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Ross Larkin One Year Since Winning Top Chef Canada

Ross Larkin: Life Since Winning Top Chef Canada

Ever since Ross Larkin showcased Newfoundland on a plate to winning results on the sixth season of Top Chef Canada, he’s made quite the name for himself in the Canadian culinary scene. We’d expect nothing less—who hasn’t been dreaming about the chef’s jaw-dropping display of east coast ingredients like diver scallops, moose, and winter chanterelles? And don’t even get us started on that whiskey-compressed apple and snowberry concoction he whipped up in the finale.

It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a year now since Larkin won the show, so we caught up with the chef to find out what his life has been like since season six. As it turns out he’s been quite busy in and out of the kitchen.

Chef de Cuisine at Raymond’s

Even before entering the Top Chef Canada kitchen Larkin was impressing the culinary community as the chef de cuisine at one of the country’s top restaurants, Raymond’s. Jeremy Charles’ world-class spot draws in tourists from all over (the late Anthony Bourdain even visited it on his series, No Reservations). These days though, it’s not just Jeremy Charles that tourists are seeking out: diners have been increasingly asking to meet Ross, too, ever since his big win.

“The restaurant has had an amazing showing following the series, people coming here from all over,” Ross says. “That was very flattering and different, going into the dining room and talking to people who are so excited and asking for pictures. I didn’t realize how big it was. It’s wild.”

 

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???????????????????????? Radish and flower tart | cattail with sunchoke

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He bought his first house

Ross has been renting his whole life, so following his big win he and his wife Celeste, who is the pastry chef at Raymond’s, finally bought their own space. It closed at the end of October.

“That was a whirlwind. I had no idea what went into buying a house, and there’s a lot more than I thought. Thankfully my uncle is a real estate agent here in Newfoundland so he helped us immensely with everything,” Ross says. “Pretty much every day we walk around the house and see something that needs painting or fixing, but it’s been great. Having a home of my own is something I never thought would happen.”

And, it’s also a home decked out with all of those amazing kitchen appliances he won on the show.

 

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House hunting.

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He had his first magazine spread

Last fall Ross experienced another first when the quarterly publication Pie Digest asked if they could feature him following his Top Chef Canada win.

“I was flattered. I’d never been in any sort of publication, so to be featured in a magazine was huge. I was just so excited,” he says. “They did a really good job of representing me and the food in the restaurant and Newfoundland and Labrador. It was incredible.”

He’s been sharing Newfoundland cooking with the rest of Canada

In the past 12 months Ross has travelled extensively, bringing his culinary expertise to places like Calgary, Winnipeg, PEI, Vancouver and Montreal, where he’s shared unique ingredients and techniques with other chefs and patrons. One of the coolest things he says he’s done was participating in Winnipeg’s annual Raw Almond event last February alongside Jeremy Charles and the rest of the Raymond’s team.

The event, which started in 2013 and hails from Joe Kalturnyk and Mandel Hitzer, takes place each year when the river freezes and two temporary dining rooms are constructed. There, chefs from across Canada and the rest of the world congregate for special, sold-out dinner services.

“There are very select few events that being such a different group of chefs together,” Ross says. “It was so inspiring. Like yeah, it’s really cold in Winnipeg in the dead of winter, but it was so inspiring to be there. The people working with Joe are hands-down some of the nicest people I’ve ever worked with. They’re so passionate and they’re there to help with anything you need. We were really fortunate to be invited to that, and hopefully we can return.”

He took Newfoundland to Chicago, too

When Chicago’s famed Blackbird restaurant threw a chefs series to celebrate 20 years in the business, they asked Jeremy Charles and the staff of Raymond’s to host the closing night. It was Ross’ first time ever visiting the renowned culinary city, and he loved the overall Midwestern charm, unique architecture, and of course, the myriad of restaurants.

“We brought a little piece of Newfoundland down to Chicago and we did [dinner] how we do it at the restaurant,” he says. “It was very well received and people loved it. It’s always interesting to see what other restaurants are doing, especially Blackbird, which is such a high caliber, Michelin-star restaurant. Everybody was so amazed and excited and there were so many questions about what we were doing and the ingredients. They’re so different. There’s nowhere else in Canada, let alone in Chicago, where you’re getting ingredients like we’re getting here in Newfoundland.”

He’s getting really into beeswax

Living in Newfoundland, Ross says they don’t always have access to imported goods—especially when ferries carrying ordered fare shut down. In ths spirit of embracing what’s local and fresh, he and Celeste have been experimenting with that concept recently.

Some of their experiments have included encasing roots in salt dough to cure them or aging beef in beeswax, which Ross says eliminates some of that “blue cheese” flavour you traditionally get with air-curing. Meanwhile, it also creates less waste.

“It just gives the meat a very mild sweetness and almost makes it a bit richer in taste and consistency. And you don’t lose as much product—when doing the whole ribeye [the traditional way] you lose so much because you have to trim it. This way you just knock off all the beeswax and you have 100 percent yield on aged beef,” he says, noting that Celeste has been having similar success with plums in beeswax.

“She dips them in a couple of different layers of beeswax and lets them age for different lengths of time for various flavours, but it gives them a very fermented flavour, almost like a port. Beeswax just breaks them down in a very incredible way.”

 

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Ever wonder what 18 kg of bees wax looks like ?????#savethebees #bees #honeypot#eatlocal#supportlocal #supportfarmers #winniethepooh

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He and Celeste celebrated three years of marriage

This August marks Ross and Celeste’s third wedding anniversary, but the duo have been a culinary dream team for longer than that.

Not only did Celeste originally encourage Ross to apply for Top Chef Canada, but it’s also because of her that Ross got his gig at Raymond’s in the first place. When the pair were both working at former Top Chef Canada winner Dale McKay’s Ayden Kitchen + Bar in Saskatoon, Jeremy Charles called Celeste to see if she wanted the pastry chef job. Ross also knew Jeremy so he called him up asking for a gig too, and the rest, as they say, is history.

“We finished up our time in Saskatoon, went back to Vancouver, packed up everything, and we drove across Canada” he says. “I think we landed in St. John’s on a Friday and we started work on a Tuesday. Like I started at Raymond’s at the bottom and now I’m the chef de cuisine… I pinch myself every day. It’s incredible.”

 

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2018 was a fucking rollercoaster no doubt. Some of the most nerve wrecking, exciting, rewarding moments of my life to date. I was fortunate to have accomplished an amazing task of winning #topchefcanada a title that a only a few hold , not only that but to see how much it meant to the entire island of Newfoundland and how proud we are of this provinve and the beauties that it holds. This year I met so many amazing, talented people that I now have the pleasure of calling my friends. @cellymaemah and myself purchased our first home. Was able to travel and show people what it means to cook the food of Newfoundland on a world stage. I’m still in shock of everything that happened this year and am so grateful of the amazing people that surrounds me every day. 2018 one for the books, the new year has no idea what is comming…

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Watch a new season of Top Chef Canada, premiering April 1 at 10 PM E/P.

Food Network Canada spring schedule

8 Reasons You Need to Watch Food Network Canada This Spring

Winter is finally behind us, which means it’s time to trade in the hearty soups and casseroles for crisp salads and grilled fare. It’s been a long haul, but we’ve officially made it through the ice storms and sub-zero temperatures, and now we can’t wait to get out there and celebrate all the delicious things spring has to offer.

That includes some downright delectable selections coming up on Food Network Canada. The spring lineup is jam-packed with new and returning personalities, a few fun new competition series, and the return of Top Chef Canada, to name a few. Read on for all the reasons you’ll want to tune in to watch Food Network Canada this spring.

Buddy-Valastro-and-Duff-Goldman

Buddy vs. Duff

Premieres: March 10

Who’s your favourite pastry chef, Buddy Valastro or Duff Goldman? Both guys have been hitting us with their insider baking knowledge for years, but for the first time ever they’re going head-to-head in the kitchen for what might be the greatest feud in baking history.

Over the course of six pastry-filled episodes, Buddy and Duff compete in an intense selection of themed bake-offs that tackle everything from carnival treats and beautiful pies to plated desserts and doughnuts.

Along the way, they’ll also participate in six “cake-offs,” in which the chefs and their hand-selected teams try to outdo one another in a bid for bragging rights.

It all culminates in a massive showdown at Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute, where the chefs help execute two decadent wedding proposals before crafting special space-themed cakes that put all of their skills on the line.

Spring Baking Championship season 5 with Clinton Kelly

Spring Baking Championship

Premieres: March 18

Get those convection ovens ready because the fifth season of this seasonal baking competition is back, baby! Ten new bakers are ready to mix, whisk and purée their way to a big $25,000 win, and they’re willing to pull out all of their best baking tricks in order to nail this thing.

The competition kicks off with celebratory challenges, in which the competitors invoke their inner artists to create animal-themed doughnuts and, later on, watercolour cakes featuring all of spring’s best fruits and veggies. Decorative pies, marshmallow treats, and nutty desserts are also in store throughout the rest of the season.

Joining returning judges Duff Goldman, Lorraine Pascale and Nancy Fuller is new host Clinton Kelly, of What Not To Wear fame. We have faith that the lifestyle expert will be just as deft at handling these new hosting duties as he is the latest fashions.

Family Food Showdown

Premieres: March 21

There’s nothing quite like the act of cooking to bring families together, whether it’s through a secret family recipe, weeknight dinners at the table, or even a Sunday afternoon bake-session with the kids. But in this new competition series hosted by Valerie Bertinelli, we’re about to meet a series of families for whom food is everything.

In each episode, two foodie families (think restauranteurs, food truck operators, competition cooks and relatives) face off in a series of challenges that are designed to put their cooking, communication, and creativity to the test for a weekly $10,000 prize.

“With these contestants it’s not just about the money,” Bertinelli says. “There was a lot of pride involved, and so that’s when you’d see the fires really start to happen on the grills and in their personalities. So I would get close to them immediately, and it was really hard to watch the ones that didn’t get to go through. You start to fall in love with these contestants.”

Fire-Masters

Fire Masters

Premieres: March 21

The kitchen is about to get lit with the debut of this brand new Canadian competition show, which ditches the traditional oven in favour of all things grilled, charred and ‘cued. In 10 fire-fuelled episodes chefs from across North America come together in a sizzling, three-part cook-off for a rotating panel of established judges.

In the first round, three chefs must present an impressive signature dish to stay alive in the Napoleon grill arena. In the second round, the two remaining chefs go head-to-head by incorporating one of two featured ingredients into their dish. And then in the last round, the “Feast of Fire,” the last man or woman standing will take on one of the Fire Master judges.

Considering this year’s roster of experts includes former Top Chef Canada competitors and some of the greatest pitmasters around, we’d say the contestants have their work cut out for them. Canadian chef Dylan Benoit hosts the fireocious new series.

Burgers-Brew-and-Que

Burgers, Brew & ‘Que

Premieres: March 21

What’s better than a perfectly grilled burger and a fresh pint to go with it? Not much, according to Iron Chef Michael Symon. The chef and personality is back for a fourth season of his grilled-meats-based travel show, and we can’t wait to see what he’s going to uncover next.

Follow along as Symon searches high and low for the best barbecue and burgers in America, from elaborate cheeseburgers and perfectly smoked brisket, to fall-off-the-bone ribs and ridiculous roasts. Of course, he’ll also need some hoppy local brews and bevvys to wash it all down with, giving us some serious barbecue envy. In fact, a few episodes in, and you’ll probably want to start crafting your own food-based road trip, too.

Top Chef Canada Season 7

Top Chef Canada

Premieres: April 1

This is not a drill — Canada’s most prestigious culinary competition is back, and this season the “steaks” are higher than ever. Join 12 up-and-coming chefs, each representing the coming-of-age in the Canadian food scene, as they battle in some of the most intense Quickfires and fiercest Elimination Challenges to-date. On the line? A $100,000 cash prize from Interac, a design-inspired Café kitchen, a culinary tour of Italy for two from Air Transat, $5,000 worth of Cuisinart products, and the title of Top Chef Canada.

The action kicks off in the premiere episode with an “In-Cook” twist, when the 11 named competitors are asked to judge dishes from the three chefs vying for the last spot in the competition.

