeing how the competition affects them. “Some people rise to the occasion and some fall under it.”

And who are the chefs that Eden is talking about? We’ll be revealing the 12 chefs to compete on Top Chef Canada: All-Stars soon, so keep checking back. For full bios on each of the judges and host, click here.

Each week during the season, Foodnetwork.ca will be your destination for more Top Chef Canada as we’ll be posting exclusive content including deleted scenes, episode recaps, culinary behind-the-scenes articles, and interviews with the competing chefs. Plus, we’ll be giving away Top Chef Canada prizes.