Tag Archives: Mijune Pak

Mijune Pak on set of Top Chef Canada season 9

Top Chef Canada Judge Mijune Pak Reflects on Reinvention in Her Own Career and the Restaurant Industry

Among the lessons that those in the hard-hit hospitality industry have had to learn this past year is reinvention — from the early days of pandemic closures, chefs and operators have scrambled to adapt to takeout, social distancing and often costly retrofits, as well as other hurdles in their path.

And when it comes to transforming herself based on both circumstances and passion, Top Chef Canada judge Mijune Pak is well suited to offer up some hard-won wisdom from her career, which has evolved and shifted with the zeitgeist as she adapts and refreshes her brand. “I think that my role as this food personality has really changed because when I first started it was a lot more from a critiquing side,” she says. “Now, it’s more of a support system for the industry and being a voice for the Canadian culinary food scene on an international level.”

Mijune Pak on the set of Top Chef Canada

Born and raised in the food-forward city of Vancouver, Mijune originally set her sights on a career in media relations. With a degree in Communications from Simon Fraser University, Mijune’s first job was marketing for Paramount Pictures, handling advance screenings, tracking critics’ reviews and other promotional material. Her interests, however, lay in filling up notebooks with pictures and observations of the dishes she was eating in her travels. Based on her sister Mijon’s encouragement, Mijune launched , her food and travel blog, FollowMeFoodie.com, in 2009. Over time, Mijune’s role has shifted away from the blogging that launched her career into a more expansive role as entrepreneur and spokesperson for an industry she loves.

Related: We Tried Mijune Pak’s New Chocolate Creations

When the pandemic curtailed her travel last year, Mijune started hosting At Home With Mijune, a cooking show with chefs, on Instagram Live as a means of bolstering the industry. “I had this platform to use, and these connections for chefs, so why not keep supporting the industry that’s supporting you, and try to push through this together by being creative?” she asked herself. 

Mijune also brought this spirit of adaptation and evolution to her role as a judge on Top Chef Canada — a cooking competition completely changed by the circumstances of the world around it. Adding to the heightened awareness around this season of the show are growing, and necessary, discussions around social justice, food origins and responsibility in acknowledging the cultures behind ingredients and using them mindfully. “So many things happened in 2020 politically as well as globally, and I think it put everyone in a really sensitive position. Everyone took a step back from their usual role: listening to everyone’s background and where everyone’s food was coming from,” says Mijune. She drew from her own Chinese heritage (Mijune’s mother, Mimi, has a Hong Kong and Malaysian background) as well as her own experiences as a Chinese-Canadian when judging and sharing stories at the Top Chef Canada table. “Growing up in Vancouver, when I would bring anything Chinese to school for lunch, I would get made fun of and teased for it,” she remembers. “And now it’s so awesome it’s being celebrated. But there are dangers of cultural appropriation of food. My mother’s recipes have been adapted over the years — it’s not exactly how her mom or grandma would have made it. Food and recipes evolve with ingredients and over time and place, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s really important to bring forward a lot of the cultural history and knowledge that comes with using these ingredients, as well as showing how they are used traditionally, and not just in a modern context.” 

Along with these discussions around food origins and authenticity lay the constant awareness of the pandemic’s devastating effect on restaurants. “Adapting really quickly to changes has always been kind of a theme in the competition, but this was in very different circumstances. We filmed it in the fall and didn’t know what was going to happen with the pandemic when it aired,” says Mijune. “We had to take into consideration what kind of challenge would be mindful of the pandemic. Along with the producers and creative staff, it challenged the chefs to think about the competition as something they might actually have to apply in the future in their businesses.”

See More: Watch Full Episodes of Top Chef Canada

Ultimately, Mijune, much like her fellow judge, Janet Zuccarini, sees these challenges and adaptations to changing social mores as a process of evolution in the restaurant industry — and a sign of its resilience. “When people don’t see the background of what’s happening — the real behind the scenes —  they can think that your career or industry is only on an upwards trajectory because they don’t see the lows,” she says. “And I think when those lows happen, you just have to kick yourself in the butt, and ask what you haven’t tried yet, and what you still enjoy, because so much of this industry is built on passion. You really have to enjoy it and live and breathe it, and love it without any expectations.”

Watch Top Chef Canada Mondays 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.

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.

Neopolitan Baked Alaska Snowball is seen cracked open, with various chocolates and chocolate-covered strawberries seen inside

We Tried Mijune Pak’s New Chocolate Creations Just in Time for the Holidays

Foodie, Top Chef Canada judge, all-around champion for restaurants during the year that has been 2020… is there anything Mijune Pak can’t do? Well as it turns out the Vancouver personality hasn’t just been brightening up people’s lives with her virtual Instagram cooking classes and delightful new animated emojis these past few months. She’s also been helping fans relive their childhood memories with a new line of gourmet chocolates that are just as pretty as they are delicious.