That inaugural challenge certainly sets the tone for the season to come, and we can’t wait to dig in. Host Eden Grinshpan is back to helm all the action; she’s joined by returning head judge Mark McEwan and resident judges Chris Nuttall-Smith, Mijune Pak and Janet Zuccarini.

Restaurant Impossible

Premieres: April 23

We have a soft spot for the owners of failing restaurants… after all, who doesn’t appreciate a foodie who is trying to put his or her dreams into action? So we’re all in when the 14th season of Robert Irvines restaurant-saving series returns in April following a two-and-a-half-year hiatus. After all, who doesn’t want to watch a new slew of restaurant owners that just need a little help in turning things around?

With a mere $10,000 and only two days to do it, it’s all hands on deck as Irvine attempts to muscle his way through the overhauls, teaching these owners the dos and don’ts of the industry so that their eateries can ultimately survive.

It’s a tall order, but if anyone has proven his salt over the years it’s gotta be chef Irvine.

Best Baker in America

Premieres: May 19

Sure, you can do better than store-bought goodies for the bake sale, and you’ve been known to roll out the fondant on occasion. But do you have what it takes to be classified as the best baker in the country? That’s the question this series poses when it returns for a hefty third season of elevated buttercream frostings, airy meringues, and modern takes on some tried-and-true classics.

Follow along as a brand new batch of contestants prove they have the baking skills needed to impress the all-star judges — and each other — in their rise to the top.

Top Chef Canada Season 7 Feature Image

Top Chef Canada is Back for a New Season — with a Never-Before-Seen Twist

Sharpen those knives and brush up on your culinary skills because Top Chef Canada’s Café kitchen is open for business. An all-new season of the Food Network Canada series—along with one pretty big twist—kicks off Monday, April 1 at 10 PM E/P.

Top Chef Canada Season 7

Joining returning host Eden Grinshpan, head judge Mark McEwan, and resident judges Chris Nuttall-Smith, Mijune Pak and Janet Zuccarini are some of the brightest culinary talents Canada has to offer. This season they’re lighting up the kitchen with some incredibly competitive challenges and cooks for panels of world-renowned chefs, all in a bid to win this year’s grand prize: a $100,000 cash prize from INTERAC, a design-inspired Café kitchen, a culinary tour of Italy for two from Air Transat, and $5,000 worth of Cuisinart products. Oh, and did we mention they’ll also join the select few to earn the coveted title of Canada’s Top Chef?

These contestants represent the culinary “coming of age” in the Canadian food scene and this year that includes several award-winning chefs, the first Quebec City representative, and some who have even studied under former Top Chef Canada winners. Given all that, we can’t think of anything more cutthroat or coming of age than one lemon of a twist.

This season, 11 chefs will enter the competition, but the coveted 12th slot is still up for grabs. And so in the show’s first-ever “cook-in” challenge, three chefs will cook for their lives.

Top-Chef-Canada-Season-7-Cast

No pressure or anything. Just whip up the best dish you’ve ever served. Yeah, we’re stressed out just thinking about all the delicious optics, but we also can’t wait for that kitchen to heat up.

For now, here’s a peek at the chefs putting it all on the line.

  • Tania Ganassini from Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON – Chef/co-founder of Staff Meal Niagara
  • Takeshi Horinoue from Montreal, QC – Chef/partner at Restaurant Park, Lavanderia, Café Bazin
  • Hayden Johnston from Toronto, ON – Chef de Cuisine at Richmond Station
  • Sebastien Laframboise from Quebec City, QC – Executive chef at District Saint-Joseph
  • Renee Lavallee from Dartmouth, NS – Chef/owner at The Canteen
  • Paul Moran from Tofino, BC – Executive chef at Tofino Resort + Marina
  • Dennis Peckham fromPort Moody, BC – Chef/owner at Fraice Sheet Foods
  • Phillip Scarfone from Vancouver, BC – Head chef, Nightingale
  • Erin Smith from Toronto, ON – Chef (on maternity leave)
  • Max Straczek from Vancouver, BC – Chef de Cuisine at Fable
  • Wallace Wong from Toronto, ON – The Six Pack Chef

Top-Chef-Canada-Season-7-Cook-Ins

And here are the three chefs ready to throw down for that coveted 12th spot:

  • Alexei Boldireff from Edmonton, AB – Head chef at Baijiu
  • Benet Hunt from Saskatoon, SK – Executive chef at Ayden Kitchen and Bar
  • Paul Kim from Toronto, ON – Chef/owner at Doma

It sounds to us like this season has all the ingredients for the most delicious run yet. We know we’ll be bringing our appetites.

Lasagna dish on a table

One Dish, Four Ways: Our Hosts Put Their Own Spin on a Classic Lasagna

Is there any dish more synonymous with comfort food than a good old fashioned lasagna? Fresh pasta, ooey gooey cheese, a rich sauce… It’s no wonder this dish is a fail-proof staple for beginner cooks and seasoned chefs alike. With the weather outside making us want to stay in and indulge, we’re thinking it’s time to gather around the table and put a spin on this classic meal. To get you inspired, we’ve lined up four irresistible variations on lasagna from our Food Network Canada hosts.

1. Anna Olson’s Roasted Vegetable Lasagna with Four Cheeses

This meatless recipe for roasted vegetable lasagna by Anna Olson, host of Fresh with Anna Olson, ups the ante on traditional lasagnas by including a four-cheese blend and delicious roasted carrots, parsnips and Roma tomatoes. You’ll be wondering how you ever managed with one-cheese recipes as you taste the distinct flavours of ricotta, Parmesan, Asiago, and Swiss Gruyere blended into a sauce and mixed with the vegetables between sheets of fresh lasagna.

2. Ree Drummond’s Slow-Cooker Lasagna

Plated lasagna dish

Chef and host of The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond offers up a delicious slow-cooker lasagna that’s heavy on flavor and light on prep work. A simple three-step recipe that has you combining your meat and cheese mixtures with layers of lasagna noodles (broken to fit your slow cooker), there’s little left to do but sit back in anticipation of this fool-proof dinner that’s sure to become a family favourite.

3. Giada De Laurentiis’ Spicy One-Skillet Lasagna

Lasagna in a skillet

Fans of easy-cook recipes will love this delicious one-skillet lasagna from Giada De Laurentiis of Giada Entertains. This recipe combines a medley of unexpected flavours ingredients like spicy Italian sausage, lemon zest and red pepper flakes to turn up the heat on this classic dish. With just one skillet needed to pull off this savoury spin on traditional lasagna, you’ll love the quick prep time – and easy clean-up!

4. Ina Garten’s Portobello Mushroom Lasagna

Portobello mushroom lasagna dish

Looking for a meatless lasagna recipe that doesn’t skimp on that hearty texture? Chef Ina Garten of the Barefoot Contessa has you covered with her Portobello mushroom lasagna . With rich ingredients like whole milk, butter, flour, Portobello mushrooms and Parmesan, this lasagna is every bit the indulgence you’d want from this classic dish, minus the meat.

Looking for more crowd-pleasing comfort food? Check out these must-try slow-cooker recipes and the cheese-stuffed recipes  that will have you drooling!

Iron-Chef-Susur-Lee-tile

Why Iron Chef Canada’s Susur Lee Loves a Little Friendly Competition

Iron Chef Susur Lee has long been an icon in the culinary world, helming Lee, Luckee, Lee Kitchen and Kid Lee in Toronto and TungLok in Singapore.  That’s on top of serving as a celebrity judge on Chopped Canada and Masterchef Asia. With 45 years of culinary experience under his belt,  a healthy love of competition, combined with his obvious passion for food, Lee is a perfect choice to step into Kitchen Stadium as an Iron Chef.

We caught up with Iron Chef Susur Lee to chat about falling in love with food as a young boy in Hong Kong, cooking with family and the surprising secret ingredient he wants to see in Kitchen Stadium next season.

Iron-Chef-Canada-Susur-Lee

Did you always want to be a chef?

No, actually as a kid I wanted to be a Kung Fu master! I studied with a Kung Fu master for years from the time I was a small boy until a teenager. Cooking and kung fu have similar philosophies about mentality and discipline. Being a chef is kind of like being a kung fu master though, it requires agility and thinking on your feet!

Where does your love of food stem from?

I fell in love with food as a young kid, when I’d walk through the markets of Hong Kong.  Hong Kong is a food city, and southern Cantonese is one of the most important cuisines in the southern part of China. I was really intrigued by all of the smells. My mum wasn’t a great cook so she’d give me a little bit of money and I’d buy myself little bites of food on my way home from school. From the open windows of our home, we could smell the street vendors down on the street, I think this is where I fell in love with food but also developed a deep interest in learning more about food.

How did you realize that cooking could be your career?

I really started in the kitchen as a way to make some money. Hong Kong has always had more restaurants than any city in the world. I started washing woks because I enjoyed the liveliness of the kitchen. I had the drive to move up and I had a deep desire to learn. The hotel kitchens of Hong Kong were very intense. To learn, you had to be observant. No one was taking you under their wing so-to-speak. That’s why I really value my young cooks who want to learn—it’s important to be a strong leader.

How did coming to Canada influence your culinary career?

Canada is such a multicultural place. I felt at home almost immediately. Back home I was exposed to classic French cooking but as a young cook, I didn’t get to travel much. Before coming to Canada my wife at the time and I took a year to travel. We went to France, Italy,  the Middle East, and India. When we arrived in Toronto, it was so multicultural, I almost didn’t need to travel. I worked in kitchens with Jamaicans, Trinidadians, Thai, Irish. I really got a global education here. It gave me a hunger to travel even more and really immerse myself in other cultures.

What was it like opening your first restaurant?

Exhausting! I really did everything. I was going to the market every day and I had a new baby. My family and I lived above the restaurant so it was really, truly a 24/7 job. But at the end of the day, it gave me joy and I knew I was building a life for my family.

What’s your favourite dish to make? 

Honestly, I love cooking Asian food. It really brings me home. That said, whatever my kids ask me to make I always love, usually because we’ll work together in the kitchen to make it. It means the dish is all that more pleasurable to eat.

Do you have a favourite local ingredient?

I always say garlic is my favorite, but really anything grown in Ontario during its peak season. We grow such great produce here.

You were the second Canadian to enter Kitchen Stadium in 2006, and now you’re breaking ground as one of the Canadian Iron Chefs. Is it a full circle moment for you?

It kind of is, but I don’t really think of it that way. Every day I feel honoured to be able to do what I love and sometimes I get to do that on national TV! I was grateful to be asked as one of the Canadian Iron Chefs. Iit validates how hard I’ve worked.

How does Iron Chef Canada showcase uniquely Canadian cuisine?

I think Canada deserves it’s own food shows, we are a unique country with so many talented people cooking in so many different ways. The secret ingredients and the curve balls are what make it Canadian but you really see it in the dishes that are produced as well. They’re not distinctly Canadian but they have flavours from all around the world… which I think is very Canadian in itself.

How did you prepare for the competition?

I basically lived in the kitchen for a few weeks and cooked with my sous chefs. We’ve worked together for over 10 years but we haven’t cooked together in a while. Jonas (Lee) and Bryan (Kid Lee) and I just experimented, tested and got comfortable with each other again. We brought Kitchen Stadium to us!

Iron-Chef-Canada-Susur-Lee-with-Jonas-Lee-and-Bryan-Kid-Lee

What can we expect from the competitors this season?

I am sure they are all accomplished in their own way and they all love to cook. The competition will be tough—I’m really eager to see all of them compete!

 How did it feel to be competing again rather than being behind the judging table?

Well, I did compete in the Chopped judges’ episode, where the judges had a choice to judge their peers or compete and I chose to compete. That really gave me that rush again and I loved it! I love being in the heat of the kitchen so I was thrilled when I was approached to be an Iron Chef. I still work in my restaurant kitchen but it just doesn’t compare to the pressure of a competition like Iron Chef Canada. I’ve worked as a chef for 45 years now and I’m still learning and getting opportunities to put my knowledge to use. It’s such a rush!

You’re known for your fusion food. Do you think your culinary style gave you an advantage over the competition?

Perhaps because I am very versatile. I have always felt that  “fusion” is a name given to me by others that I didn’t really even like at first, but I accept it now. I am a chef first and my style is just me. I am extremely technical and that’s very French, I am extremely creative and that is Chinese.

How do you create an Iron Chef Canada menu once you’ve found out the secret ingredient?

You have to think very quickly. Having cooked for 45 years myself and 15 with my two sous chefs, we have a lot of tricks in our bag. We began by discussing how the ingredients can fit into what we know. You can’t “re-invent” the wheel on live TV.

Did any of the secret ingredients throw you for a loop?

The curve balls were actually what threw me for a loop the most. With the time constraints, the menu already planned out and the unfamiliarity of the kitchen, it’s a challenge, that’s for sure!

If you could pick one secret ingredient for your fellow iron chefs, what would you choose?

I was recently in Thailand and ate quite a few insects—so maybe insects! They say it’s the food of the future so why not introduce it to the world on the big stage!

Canadian Restaurant Locations from Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives

Guy Fieri’s road tripping adventures on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives have taken him all across the United States and beyond. More recent seasons included stops in Cuba, Spain and Mexico, but before he ventured to those countries, he headed north of the border to Canada.

Guy has sampled some of the most eclectic cuisine that reflects our country’s diversity, from Chinese hand-pulled noodles to Jewish deli-smoked meats. Here are the Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives Canadian locations that you can visit in Toronto and Vancouver.

Jethro’s Fine Grub (Vancouver, BC)

In Season 12, Guy was treated to homemade pulled pork with slaw at Jethro’s Fine Grub. When you’re in Vancouver,  stop by for breakfast and try the Gold Rush; pancakes stuffed with bananas, pecans and streusel.

The Rosedale Diner (Toronto, ON)

Season 17 brought Guy to Toronto with a visit to the Rosedale Diner for Asian pork ribs. Brunch is a popular time to visit this diner for a classic Eggs Benny or scrumptious chicken and waffles.

No waffling about today’s brunch choice.

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The Tomahawk (Vancouver, BC)

Season 13 included a visit to Vancouver’s Tomahawk for some roast beef, a French dip, and a steak and mushroom pie. This legendary diner is also known for its Skookum Chief Burger, made with an organic beef patty, Yukon-style bacon, a free-run egg, aged Cheddar and a sliced hot dog.

Have you ever tried our Skookum Burger? #Tomahawk BBQ #Burgers #North Vancouver

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The Stockyards (Toronto, ON)

The Stockyards was one of Guy’s Toronto stops in Season 17. They were excited to show off their burgers, fried chicken and mouth-watering BLT, but their BBQ smoked ribs are one of the main reasons that locals flock to this smokehouse and larder.

Falconetti’s (Vancouver, BC)

While in Vancouver during Season 13, Guy sampled the handmade Thai chicken sausage at Falconetti’s. This east side bar and grill is known for its delicious eats and live music to entertain you throughout the week.

The Ace (Toronto, ON)

A Season 16 episode, ‘Layers of Flavor’ included a visit to The Ace in Toronto. Guy tried their pork belly, the mac and cheese burger, and a Christmas burger, but their Clubhouse is where it’s at when lunchtime rolls around.

Meat and Bread (Vancouver, BC)

In Season 13’s “Old Faves, New Craves,” Guy paid a call to Vancouver’s Meat and Bread. The porchetta sandwich was on the menu, followed up by a decadent maple bacon ice cream sandwich.

The Lakeview (Toronto, ON)

During Guy’s Season 16 trip to Toronto, stuffed French toast, a cornflake chicken club and a pie milkshake were ready to be devoured at The Lakeview. This restored diner serves up diner classics, including a banana split perfect for sharing.

Peaceful Restaurant (Vancouver, BC)

Family kitchens were the focus of the Season 13 episode that brought Guy to Peaceful Restaurant in Vancouver. Some of their recipes have been passed down from generations, including their fresh hand-pulled noodles and beef rolls.

#dandannoodles #foodie #fodgasam #chinesefood #spicy #delicious???? #sichuan #nomnom

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The Red Wagon Cafe (Vancouver, BC)

Guy dug into some pulled pork pancakes with a side of Jack Daniels syrup at Vancouver’s Red Wagon Cafe in Season 13. The savoury shredded pork is featured in other dishes on the menu, including their ooey, gooey mac and cheese.

Caplansky’s (Toronto, ON)

Authentic Jewish deli fare was the star of Season 16’s ‘Real Deal Roots’ that brought Guy to Caplansky’s Deli. Their College Street location has closed, but you can still sample smoked meat sandwiches, knish and brisket at Toronto’s Pearson Airport.

The Reubenesque @ #caplanskys #reuben #deli #meaty ????: @hmdfood666

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Save-On-Meats (Vancouver, ON)

Vancouver’s butcher shop, turned bakery and diner, Save-On-Meats, welcomed Guy in Season 13. Their menu includes classics like turkey pot pie and decadent burgers, but selections like this Ranchero Shrimp Benny really shine.

Ranchero shrimp benny for the win!

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Butter Tart Cheesecake

The Best Maple Butter Tart Cheesecake Recipe

The classic Canadian butter tart has many variations – pecans or raisins, firm or runny filling, crispy or flaky pastry — and everyone has their favourite combo. If there’s one thing that all Canadians can agree on, it is the fact that butter tarts are one of the most delicious desserts out there. So why not go one step further and combine your favourite Canadian sweet treat with another indulgent dessert — cheesecake. The result is a sweet and salty combination that gets topped with butter tart filling and lots of pecans for extra crunch!

Butter Tart Cheesecake

Maple Butter Tart Cheesecake

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 50 minutes + chill time
Makes: 10 slices

Ingredients:

Crust:
1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt

Cheesecake:
1 (250g) pkg cream cheese
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
3 Tbsp maple syrup
1/2 cup 35% whipping cream
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/4 tsp salt

Maple Pecan Sauce:
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp 35% cream
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Butter Tart Cheesecake

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter an 8-inch round springform pan.
2. In a large bowl combine graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, sugar and salt. Firmly press graham cracker crumb mixture into bottom of greased pan and push 1 inch up the side. Bake until golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.
3. In a large bowl combine cream cheese and brown sugar. Using an electric mixer beat until well combined and fluffy, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in eggs one at a time. Beat in maple syrup, cream, butter and salt.
4. Wrap bottom of the pan with aluminium foil. Pour in filling and place in a roasting pan. Pour boiling water into roasting pan about 1 inch up the side. Bake until edges are set and middle still has a jello-like wobble, about 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes. Remove pan from water and let cool, about 1 hour. Remove from tin, cover and refrigerate for at least four hours or overnight to chill completely before serving.
5. When ready to serve, make the sauce. In a small saucepan combine brown sugar, maple syrup, cream, salt and pecans. Bring to a boil and let bubble for 2 minutes, until slightly thickened. Serve drizzled over cheesecake.

Butter Tart Cheesecake

Looking for more butter tart goodness? Try our Best Butter Tart Recipes.

The Baker Sisters’ Piping Hot Tips for Running a Truly Great Bakery

Bakeries may be a dime a dozen (every neighbourhood seems to have one, after all), but that doesn’t mean they’re all successful. In fact, we’ve been to our fair share of dives and hidden gems over the years, experiencing everything from so-so bread and non-existent customer service to desserts from the nicest bakers we’ve ever met that basically knocked our knickers off.

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Jean Parker and Rachel Smith enjoy coffee and dessert at Proof Bakeshop in Atlanta.

Odds are that if a bakery exists, it’s there for good reason: the bakers involved know their way around a confection oven. But skills are just the first building block to a successful storefront. Here, Canada’s own The Baker Sisters, Jean Parker and Rachel Smith, divulge their top 5 tips that any bakery owner simply kneads to know.

Nail the Environment

Some bakeries are sit-down affairs while others are more about the counter service. Whatever type of establishment you’re running, you want to do it with a warm and friendly face because that’s what’s going to keep people coming back for more.

Just look at those smiles behind the counter at Vancouver’s Purebread bakery:

“(Have) a warm smile right off the bat,” Jean says. “Be really welcoming, because people will want to stay. There should be no rush.”

While you’re at it, it might not be a bad idea to offer a good cup of coffee or a strong pot of tea. Complete with a freshly baked scone or biscotti, of course.

Display Your Goods

Everyone knows that you eat with your eyes first, so that makes playing up the visual aspects of a bakery an important pillar of success. According to the sisters, it’s not just important to display your goods for customers as soon as they walk in, but you also want to share a variety of goods that showcase your awesome selection.

“One of our first trips away, we went to the West Coast in Canada, to Purebread in Vancouver, and this bakery was amazing. You walked in and it was like a bounty of desserts,” Rachel recalls. “Your eyes bugged out from how much of a selection they had, and they were all on different plate sizes. They weren’t hidden under a counter. They were just like, ‘Look at this bounty.’”

Purebread-Vancouver-Display-2
Purebread’s bakery display is a sweet sight to behold.
Photo Credit: Rachel Smith and Jean Parker

Foster Your Clientele

We’ve all heard how the customer is always right, but customer service should go beyond that approach. Making your clients feel welcomed and appreciated will only keep them coming back for more, and in the end, isn’t that the goal? That’s why the sisters feel it’s important to not only get to know the people who frequent your shop on a personal level, but to go that extra mile for them too. Rachel goes back to Purebread as another example of exemplary customer care following a day they happened to be closed to the public.

“Purebread stood at their front door and gave people sweeties for free to say, ‘I’m so sorry we’re closed today,’” she recalls. “At one point, they were giving gift cards.”

Purebread-Vancouver-Display
One more delicious shot of Purebread’s deliciously over-the-top display.

Be a Community Cornerstone

If you want to become a community staple, giving back to that community is probably a good start. Attend community events and get to know the residents, but also donate to local charities and organizations to really stand apart from the other establishments in town.

“Give day-olds to the community, like shelters. That stands out to me,” Jean says. “There were a handful of bakeries that I knew, maybe a lot of them did that, and they become a community cornerstone.”

Sugar-Bakeshop-Charleston
Sugar in Charleston, South Carolina donates its day-old baked goods to community shelters.

Go for Gold

If you’ve nailed the other pillars of bakery excellence, there’s still one pretty big step to keep in mind—making sure you stand out from other bakeries with unique ingredients customers just can’t get elsewhere.

Nugateau-Display
Toronto’s Nugateau prides itself on using high quality products and no artificial flavourings.
Photo Credit: Rachel Smith and Jean Parker

Have fresh, quality ingredients like chocolate and vanilla,” Jean says. “A lot of the bakers were using Kentucky bourbon vanilla, Madagascar vanilla came up a lot. Himalayan salt.”

“New Zealand butter,” Rachel raves. “It’s like using these ingredients that are really rich and special and luxurious. New Zealand butter has more fat content than regular butter, so it really lends to a buttery sweetie.”

Now that’s a pastry we can get behind.

Beginning October 20th, watch Rachel and Jean indulge in some of North America’s most delicious baked goods every Friday at 10 E/P in back-to-back episodes of The Baker Sisters. Visit foodnetwork.ca/thebakersisters to get the recipes and find all the bakeries Rachel and Jean visit in the series.

For ‘The Baker Sisters,’ Baking Is In Their DNA

Whipping up delectable desserts isn’t just a passion for Canada’s baking duo, sisters Rachel Smith and Jean Parker; it’s basically in their DNA. They were helping their mom whip up butter tarts, cookies and a “green pie” they still rave about to this day, since before they could even stand at the counter, inherently fostering their love of all things sweet and sugary. It’s a love that launched the sisters on a pretty sweet career path, and now, an exciting new TV series The Baker Sisters, premiering October 20th at 10 E/P.

TheBakerSisters1
Rachel reaching for her first birthday cake, made by her mom Heather.

“Our mom, even from the very beginning, really tried to get us to help,” Rachel remembers. “We would make cookies on the floor. She started doing it on the floor because when I was a baby, I fell off the counter. She was like, ‘I’ll put you on the counter in one of those seats,’ and unfortunately I fell off while helping her make cookies.”