Related: Get Mijune Pak’s recipe for a Canadian Pie-in-a-Jar

Mijune Chocolate is a collaboration between Pak and award-winning chocolatier Christophe Bonzon. The limited-edition line of bars and snowballs was inspired by her childhood memories, which is how she wound up with concoctions like Maple Syrup French Toast and Neapolitan Baked Alaska Snowballs. Fans were so pumped to try the goodies come the Oct. 20 launch date that they even crashed the pre-order website.

Luckily we got our hands on some of the festive edibles—which are available to ship across Canada—and we had a few thoughts…

Neapolitan Baked Alaska Snowballs, $18.95

Related: 20 Holiday Gifts Perfect for the Food Lover in Your Life

First impression
You know when something is just too pretty to eat? That’s probably why we had to stash our snowball in the fridge for a few days before we finally broke down and smashed it. Not only was the packaging gorgeous, but the ball itself really did look like some kind of a magical, edible snowball that had been hugged by a fairy. The brilliant pink-and-white boule was finished with snow-like ridges and a sprinkling of chocolate crumble, basically putting this season’s trendy hot chocolate bombs to shame.   

Taste
Where do you even start when you’re presented with a flurry of flavours inside one magic ball? One that you get to crack open with more enthusiasm than a Kinder Surprise Egg? Outside the snowball is made up of creamy, layered milk chocolate, vanilla bean and white chocolate, which is basically a grown-up, sexier version of the childhood favourite, if you ask us. Then inside you’ve got a ton of fun Neapolitan crisps, dark-chocolate-covered marshmallows, and two freeze-dried strawberries that are coated in either ruby pink chocolate or dark chocolate. It’s enough to send your taste buds into overdrive, but in that indulgent, the-holidays-are-here kind of way.

See More: Baked Alaskas Are Making a Comeback – and These Chocolate Hazelnut Treats Are Proof

Inspirations
Mijune was inspired to create these brilliant snowballs from her childhood memories of eating Neapolitan ice cream. And like us, she always ate the chocolate and vanilla, but left the strawberry for someone more unsuspecting. This adult version has all the creamy flavours you remember eating as a kid, but without the brain freeze. Oh, and as for those strawberries? When wrapped in a crispy feuilletine, you kind of wish there were more than just two.

Lasting thoughts
If you can get your hands on one of these rare treats (note to Mijune and Christophe—produce more, please) they make a delightful and fun gift. The only problem is that you’re far more likely to want to keep it for yourself than give it out, especially if you’re stuck at your house for the holidays and are really craving that nostalgic taste of home.

Maple Syrup French Toast, $11.95

First impression
Like the snowball, this French Toast bar comes in an understated-but-pretty package that is also elegant thanks to the gender-neutral gold embellishments. Inside, the bar is also unabashedly Canadian thanks to a swanky Maple Leaf adorning it. Ours was broken in one spot by the time we opened it, however we really loved that the bar was perforated in unexpected diagonal lines, making it so much more elegant than traditional chocolate square bars.

Related: 10 Unexpected Chocolate Flavour Pairings That Are a Perfect Match

Taste
Most people are either a fan of maple or they aren’t. And even those who fall into the former camp have to admit that too much of the treat is overkill—it is kind of sweet, after all. Enter this special French Toast chocolate bar, which tones down the sweetness by pairing the maple with a crumbly, toast-like cookie that feels just a bit rough on your tongue. It’s a fun play on texture and flavour that we didn’t even know could exist in a chocolate bar, and we’d be lying if we said we haven’t been craving more ever since licking the last little bit off our plate.

Inspirations
So many of us grew up eating pancakes, waffles and French toast on a lazy Sunday morning, so you can’t help but feel a little nostalgic when you take that first bite into this bar. As soon as it hits your tongue you’re automatically transported back to the days when you would slather butter and maple syrup over a stack and dive in unabashedly. Just thinking about it now makes us want to whip up some French toast this weekend… 

Lasting thoughts
Whether you want something sweet to go with your tea, or you’re putting together a dessert board with all of your favourite things, the Maple Syrup French Toast bar is one sweet addition. It also makes an impressive gift or stocking stuffer, especially for any Canadians out there who find themselves missing home this holiday season.

Overall thoughts
As far as we’re concerned the only downside to the Maple Syrup French Toast and Neapolitan Baked Alaska Snowballs is that they’re limited-edition runs. We’re sure Mijune and Christophe had a blast acting like Christmas elves and collaborating with these sweet treats, but now that they’ve proven to be every bit as spectacular in practice as they are in theory, here’s hoping for even more sweet, sweet collaborations between these two in the near future.

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.