TheBakerSisters6
Jean on her first birthday, getting her own from-scratch birthday cake from mom Heather.

Jean jokes that Rachel has never been the same, but it’s obvious that their mother’s love of baking and their fond memories of her concoctions still resonate with their palates to this day.

“The one thing I remember asking for a lot was this cinnamon coffee cake. It was marbled, it was beautiful, it was moist,” Rachel raves, recalling how her mom was always covered with flour and that the house usually smelled like baking, attracting the neighbourhood children. “The cinnamon and butter throughout the cake was thick, so you’d get that buttery piece of cinnamon. We’d always eat it with crunchy peanut butter. Whenever she said she was going to make a coffee cake, I was like, ‘Is it that one?’”

TheBakerSisters11On Rachel’s third birthday from left to right: older sister Brittany, Jean, mom Heather and Rachel.

“My mom would have her bake days and then freeze everything,” Jean chimes in. “The problem is things just taste really good in the freezer. Frozen chocolate chip cookies are up there as one of my favourite things… I remember being a kid, watching the cookies rise was like TV. Sitting in front of the oven with the light on watching the cookies rise. ”

To be fair, there was a period when these sisters thought they were over baked goods… well, for good. They refer to themselves as “broody teenagers” who had little interest in butter tarts and the butter tart business their mom ran at the time, complaining that they’d smell like their mom’s signature treat.  And while they have early memories of whipping up brownies, chocolate chip muffins and snickerdoodles out of spare tart dough (they were given free reign to shape those scraps the way they wanted), they also yearned for regular kid treats like Flakies, Twinkies and Jos Louis.

Jean and Rachel shared a family photo from when their mom started her own butter tart business:

Where it all started.. The original photo from 90's #familyofwomen #maplekeytartco #canadianbakers #canadiantarts

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“I never wanted to eat another butter tart again. And now here we are,” Jean shrugs.

Here we are indeed. It’s memories like those that have made the sisters closer and perhaps even unified them over the years as they’ve expanded their own baking skills and launched their own butter tart empire, Maple Key Tart Co.

While some siblings in that situation would inherently bust out the rivalry when asked who was better at the craft, these sisters are nothing but complimentary, pointing out their strengths with affection. Rachel is quick to reveal that Jean is better at nailing the precise measurements and recipes needed to be a successful baker, but Jean says that when it comes to kitchen efficiency Rachel reigns supreme.

“I’m staying at her house right now and at dinner last night she was making four separate meals at one time. It’s (her) speed and (her) confidence in the kitchen,” she explains.

The-Baker-Sisters

Today, Rachel and Jean both try to continue the baking tradition with their own kids. At Jean’s house, cookies are always a safe bet (the kids love anything with chocolate while she likes rolling peanut butter cookies in sugar), but Rachel takes a slightly different approach by sneaking extra vegetables into muffins.

“Muffins, like a carrot cake muffin, because I love jamming vegetables in it. With a carrot cake muffin, I’m grating a whole zucchini in there. Vegetables are tricky. Also, scones or biscuits. You can put broccoli in there and totally trick your kids.”

The kids may be tricked into eating veggies or baked goods for now, but if they’re anything like their moms, baking will eventually hold a strong, familial place in their hearts too.

It is, after all, in their DNA.

We’re Sweet on The Baker Sisters and You Will be Too!

Rachel and Jean are sisters and lifelong bakers who live by the motto “Eat dessert first!” They’re also the stars of the new Food Network Canada series The Baker Sisters, premiering October 20th, where they’ll hit the road to find the most delectable sweets at bakeries and restaurants across Canada and the U.S.

The Baker SistersIntroducing The Baker Sisters: Rachel (left) and Jean.

Rachel Smith and Jean Parker grew up surrounded by the sweet smell of baked goods in Bayside, Ontario. Before they could even reach the counter, their mom, a baker extraordinaire, had them helping her in the kitchen. As kids, their single mom started a butter tart business to supplement her income and the girls, earning 10 cents a tin, helped their mom fill the tins full of delicious tarts. Inspired by their mother, Rachel and Jean went on to establish the Maple Key Tart Co., tweaking their mother’s award-winning recipe to create their own delectable butter tart formula. Now they’re taking their baking know-how on the road to get the sweet scoop on some of this continent’s most blissful treats.

If you’d like to really indulge, we’ll be posting the recipes and locations featured in the series to the show’s website so you can create confectionery magic in your own kitchen or plan one sweet road trip! Throughout the season, we’ll get to know Rachel and Jean better with exclusive interviews on the baking secrets they learned on their journey, their favourite desserts and have them answer the most controversial dessert question ever: “Do raisins belong in butter tarts?”

We’re sweet on The Baker Sisters and we’re positive you will be too!

 

12 Times The All-Stars Chefs Were Just Like Us!

If you’ve been tuning into Top Chef Canada: All-Stars then you’re well aware that these chefs are like culinary super heroes. There’s no onion they can’t slay without shedding a single tear. No hunk of meat they can’t butcher to the most precise cut. No flavour profile they can’t deconstruct and build back up quicker than The Flash.

That’s why when we look back over the course of the season we’re reminded that, while these guys and gals killed it in the kitchen, they’re prone to all those real life foibles and emotions regular folks deal with all the time. Whether it was a hair-pulling mishap, an eye-rolling rivalry or over-the-top excitement, here are 12 times the All-Stars showed us they’re just like us.

1. How Does This Thing Work?!Having access to all of the latest and greatest kitchen tools and appliances is pretty gravy… if only one can figure out how to use them. Heads up Nicole, that mixer only works if you actually plug it in.

2. Slaying the Budget in the Grocery Check Out Line

Sure, sure… any of these guys could create a wonderful meal in the kitchen if they had unlimited access to amazing ingredients. But doing that while coming in under budget? Well that’s priceless.

3. Actually Admitting You’re ScaredBut really, how do you react when a panel of culinary experts that scares the crap out of you tastes your food at a world market? Do you cry? Puke? Huddle down under the table and bawl your eyes out?

4. High-Five Freeze OutAndrea, we know you didn’t mean to freeze Curtis out over that conciliatory handshake when he beat your mother sauce in front your mentor John Higgins, but um, #AwkwardTurtle much?

5. Hating the Idea of Facing Your PastWe mean… would you want to cook for Lynn Crawford again after she previously called your Italian Wedding Soup a divorce before the wedding?

6. When You’re Too Excited to See That Not Everyone is Feeling You

A quick lesson in how to (not) make friends and influence people: Win a string of immunities and then have THE BEST TIME prepping your dish in front of the other chefs competing for their lives.

7. Being a Fanboy

We totally get it: Daniel Boulud is the real deal, and cooking for him is stomach-dropping scary. To be honest, we’re actually kind of proud of Dennis for not fainting when he heard that he’d have to whip up a fancy French dish for one of his idols.

8.  When Someone Mentions Snacks

This is the only appropriate reaction when someone tells you that you have to create a Top Chef Canada-caliber dish using good old-fashioned beef jerky.

9. Needing to Smash Something. Now.

Sometimes when you’re under an insane time crunch and your regular old knife just isn’t smashing garlic the way you need it to, you have to resort to other measures. Like cathartic bottle smashing, for example.

10. I’ll Have One of Each, Please.

What would you want to eat the night before a big battle? Not one, but two dishes: Spaghetti Puttanesca and Grilled Steak with Salsa Verde. Heck, why not make it three? We’re not driving. Now that’s a girl after our own heart.

11. When You Make Something DE-LI-CIOUS.

It’s okay Nicole, if we made tortellini that good we’d probably be licking the spatula clean, too.

12. It’s All About Family.

As Mark McEwan told us, this thing was Dusty’s to lose. And while the disappointment of actually losing it was obviously in every inch of his body language, there was one pretty nifty thing in store: hugs from his wife and baby girl, whom he missed so much this season. And in the end, isn’t that the best prize of all? All together now: Awwwww.

Top Chef Canada: All-Stars Episode 9 Recap

The Fab Four. The Fantastic Four. The Ghostbusters. And now, the Top Chef Canada: All-Stars Top Four. Dustin, Nicole, Trevor and Dennis may be our new favourite squad in the kitchen. Now if only they were all on the same team to fight hunger and squash appetites across our great land, rather than competing against one another for the title of Top Chef Canada.

For now we’ll have to be content with these finalists fighting the good fight solo… or at least with a little help from some other notable all-stars. That’s because no penultimate episode of a reality series is complete without looking back at the past, and in the case of this culinary contest that meant bringing in the past four winners for some help in the Monogram Kitchen during the Quickfire Challenge.

Top-Chef-Canada-Episode-9-Four-Former-TCC-Winners
L-R: Dale McKay, Carl Heinrich, Matthew Stowe, and Rene Rodriguez with Eden and Mark.

The task at hand? Create as many All-Stars caliber dishes as possible in a mere 35 minutes. Our former winners went back to their roots and served as sous-chefs for the top four in the glutinous battle, which seemed destined to-be, despite the random drawing to determine the pairings. Luscious-locked Rene Rodriguez was back and a perfect match with Dennis’s independent style; the pair banged out three presentable dishes together. Season 3 winner Matthew Stowe was finally able to return a favour and help Nicole present three entrees after she helped him with his path to the championship back in the day. Meanwhile Trevor was reunited with second-season winner Carl Heinrich where they worked better than Batman and Robin to pump out six passable dishes that were “perfectly seasoned” according to Mark McEwan. That left Dusty and Dale McKay, our #BeardedBros to cobble together seven dishes—six of which were deemed All-Star worthy.

Top-Chef-Canada-Episode-9-Dustin-Gallagher-Dale-McKay
Dusty and Dale with their beards.

It’s a good thing these guys don’t have to do their own dishes because everything in our “clean-as-you-go” fibers was screaming at the… well, the screaming and general running around that was happening. Appliances were flying, chefs were sprinting and chaos ensued. Nicole was screaming nonsense and the contestants may have forgotten to scream “behind” more than once. (We miss you, Curtis.) Forget whichever poor sap has to do all of those dishes at the end of the day; we’re surprised no one lost a limb.


Classic Nicole.

Anyhow with a tie in place the challenge came down to what it should always come down to: flavour. And with his tastebuds still singing, Mark easily awarded the winning title (and $3,000 from the Monogram Kitchen) to Trevor, who is quickly gaining momentum heading into the finale. Obviously, Nicole and Dennis were pretty angry at themselves for not doing more while Dustin was probably wishing he stroked Dale’s “old-timey moustache” a little for good luck.

Trevor-Bird-Roasted-Salmon-Hollandaise-Asparagus
One of Trevor’s Six Top Chef Canada-caliber dishes: Slow Cooked Salmon, Hollandaise and Roasted Asparagus.

With their duties officially out of the way the four winners bid the chefs adieu for now, switching from kitchen elves to tasters for the Elimination Challenge. It was a contest more weighted than most, since this was the last hurdle before the finale; whoever went home was probably going to be kicking themselves for the foreseeable future. No one wants to be the guy who went home before the end, especially when you’ve been concocting dishes for the finale in your head for the past few weeks. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here.

For this week’s Elimination Challenge, the final four went back to the classic drawing of the knives to determine which game meat they’d have to prepare and serve family style for a group of 10. (And yes, we could feel Jesse face-palming from the sidelines over the fact that he was eliminated right before a game challenge.) The catch? The dish needed to be prepared on a grill, by the lake of all places at Toronto’s Palais Royale. How very Canadian. Ah yes, and because grilling venison, bison, duck and boar through the Canadian winds and uneven heat wasn’t challenging enough, the chefs had $150 and 30 minutes to frantically run through Kensington Market and find their ingredients. It was like watching the Tough Mudder of grocery shopping—who knew you had to have a certain level of physicality in order to cook?

Oh, and because the pressure of cooking to get into the finale wasn’t enough on the line, there was also a huge trip to Beringer Vineyards in California at stake for the winner. That’s right, not only would he or she get to participate in the finale, but they’d be able to relax afterwards by sipping wine overlooking a Napa Valley sunset with a loved one. Heck we’d sign up for that any day of the week.

Knowing all of that, the chefs got to grilling for their table of 10: judges Mark, Mijune Pak and Chris Nuttall-Smith, along with host Eden, guest judge and James Beard Award-winner Normand Laprise, and guest-tasters Steffan Howard, Dale, Carl, Matt and Rene. Now that’s a dinner party!

So with the wine flowing and the plating precariously presented, everyone dug into the “wild dinner.” Oh Eden, don’t ever change.

Dustin-Gallagher-Grilled-Venison-Birch-Glazed-Apples-Mustard-Apple-Jus
Dustin’s Grilled Venison with Birch-Glazed Apples, Mustard and Apple Jus

Dustin’s Grilled Venison with Apples was deemed classic, delicious and “safe,” while his pretty Potato Pave was a showstopper with all of its impressive potato layers. As for his Sweet and Sour Squash with Endive Salad, Brown-Butter Hazelnuts and Pickled Onions? The judges all agreed that it was a gamey dish they’d be happy to find on any menu.

Dennis-Tay-Whole-Roasted-Juniper-Cedar-Bison-Striploin
Dennis’s Whole Roasted Juniper and Cedar Bison Striploin

Next up was Dennis and his Whole Roasted Juniper and Cedar Bison Striploin. You could tell he was fighting hard to come back from the last hunk of meat he served tableside in this competition, which almost sent him home. Unfortunately he overcompensated and served meat that was too rare for some, although others at the table defended its cut. (Later, Mark would say Dennis got “lucky” with his piece of meat and that this wasn’t necessarily a result of skill.) As for his sides? His grilled cabbage and creamed leeks didn’t feel like a cohesive offering, and only served to confuse the judges in the end.

Trevor-Bird-Wild-Boar-Country-Sauage-Brined-Smoked-Boar-Loin
Trevor’s Wild Boar Country Sausage with Brined and Smoked Boar Loin

As for Trevor, well he went into the challenge more confident than most, having just won last week’s challenge as well as this week’s Quickfire. He wanted to recreate a version of a pork dish he serves at his restaurant and so he went with boar several ways, including a Kale Salad with Grilled Boar Belly, Wild Boar Country Sausage and Brined and Smoked Boar Loin. Oh yes, and he had a Wild Mushroom Polenta to top it all off. Unfortunately his cutting board presentation—a self-professed “gamble”—really didn’t strike the judge’s fancy. Both Mark and Mijune were visibly disappointed there wasn’t more on the plate, and no one was completely sure how to eat it or what went with what. From our couches it was hard to see the problem (we were eating the heck out of those sausage patties with our eyes), but then again we also think store-bought potato chips are the food of gods. Wait… or is that those little black salty olives from the olive bar?

Nicole-Gomes-Brined-Smoked-Cinnamon-Duck-Breast-Confit-Duck-Legs
Nicole’s Brined and Smoked Cinnamon Duck Breast, Confit Duck Legs and Cherry Jus

Anyhow last but not least was Nicole, who had the difficult challenge of grilling duck—apparently that’s the last way anyone wants to cook the bird, since the fat is kind of a huge fire hazard. (Perhaps the show should have come with a “don’t grill this at home” disclaimer?) So Nicole showed some smarts and came up with a workaround instead: she smoked her duck breast on the grill with some cinnamon and paired it with confit duck legs. She then served the dish with a Cherry Jus,  Creamed Savoy Cabbage with Braised Chestnuts and Bacon, for an overall offering that was largely applauded at the table, despite the flabby duck skin.


When Normand Laprise drinks your Cherry Jus straight from the pitcher, it’s safe to say you’re not going home.

Heading into Judge’s Table it was pretty obvious which direction things would go. It turns out playing things safe was a good bet in this case, because Dustin was the night’s overall winner. Unsurprisingly Nicole also joined him for a secure spot in the finale, meaning it all came down to Trevor and Dennis.


Mark and Chris can’t believe what they’re hearing from Trevor.

As the judges explained their reasoning and critiques, Trevor was all-around defensive, proving that even nice guys get snippy when they’re tired and missing their family. This competition grills on you, guys. (Pun intended.) But while Mark didn’t really like Trevor’s “posture,” he was quick to point out it wasn’t a popularity contest and that this decision came down to the food itself. Sadly, that meant Dennis would not get his chance to cook a Filipino feast for the crowd in the finale, as his convoluted side dishes cost him the competition in the end.

“What a cool guy,” Mark said as Dennis walked out to go and pack his knives. We thought so too, Mark. We thought so too.

“I’m pretty disappointed… The worst part is not executing under these circumstances. This was the biggest day and I just didn’t produce. Being so close is a tough pill to swallow,” Dennis said afterwards. “I hope people look at food a little differently after experiencing what I have to offer. I approach food to broaden people’s minds. There’s a big world out there with a lot of opinions and different ways to eat and enjoy. I hope people get that from me and what I’m trying to do.”

Top-Chef-Canada-Episode-9-Final-Four-Judges-Table
Dennis’s final judges table.

“Dennis is one of the most likable young chefs you’ll ever meet. He’s always got this big smile on his face. He’s incredibly modest. He’s helpful with the other chefs, very genuine,” Mark told us later on. “He’s competitive by nature, otherwise he wouldn’t be on Top Chef Canada, but he doesn’t show that. We had some good moments with him and he leaves you with this feeling where you want to give him a big hug.”

“Oh, my god, Dennis has such a fantastic perspective. He brings such incredible and really rare influences into his food, influences that you often don’t find in kind of downtown Toronto fine cooking,” Chris added. “That’s one of the things that makes him such an exciting and interesting chef. He wanted so badly to do a Filipino feast for the finale and I would give just about anything to eat that food. He brings such a smart touch to just about everything he does… he’s an artist who has been painting other artists’ canvases throughout his career and I think as soon as he gets his own canvas, he’s going to do something impeccable.”

Until then we’ll always have those crispy prawns. Good luck Dennis—we want to give you a hug, too.

Next week? The finale. Hard to believe we’re here already, isn’t it? Will it be Tasmanian Devil Nicole, Defensive Nice Guy Trevor or Smiles-For-Days Dusty? The countdown to the big reveal is on.

Want more Top Chef Canada?
Watch this bonus scene from Episode 9.

Top Chef Canada: All-Stars Episode 6 Recap

You know who else was shocked by Andrea’s elimination last week? Every. Other. Chef. Yup, Top Chef Canada: All-Stars was back with a new episode on Sunday night and the remaining competitors were pretty freaked out that an early front-runner had left the competition so soon. Connie even had a bad dream about Judges’ Table as an indirect result of it. But let’s be honest: the chefs were freaked out but also probably slightly relieved. Because we all know that the master plan in doing this show is to eliminate the competition, one by one. Mr. Burns, rubbing his fingers together muttering “excellent,” styles.

Top-Chef-Canada-Josh-Elkin-Eden-Grinshpan
Josh Elkin (left) with Eden Grinshpan

But on Sunday night there was other business to attend to first: namely the chefs had to jerk around. That’s right, the night’s Quickfire Challenge revolved around everyone’s favourite road trip snack: jerky. Guest judge Josh Elkin, A.K.A. the Sugar Showdown host who’s known for being creative with his culinary quests, joined Eden Grinsphan in a Krave Jerky cook-off in which the chefs had to incorporate the beefy snack into an appetizer. Cue the awesome train of facial reactions, ranging anywhere from utter disgust (oh, hey Dennis) to delight (what up, Jesse?). Oh, and did we mention there was a $5,000 prize on the table? We could practically see Nicole’s eyes light up.

So what did cooking with flavoured jerky entail, exactly? While we probably would have hid in the corner and stuffed our faces with the stuff, rugged outdoorsman Jesse opted to rehydrate a pot of jerky in order to wrap it around some scallops and white asparagus. (Side note: we don’t care how great white asparagus tastes; it does not photograph well. Can we all just please agree on that?) Unfortunately, his plan didn’t exactly pan out when the jerky became gross and soggy, and he had to go with a backup Jerky Coated Scallops with his poached asparagus instead.

Sadly the dish failed to impress Josh, as did Connie’s Vietnamese salad and Dennis’ Jerky Pork Dumplings, which he meticulously crafted. We actually felt kind of bad for the guy; he worked so hard on that dish and was clearly upset to fall into the bottom (especially for something small like using too much soy). Dennis has got to be in for a revival in the near future, we can feel it in our jerky-loving bones.

Top-Chef-Canada-Episode-6-Nicole-Arancini-Jerky-4-ways
Nicole’s Arancini with Sticky Rice and Jerky 4 Ways

On the other end of the spectrum Trevor knew how to play to his audience and created a riff of a Jalapeño Popper that we would totally order in a bar. His strategy of a swank-free plate earned him a spot in the Top 3, but it wasn’t enough to edge him into a win. Dustin seemed to take the opposite strategy and transformed a Beef Tartare via pickled jerky, but while that also impressed Josh it was Nicole’s “balls, balls, balls,” or what was more properly known as Arancini with Sticky Rice and Jerky 4 Ways, that impressed the guest judge most.

So Nicole walked away with yet another cash prize. Shocker, right? At this point she’s won so much money she almost doesn’t even need to win the show. We wonder if she did end up giving Trevor his requested thousand bucks. Are sharesies even allowed on this show?

Anyhow, you can’t really blame Nicole for feeling on top of the world, or assuming that she had this thing in the bag. After all, as she pointed out to the cameras at one point she’s never actually been on the bottom. Which meant that the tide was about to turn, or the sauce was about to thicken… or whatever the culinary equivalent of that expression would be.

Top-Chef-Canada-Episode-5-Canadian-History-Book

So with the Quickfire behind them and immunity no longer on the table the chefs were asked to get patriotically creative with Canada’s 150th birthday for the Elimination Challenge. The show, in turn, got creative too and swapped out the traditional drawing of the knives for a drawing of the history books. Each chef had to pick a book that represented an important piece of Canadian history and then create a dish (an appetizer, entrée or a dessert) assigned to that moment.


We’re not surprised this was Curtis’s reaction when Eden mentioned book reports.

Obviously the chefs who drew desserts—Nicole and Connie—were less than impressed. “Chefs don’t want to do desserts, that’s why there’s pastry chefs,” Nicole lamented over her selection. Um, to be fair, didn’t Nicole just wow the judges with her riff on a carrot cake that she made of her own volition in the last episode? Yeah, we thought so.


When mere mortals are feeling stumped in front of the fridge they just end up ordering a pizza.

Either way, with the tasks assigned and the 15-minute shopping frenzy at McEwan foods done, the chefs had the prerequisite two hours to prep in the Monogram Kitchen before heading to this week’s hot spot, the ROM. There, guest judge Jeremy Charles and guest taster Ken Lister joined Mark McEwan, Mijune Pak, Janet Zuccarini and Eden at the table for an all-around Canadian feast.

Top-Chef-Canada-Episode-6-Jeremy-Charles
Jeremy Charles ready to taste Canadian History.

Dustin, who grinningly pulled the Gold Rush and had no idea what to do (“Do I look like a history buff?”) impressed the entire country yet again with his Cod Fritter Stuffed with Quail Egg. Between the flecks of gold on his plate and the golden hue of the runny yolk the judges definitely awarded the plate a gold star. Meanwhile Dennis’s comeback and Trevor’s resurgence were also present-day themes of historic proportions when the latter’s Red Fife Fry Bread impressed a raving Mijune and the latter’s Striploin was perfectly executed in puff pastry with a “150” carved into the side. Oh Curtis. And here you thought it was going to be cheesy.

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Dustin’s Cod Fritter Stuffed with Quail Egg, Baked Cod and Sea Buckthorn Vinaigrette

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Trevor’s Roasted Striploin with Mushrooms, Pearl Onions and Porcini Foam in Puff Pastry

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Dennis’s Birch Syrup Bison Carpaccio, Sea Asparagus, Pickled Ramps and Red Fife Fry Bread

In the end it was Dustin’s dish that won again, leading to another megawatt smile from the fan favourite. (Seriously, that guy could power his own kitchen.) And with Connie’s Apple Crisp with Candied Bacon landing in the middle of the pack, that left Jesse’s (Not-So) Braised Short Rib, Curtis’s Roasted Cod and Nicole’s Apple Rhubarb Compote as the worst dishes of the night. And here Nicole thought she was “killing it.” Whoops.


Never say never, Nicole.

As conflicted as the judges were at all of the dishes, it was Curtis’s over-thought plate that stood out as the worst. He obviously had a feeling he would be sent packing, which is maybe why he told his fellow chefs that “feeling good is for stupid people” during the challenge. His confidence just never got there and he kept over-thinking all of his plates.

“If we’re going to go by my feelings, I knew there were certain issues I wish I could have solved,” Curtis said following his exit. “I was certainly disappointed that I didn’t execute every aspect as I exactly wanted to. You almost always mentally prepare yourself to be sent home. Now that I’ve been through Top Chef Canada twice, it’s perhaps not my greatest strength in terms of the environment or the context of how we compete. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t want to win more than anyone else.”

“What I love so much about Curtis is he’s not your typical chef… He never went down the normal route,” Eden revealed to us afterwards. “He gave us something that was always unique and calculated in his own way. Sometimes it really worked out. Sometimes it didn’t, but sometimes it really did.”

“I always call Curtis the mad professor,” Mark told us later. “He really has a process that he goes through mentally when he does a dish. I don’t always get it, but the stories are good. Oftentimes, they work, but I think Curtis would do better if he just had a slightly less complicated theory, in terms of how he lands on the plate. He really tries to have a lot of different formulas going in one game and sometimes it gets to be a bit much. Oftentimes, his textures were just not there.”

Textures or not, it was another rough exit for everyone involved. We’ll miss Curtis, his bromance with Trevor and that wicked slick ponytail. But as they say the show must go on.

Watch Episode 6 Bonus Scene:

 

How to Win at Dessert: Use Versatile Pâte à Choux for All-Stars Treats

From profiteroles – or, as we more commonly know them, cream puffs – to savoury, cheesy gougeres, towers of spun-sugar caged croquembouche and chocolate eclairs – all are built on one simple recipe: pâte à choux. This pastry is airy, light and hollow – which makes it ideal for filling with delicious things. Top-Chef-Canada-Episode-6-Nicole-Gomes-Paris-Brest Nicole Gomes’s Paris-Brest with Apple-Rhubarb Compote and Ginger Pastry Cream celebrating Canada’s 150th Birthday. When it doesn’t work out, as chef Nicole Gomes unfortunately had happened to her in the sixth episode of Top Chef Canada: All-Stars, the pastry was dense, heavy and hard to cut. The difference here between the two comes down to technique. Croquembouche Anna Olson’s impressive croquembouche.  Pâte à choux’s name reflects the dough’s cabbage-like appearance when baked. A fundamental part of the world of French pastry, it forms the backbone of many a dessert, including:

    • Profiteroles or Cream Puffs – small puffs of choux pastry, often filled with pastry cream, ice cream or sweetened whipped cream and dipped in a chocolate glaze.
    • Chouquettes – essentially profiteroles, but topped with pearl sugar before baking.
    • Croquembouche – A tower of profiteroles, held together by caramelized sugar and typically encased in a spun-sugar cage.
    • Eclairs – like profiteroles but oblong in shape.
    • Paris-Brest – named for the famed bicycle race, it is shaped like a wheel.
    • Honore Cake – A dessert with a puff pastry base that is topped with pastry or whipped cream and encircled on top with profiteroles.
    • Gougeres – a savoury profiterole, the choux pastry is augmented with cheese and sometimes herbs.

So, how to ensure you’ll have a Top Chef Canada-worthy pastry? Well, understanding the science behind pâte à choux is a good place to start. Whereas cakes and cookies rely on baking soda and baking powder to give them lift – created by a chemical reaction between the leaveners and other ingredients – the puff in a cream puff comes from steam being released. The water in the dough is heated as they bake and starts to expand, but the shell of the pastry has already started to cook, so that steam creates a ballooning effect. The result is a hollow dessert waiting to be filled. Laura-Calders-French-Food-At-Home-Gougeres A savoury treat: Laura Calder’s Gougeres made with gruyere cheese.

The ingredients are simple: butter, water, flour, eggs and a bit of salt. It’s the technique here that matters. Think of pâte à choux as a four-step process: two parts for making the dough and two parts when it’s baking.

The dough starts with one part butter and two of water – or a water-milk combination – that are brought to a simmer and then combined with flour. It’s key to add the flour all in one go and then keep stirring the mixture without stopping for several minutes to cook out that raw flour flavour and start drying the dough a bit. Good news: this is an excellent arm workout.

If you want to keep working your arms, you can transfer the dough to a bowl and add the eggs while continuing to stir, but feel free to move to a stand mixer or pull out your handheld one for the next step. The addition of eggs is where intuition needs to take precedence. Adding too much egg will lead to a runny dough and that means flattened pastries. Instead, add them one at a time while mixing and resist the last one if the dough is glossy and soft, but holds its shape when scooped.

Bake-with-Anna-Olson-profiteroles-eclairs Baking Queen Anna Olson’s eclairs and profiteroles.

A piping bag can be used to make the desired pastry shapes, but dolloping the dough with a spoon to make profiteroles works just as well. If piping, dip the end of your finger in a bit of water and smooth out any tips on the dough that could overbake.

Now the dough is ready for the oven. The key here is to start at a higher temperature and then reduce it. That initial blast of heat will help them puff as the water evaporates; the lower temperature will help them finish baking without overcooking. For best results, the tip of a sharp knife should be used to pierce the bottom of the pastry as soon it’s out of the oven to let any residual steam escape and keep it from getting soggy. These vents are perfect for then piping in pastry cream. The result should be a light and crisp outer shell with a virtually hollow interior. All choux pastries are best when eaten on the same day they’re made – which, really, is the perfect excuse to finish them all off.

Spring-Pastel-Eclairs Try these eclairs with pretty pastel-coloured glazes.

Pâte à Choux
Cooking Time:
45 minutes
Serves: 20 to 25 profiteroles or about 10 eclairs

Ingredients:
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup skim milk
1/2 cup butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat, bring the water, milk, butter and salt to a simmer. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add all the flour at once, stirring vigorously until the dough is no longer sticking to the side of the pot.
3. Transfer the dough to a bowl and, using a stand mixer or handheld beaters, mix in the eggs, one at a time, making sure they are fully incorporated before adding the next one.
4. Scoop or pipe the dough into mounds on the parchment paper-lined baking sheet for profiteroles, smoothing over any points with a wet finger. (For eclairs, pipe oblong shapes.)
5. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 375°F and bake for another 15 minutes or so. The pastries should be puffed and nicely golden.
6. Using the tip of a sharp knife or a toothpick, poke a hole in the side or the base of the pastry to vent any extra steam.
7. Cool completely before filling with ice cream, sweetened whipped cream, pastry cream or even savoury fillings.

Filling Recipes:
Laura Calder’s Pastry Cream
Savoury Cream Cheese Profiteroles

Want more tips? Watch Anna Olson make her version of pâte à choux along with her recipes for Profiteroles, Croquembouche and Gateau St. Honore.

Make Daniel Boulud’s Top Chef Canada Cod Basquaise at Home

Creating a dish from memory is one thing, but it was a whole different game in the fifth episode of Top Chef Canada: All-Stars when competitors were asked to blindly taste the four favourite dishes of famed chef Daniel Boulud and then attempt to recreate them. Added to the pressure? They would be cooking for the master chef himself.

TCC-Ep5-Daniel-Boulud-Mark-McEwan
Daniel Boulud with Mark McEwan in the Monogram Kitchen.

While others tried to parse out the ingredients in a Mussel and Cauliflower Veloutè, Poulet Chausseur and Steak Tartare, Andrea  and Nicole  were presented with Cod Basquaise, a fish dish flavoured with ingredients that region is known for, including tomatoes, Espelette peppers and chorizo.

TCC-Ep5-nicole-gomes-andrea-nicholson
Nicole and Andrea blind tasting Boulud’s Cod Basquaise in the Episode 5 Quickfire Challenge.

Andrea was praised for her version which had all the key components, while Nicole neglected to add peppers – to Boulud’s surprise. (Ultimately, Boulud and head judge Mark McEwan, awarded Andrea the Quickfire Challenge win – and earned the coveted advantage going into the elimination round.)

TCC-Episode-5-Andrea-Cod-Basquaise
Andrea’s interpretation of Boulud’s Cod Basquaise 

The Basque Country region overlaps the border between France and Spain, at the western edge of the Pyranees mountain range and along the Atlantic coast. Unsurprisingly, seafood is a chief ingredient in the Basque people’s celebrated cuisine, which shares some commonalities with Spain, including the use of olive oil and tomatoes. Peppers are also frequently seen in dishes. But, while we in North America will likely reach for red peppers, those in Basque use the Espelette, a variety grown in the Basque area.

Espelette-Peppers
Espelette peppers

This trio – tomatoes, peppers and olive oil – are key ingredients in Boulud’s celebrated Cod Basquaise, which takes the fish and cooks it with the vegetables, oil and onions, along with some garlic, naturellement.

While chicken is often on the ingredient list for Basque-style recipes, Boulud uses it and cod in seemingly equal measure. In his Café Boulud Cookbook it’s all about the fish (along with chorizo and clams), while on his website, he has posted his recipe for Poulet Basquaise with Artichokes, Peppers and Chorizo.

Fish is such a treat to make a meal from because it cooks quickly and, when done right, is flaky and light. Boulud’s Cod Basquaise takes about half the time to prepare and cook compared to the chicken version – even quicker if you consider the famed chef recommends seasoning the chicken the night before cooking the recipe.

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Daniel’s Cod Basquaise from Top Chef Canada: All-Stars Episode 5

A fish like cod, known for its mild flavour and versatility, does well when paired with most flavours, including the bold ones associated with Basque cooking. However, fish can seem intimidating to many of us because for lack of experience cooking it, fear of committing the cardinal sin of overcooking.

Cooking fish at a lower temperature – whether roasting or pan-frying – makes it easier to catch it when it’s cooked to perfection and before it’s gone too far. For Boulud’s recipe, the temperature of the pan is turned down to low once the cod has been added to the pan, for example.

While Andrea fairly accurately recreated Boulud’s memory only from taste, those of us wanting to attempt Cod Basquaise at home have a little help – Daniel Boulud  shared his recipe with us! This recipe has been modified slightly for the home cook.

Daniel Boulud’s Cod Basquaise

Total Cooking Time: 15-20 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients:
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, split and sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 bell peppers, red and green, cut into thin strips
Salt
1 tsp piment d’Espelette
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 cup white wine
4 plum tomatoes, peeled, split, seeds removed, cut into thin strips
4 5-oz filets of cod
2 Tbsp chopped parsley

Directions:
1. In a shallow braising pan set over medium heat, warm 2 Tbsp of olive oil and add the onion, garlic and bell pepper.
2. Season with salt, piment d’Espelette and smoked paprika. Cook for 5 minutes, until the onion and peppers have softened, then add the white wine, tomato and cod.
3. Cover, reduce the heat to low and continue cooking 8 to 10 minutes, until the fish is opaque and flakes easily with a fork.
4. Top with the chopped parsley and serve with crusty baguette.

You can also try these delicious cod recipes:
Ling Cod with Clams

Granadian Cod and Orange Salad with Black Olives

Pan Braised Cod with Puttanesca Sauce

Top Chef Canada: All-Stars Episode 5 Recap

When you’re a chef who has spent your entire life perfecting the food you present and your dishes are essentially your soul on a plate, it’s easy to question your own value or worth when you do a competition like Top Chef Canada: All-Stars. How could you not — given the constant critiques and top-notch competitors that constantly force you to up your game. At some point, you may or may not want to curl up into a ball with a bottle of wine or the biggest pint of ice cream you’ve ever seen in your life. Rocky Road might be an appropriate flavour, judging by this week’s episode.

Head judge Mark McEwan seemed to realize this at the beginning of the episode, because with just eight competitors left and heavyweight Trista sent packing, he stepped into the locker room to have a little heart-to-heart with the finalists. “There’s no knives, right?” he joked before sitting down and telling everyone to try and pick themselves up. Easier said than done, Mark. Easier said than done.

TCC-Ep5-Daniel-Boulud-Mark-McEwan
Daniel Boulud, left, with Mark McEwan.

Of course it’s hard to feel too sorry for yourself when you get the chance to cook for a world-renowned chef as a little pick-me-up. And that’s exactly what happened when Daniel Boulud stopped by the Monogram Kitchen to help Mark execute the Quickfire Challenge, when pretty much everyone geeked out over his appearance. The French chef (who just so happens to have more than a dozen restaurants around the world), stopped by to make his favourite dishes for the contestants, who were then paired off and tasked with recreating them. The catch? (Isn’t there always a catch?) They had just 60 seconds to taste Boulud’s dishes… and they were blindfolded. It was a crime, to be honest, watching these guys manhandle the beautifully presented plates and not be able to actually enjoy the elegant food. Man, competition is fierce.


Seeing a dish treated like this just hurts.

For their part, Trevor and Dennis drew Steak Tartare, garnished with some lattice-cut potato chips that we’re still dreaming about. While Dennis’ first instinct was to do an Asian riff on the classic, he got in his own head and opted for a rustic take instead — a move he fully regretted when Boulud revealed he had been hoping for an Asian influence. And so the mini-victory was handed to Trevor and his more refined version instead.

Nicole might be having the most fun this season.

Meanwhile, Dustin triumphed over Curtis with his take on a Mussel and Cauliflower Velouté (Mother sauce alert!), Jesse took down Connie with his riff on a Poulet Chasseur, and Andrea squared off against Nicole in a battle of Cod Basquaise. Speaking of, apparently Boulud makes such a perfectly cooked cod that it actually tastes like sablefish, because that’s the protein both ladies chose for their dishes.


Go ahead, Andrea. You totally deserve that smug feeling after beating Nicole.

In the end, it was Andrea who edged out Nicole when the latter missed the peppers in the dish, but she also wound up winning the overall Quickfire — her second win so far this season. Given the building tension between Andrea and Nicole, which started last week when Nicole won back-to-back Quickfires and then basically couldn’t stop talking about it, it seemed like a pretty personal win for Andrea. But you know, receiving the praise of a world-renowned chef will do that do a gal.

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Andrea’s winning dish based on Daniel Boulud’s Cod Basquaise.

However, there was another twist this week: with the competition narrowing down, this was the first time winning the Quickfire didn’t come with immunity. Instead, Andrea became a team captain for the Elimination Challenge, and her advantage was to pick her opposing captain. This was our first clue that the rest of the night wouldn’t necessarily go so well for our girl crush. But we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves here.

Andrea automatically picked Curtis to head up the other team, explaining to the cameras that she didn’t want to work with him in the upcoming challenge: Retail Wars. That’s right, Restaurant Wars are out this time around, and a new challenge, in which the chefs were asked to prepare on-the-go products, is in. Sorry Dusty, we would have loved to have seen those menus you’ve been dreaming up.

TCC-Ep5-Andrea-Dustin-Curtis

Regardless, in the end, Andrea selected Dustin, Connie and Dennis to be on her team, Global Goods, while Curtis chose Nicole, Trevor and Jesse on his team, Nosh Urban Eatery. Mark announced that this week’s special guest judge would be non other than Italian retail queen of Eataly, Lidia Bastianich, and with that the chefs were off to McEwan Foods where they had 15 minutes to shop and $150 each in their Interac accounts. We don’t know about you, but it takes us 15 minutes to find parking when we go grocery shopping — grabbing all of your ingredients in that kind of a time frame has got to be stressful.

All the judges were besotted with Lidia Bastianich, even tough-guy-but-he’s-really-a-softie Mark McEwan.

Not as stressful as working on a team that doesn’t gel, mind you, and it certainly looked as though the Nosh folks weren’t exactly having a cohesive night. Between Curtis’s mess of a mise en place and Nicole’s Tasmanian Devil coming out in full force, there was a lot of yelling and near-accidents to be concerned about. Meanwhile, it was The Get Along Gang over at Global Goods, where it looked like Andrea’s background in retail with her Killer Condiments line and marketing experience would all but ensure a win.

TCC-Ep5-Lidia-with-Eden-Janet
Lidia Bastianich with Eden Grinshpan and Janet Zuccarini judging the chefs’ Retail Wars to-go offerings.

Andrea’s seafood salad looked elegant and creative, while her giant Mozzarella-Stuffed Veal Meatballs had us salivating (how do you pronounce “mozzarella” anyhow? The judges had us second guessing ourselves). Meanwhile Dennis’ Compressed Watermelon Salad was gorgeous, Dustin’s Black Currant Pate as the impulse buy was fancy-schmancy, and Connie’s Garlic Dressing for her Tuna Conserva looked like something we’d slurp up with a spoon. As it turns out, there’s a reason we eat with our eyes first, because while all of those dishes looked killer, they were all among the judge’s least favourite offerings of the night. That’s right, those dishes were the worst and everything we thought we knew is a lie.


That exact moment you find out the other team won…

Further proving that fact was the praise that Nicole’s impulse buy, A.K.A. the heavy-looking Pineapple Carrot Cake with Brown Butter Frosting, received from the judges. While we would probably never impulsively buy that cake ourselves going on looks alone, we totally underestimated the power of brown butter. In a frosting, no less. Judge Janet Zuccarini called it the best carrot cake she’d ever had.

“It’s such a simple and ubiquitous dessert that I almost feel slightly embarrassed at my reaction,” Zuccarini told us later. “I still think about it today. In fact, I’m going to see if I can buy that recipe off her to use in my Jamaican restaurant. It’s such a simple, almost pedestrian dessert, yet I just can’t believe how delicious [it was]. At the end of the day, delicious is delicious. And that was delicious.”

Meanwhile Nicole’s Panang Curry was equally praised, which meant that she wasn’t just the night’s overall winner — she also got to walk away with the $10,000 prize. Add that into her $2,000 winnings from last week and this Tasmanian Devil has a nice little nest egg going on. She should really be buying everyone drinks.

With Nicole on top that could only mean Andrea was on the bottom. Those two are kind of like the kitchen equivalent of Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, only they’re way nicer to each other. (They are Canadian, after all.) Anyhow, it brought us back full cycle to the second episode, when Andrea revealed that even though she had immunity, she wouldn’t be surprised if a bad dish sent her packing. Well, with no immunity to protect her and two dishes that failed to impress, the judges had no choice but to send her home in a shocking turn of events. It really was (meat) balls. Especially since Andrea — who used to work at Zuccarini’s Trattoria Nervosa — is so renowned for her delicious pockets of meat.


We’re just going to leave this here. 

“I still use her recipe for meatballs at my restaurant, she’s almost known for her meatballs,” Zuccarini said later on. “And she lost on making meatballs. There was some kind of complication with timing on that dish, but I could not believe she lost on meatballs.”

Us, either. And for those keeping track, that makes two early front-runners gone faster than we can say “a la cuisine!”

“I’m devastated and shocked… I mean I’ve been doing really well. So to be kicked off on a retail challenge is super brutal; it’s what I built my business on so it sucks,” Andrea said afterwards. “I’m not happy with it because I’ve been on the top so long. To come to the bottom and just be kicked off, it really hurts. It’s a really hard pill to swallow.”


We so feel this.

“Andrea had amazing days, like she was blowing my mind with what she was cooking and then in retail wars she made a soggy seafood salad” Mark told us. “I felt bad the way she left… it was tough. It just wasn’t her day and someone had to go. Those decisions are never clear and they never sit very well. I’ve felt bad about that.”

TCC-Ep5-Losing-Team-at-Judges-table
Andrea’s red team Global Foods at their reckoning in front of the judges.

“A lot of criticisms were pretty hard… Chefs have bad days and today was a bad day for me. I still really stand behind the food I produced today and I’m proud of that,” Andrea, who just opened Butchie’s restaurant in Whitby, Ont. added. “I’ve shown some really amazing dishes, I’ve been on top for 90 per cent of the challenges. So I’m proud of what I’ve done but I would be much prouder if I was in the finale. I’m a fierce competitor and I want to win. Not winning hurts to my core.”

As for us, we knew all bets were off the table heading into this thing, but Andrea leaving on the heels of Trista’s exit was another blow. We’re almost too scared to watch next week and see who goes home, but at the same time we’re just oh-so-hungry for more.

Iron Chefs Reveal Their Secrets to Winning in Kitchen Stadium

When seven chefs enter Kitchen Stadium to earn the chance to cook against three Iron Chefs in the new series, Iron Chef Gauntlet, they will need focus, good time management and solid flavours in their dishes.  So say the chefs the competitors will have to topple in order to earn the Iron Chef title.

Iron-Chef-Gauntlet-Competitors-Group
A new generation of Iron Chef hopefuls enters Kitchen Stadium in the new series. Find out who they are here.

Iron Chef Gauntlet – airing Sundays at 9 E/P – features seven superstar chefs competing first against each other in Kitchen Stadium, until one is left to face off in separate battles against Bobby Flay, Masaharu Morimoto and Michael Symon for a chance to earn the right to be called an Iron Chef.

Iron-Chef-Gauntlet-Flay-Simon-Morimoto-Kitchen-Stadium
Iron Chefs Flay, Morimoto and Symon getting ready to battle in the Gauntlet.

The competition will be fierce; the trio of Iron Chefs have a combined 103 wins in Kitchen Stadium. Through all those battles on both Iron Chef America and, for Morimoto, on the original Japanese show, the three have learned a thing or two about how to come out on top.

Iron-Chef-America-S10-Symon-Battle-Octopus
Michael Symon competing in an octopus battle in Iron Chef America Season 10. 

“The last five minutes goes really quick,” says Michael Symon, who holds the highest rate of wins compared to his fellow Iron Chefs, with 34 first-place finishes out of 42. “Don’t underestimate how quickly it goes, and start getting your food on the plate as quickly as you can.”

Symon understands what it’s like to be on the other side of Kitchen Stadium; on his first appearance on the show, back in 2005, he lost to Morimoto who created a series of stunning dishes featuring asparagus, including his signature ‘stained glass’ sushi.

He advises competitors to rely on their cooking strengths.

“Cook the food that got you here,” he adds. “Not the food that you think someone else wants you to cook.”

Iron-Chef-America-Flay-vs-Hughes
One of Flay’s losses was to challenger Chuck Hughes in a battle using lobster.

Flay, who was been triumphant 43 times out of 60, echoes Symon’s advice about not venturing too far out of the culinary box.

“Do something that is simple,” is his advice. “Something really well-executed is important, [because] these judges know what they’re tasting. So, taste, taste, taste.”

Morimoto may have the longest history with the Iron Chef show, but he keeps his advice succinct. “Focus,” says the chef who has won 26 times in his 44 appearances. “Don’t have too much focus and forget about normal potential.”

Iron-Chef-America-S10-Morimoto-Paiche-Fish-Battle
In Iron Chef America season 10, Morimoto battles with the secret ingredient paiche fish.

No matter how well they manage their time is or how focused a chef is on presentation and creativity, ultimately it all comes down to the flavours of the dishes.

“Make sure you have a contrast of textures and then some surprises as they’re eating it,” says Flay.

Symon points out that because it’s a competition, the judges are faced with eating a number of dishes and competitors will be smart to keep that in mind.

“Keep your flavours very simple and clean, but remember that the judges are only going to take probably one or two bites of your dish, so … you can’t cook subtly,” says Symon. “I think you have to have nice, poppy flavours that are going to excite the judges with one bite.”

Host Alton Brown takes you behind-the-scenes of Iron Chef Gauntlet:

 

Top Chef Canada: All-Stars Episode 4 Recap

There have been more than few epic bromances in our time. Brad Pitt and George Clooney. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Chuck Hughes and Danny Smiles. But after watching the most recent edition of Top Chef Canada: All-Stars, we’d like to add Curtis Luk and Trevor Bird to that list.

Because this is a competition and all, it’s easy to forget that many of these contestants are actually friends in real life. So it escaped our memories that Curtis and Trevor not only both competed in the second season of Top Chef Canada, but that they also worked together afterwards to open Trevor’s Fable restaurant in Vancouver.

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Season 2, Episode 6: No one looks this happy at judges table unless they had the best dishes.

So when the pair found themselves on the bottom of the competition after last week’s Middle Eastern Feast, they took their “Walk of Shame” back into the Monogram Kitchen in a friendly fashion. So naturally we felt torn as to whether we should hug them or fist bump them; either way watching the chefs band together like that made us really, really want them to do well in this week’s Quickfire Challenge.

Luckily, the duo proved the culinary powers of bromances are actually a real thing, and they did exactly that. Tired of being on the bottom, the guys buckled in and sucked up the night’s Quickfire challenge better than most: create a memorable brunch.

You see, as anyone who knows a chef in their life can attest, chefs hate (or in Trista’s words “f—ing hates”) the brunch shift. It can be repetitive, stressful and involves getting up at a ridiculous hour like 4:30 a.m. in order to serve it. It’s basically the hell of all shifts for chefs, and so when host Eden Grinshpan announced that she and Brunch Queen, guest judge Maneet Chauhan, wanted the contestants to create an ultimate brunch dish utilizing a Braun multiquick hand blender… well let’s just say it looked like a few of them wanted to knock back a few non-celebratory mimosas first.

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Maneet Chauhan advising the chefs of the theme of the Quickfire Challenge.

Trista, who went into the whole thing with a self-professed negative attitude, attempted an updated Croque Monsieur with smoked salmon and béchamel that Chauhan thought tasted gummy, and it landed her at the bottom of the pack. Dennis, meanwhile, fulfilled the creative part of the challenge with his Filipino brunch of European bass and garlic rice, but an overly grilled fish was less than desirable to the judges. As for Jesse’s potato pancakes? Well there was just way too much going on with that plate, which meant he rounded out the bottom three.


Be careful not to get a contact buzz, Trevor.

And that brings us back to our boys of the kitchen, Trevor and Curtis. The former really impressed us by smoking his own salmon on the coolest looking hot-box inspired smoker we’ve ever seen. His resulting Salmon Pancakes were a true highlight, elevated even further by the picked shallots and horseradish crème fraîche. Meanwhile Curtis made the most mouthwatering-sounding Shrimp and Grits, which were topped with a perfectly poached egg crusted in cornmeal. Please. Get. In. Our. Bellies.

Unfortunately for the guys but fortunately for Nicole, it was her riff on Pain Perdu with decadent almond croissants and cheesy duck eggs that made her the ultimate winner for a second week in a row. That meant she not only lucked out with immunity in the Elimination Challenge, but she also nabbed $2,000 from Braun and a De’Longhi Automatic Espresso Machine. Maybe Nicole can use it the next time she’s got to get up early for brunch.

For now she’s pumped up enough, it seems. Heading into the Elimination Challenge, the chefs were asked to create dishes inspired by some of Canada’s great cities. And Nicole was obviously feeling pretty giddy since she had immunity and would automatically make the Top 8 next week. You know what they say about the view from the top though; it can be pretty lonely—especially when you keep reminding everyone else facing potential elimination that you have immunity. So you could forgive Andrea for not having any of Nicole’s friendly banter while they were prepping their dishes, explaining to the cameras that she just wanted Nicole to shush and do her work already so that the rest of them could cook in peace.


You can almost hear giddy Nicole’s cackle…

Maybe Andrea was a little crankier than she let on earlier in the episode, when she said the real Quickfire was having kids? Or maybe she just felt extra stressed out about Lynn Crawford being the guest judge of the night. The last time Andrea cooked for her in season one, she made an Italian Wedding Soup and Crawford said it tasted like a divorce before the wedding. Ouch.


Andrea’s feeling about the Elimination Challenge are a bit different than Nicole’s.

It wasn’t all animosity though; in fact it was pretty cool watching the chefs collaborate on their dishes despite only having 15 minutes to shop at McEwan Foods. With so many different palates from so many different regions, everyone was giving each other tips about their respective cities and flavour profiles… it was such a Canadian thing to do.

Connie, whose mom was diagnosed with stomach cancer and was given eight months to live, has understandably been off her game so far this season. But she too was in the “Walk of Shame Club” and also tired of being on the bottom, so she went into this thing intent on getting her groove back. When she drew St. John’s as her inspiration city, she was determined to prove her worth and create a dish that would blow the socks off of Eden, judges Crawford, Mark McEwan, Mijune Pak and Chris Nuttall-Smith, along with guest taster Victor Barry who was hosting everyone at his swanky Toronto spot, Piano Piano.

Blow their socks off she did, with a beautifully crafted marrow chimney on top of her St. John’s-inspired Hunter’s Pie. That plate could have been straight from a Tim Burton movie and made us just as giddy about the food as Eden. (Side note: Eden’s sheer joy and excitement at sitting down to these dishes is infectious, even if we ourselves get to taste none of it.)

Obviously the concoction landed Connie in the Top 3, alongside Dustin for his Ottawa-inspired smoked duck and maple-glazed apple, and Nicole for her gluttonous Montreal meat pie consisting of bacon, duck and veal (Crawford confidently deemed it the best meat pie she’s ever had, it was that good). At the end of the day the theme seemed to be repeat winners though, and so it was Dustin’s dish—complete with that hot-box smoker contraption that Trevor used earlier in the Quickfire —that landed him the big win for the second week in a row. Maybe Dustin should thank Trevor for the inspiration in his Academy speech.

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Eden on Connie’s dish: “That marrow chimney! Can that happen every day, please?”

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Chris on Nicole’s dish: “An absolute French-Canadian fever dream.”

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Chris on Dustin’s dish: ‘I’ve come to your restaurants as a critic… this is the best thing I’ve ever had of yours.’

As for Trevor and Curtis? Well they found themselves in the middle of the pack with their respective Toronto Prawn Mousse-Stuffed Halibut and Saskatoon Braised Short Ribs. Since Trista’s Vancouver-inspired dish made Mijune want to “cry for her city,” and Jesse’s Winnipeg pierogis were likened to cardboard, those two were easily placed at the bottom of the night. Dennis had a tough go of it as well when his Calgary inspired, tableside-carved Tomahawk Steak went beyond medium rare, giving him that (dis)honour as well.

There was just no saving Trista though. Between the terrible squid ink presentation on her BC Salmon and Dungeness Crab and the Asian components that the judges said lacked any actual Asian flavours, Mark declared, “this dish would close your restaurant. It’s that bad.” That meant Trista’s time was glaringly up in this contest, and all for over thinking it. Well, at least she wasn’t sent home for serving up plastic wrap this time.


Trista should have listened to Professor Curtis.

“She made such a confused, weird, frankly not-really-edible dish and when she was describing to us what she’d done, she just said, ‘I kept going and going and going and I didn’t know when to stop,’” Nuttall-Smith said. “It’s not ever a happy moment when you see a chef kind of fall on their face.”

“Trista has such heart, such soul. Her cooking is often really personal and really smart and at its best it’s really breathtaking stuff. I think the piece that she’s not missing but could use more of in her career is confidence,” Nuttall-Smith told us. “Trista second guesses her cooking, she second guesses her flavours. The thing that would help her the most is to get out to do some exploring and then to come back and confidently cook her food. When she cooked her food, I think she was brilliant. If she can do that, I think she’s going to be unstoppable.”

“Of course it sucks. I said to myself when I came onto All-Stars that I’m not going to get as upset as I did last time and I’m not going to let a technical thing come in the way,” Trista said later on. “I had a bad day. I sh*t the bed on a plate. It didn’t make sense and I have every right to go home.”

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Not as delicious looking as the top 3 dishes: Trista’s Vancouver-inspired Salmon and Dungeness Crab with Squid Ink.

And here we really, really thought she was a frontrunner. It just goes to show you that no matter how great you’ve done in the past, you’re only as good as your last dish on this show. It seems like these judges know it, too.

“Trista came a long way. She understood what it was to win, which was fabulous because she’s always buckling at the knees at Judges Table.” McEwan recalled. “And it was so much fun to see her have those great successes. There’s a young chef that brings her all, every time she comes. She doesn’t always hit it, she can really miss, but when she swings for the fences, once in a while, she hits it and it was fun to watch.”

Enjoy that bottle of wine you took with you, Trista. We’re certainly raising a glass to you.

Remaining chefs take note: ride your highs as they come because you never, ever know when one small misstep will send you packing. And someone will definitely be sent packing next week.

How Iron Chefs Flay, Morimoto and Symon Dominate Kitchen Stadium

In the fight for culinary supremacy, there is no greater arena than Iron Chef’s Kitchen Stadium. Here, chefs have sweated and swore as they sliced and diced their way to victory (or defeat!) by conjuring up a series of dishes all using a mystery ingredient. Each dish is presented to a panel of exacting judges and the chef with the highest total score in taste, presentation and creativity wins.

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Iron Chefs L-R: Masaharu Morimoto, Bobby Flay, and Michael Symon

In its next iteration, Iron Chef Gauntlet, premiering  Sunday, April 23 at 9 E/P,  the original cooking competition show takes a new turn as seven chef superstars face off first against each other in kitchen stadium. The last one standing then challenges three Iron Chefs – Masaharu Morimoto, Bobby Flay, and Michael Symon.  Should they be successful against the acclaimed trio, the challenger earns the title of Iron Chef.  That will be no small feat.

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These three were guest judges on The Next Iron Chef: Redemption’s Final Battle “Heritage.”

Morimoto, Symon and Flay are all accomplished chefs that have earned their way into Kitchen Stadium, building up restaurant empires that dot the United States and beyond.  Their varied backgrounds show there’s no one way to become an Iron Chef.

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Masaharu Morimoto as Iron Chef Japanese in the original Iron Chef series.

A chef trained in the art of sushi, Masaharu Morimoto has combined his instruction and heritage with his years of cooking in the U.S. to create his own fusion approach. His first restaurant opened in 1980 in his home city of Hiroshima. After running it for five years, he left Japan for the U.S. where he was ultimately tapped to be the head chef of famed restaurant Nobu.

Morimoto joined the original Japanese version of Iron Chef in 1998, while still leading the Nobu kitchen.  After the series came to an end, Morimoto eventually left Nobu and opened his own restaurant in New York City  – the first of many, including ones in Napa Valley, Mumbai, New Delhi and Tokyo, for which his restaurant earned a coveted Michelin Star in 2008. When Iron Chef America was created and filming was moved to New York, Morimoto returned to kitchen stadium to battle once again. He also served as a guest judge on The Next Iron Chef.

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Masaharu Morimoto working with the secret ingredient salmon  in season 10 of Iron Chef America.

He would ultimately take 42 wins out of 68 head-to-head battles in both the original series and Iron Chef America, showcasing his out-of-the-box thinking and fusion approach with his dishes. While he won more than he lost, his battle against Homaro Cantu was an upset when he was bested by the chef known for his technological and molecular gastronomy approach to cooking the humble beet.
But perhaps the most noteworthy battle pitted him against now-colleague Flay in the first of four episodes across different iterations of the show. That first time, Morimoto was horrified at Flay’s behavior after he jumped on the counter at the end of the cooking time. He stated that Flay was “not a chef” because of how he behaved. (Flay lost that battle, but won the next against Morimoto in a rematch in Japan. They’d each win one more round against the other.)

Watch Worst Mishaps on Iron Chef America, including one from Bobby Flay.

 

Flay is known for his brashness – after all, one of his most popular shows, Beat Bobby Flay, has him challenging chefs in culinary competitions. However, with several Food Network shows under his belt, not to mention numerous restaurants across the U.S. and in the Bahamas, Flay has earned the Iron Chef title.

Bobby Flay came into prominence as the Executive Chef at Mesa Grill and not long after opening the spot, he  became a partner in the southwestern-focused restaurant. Other Mesa Grills, along with Bolo Bar and Restaurant, would follow, including one in Las Vegas which earned a Michelin Star in 2008.

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Bobby Flay and Michael Symon team up in a Thanksgiving themed episode of Iron Chef America.

While he continued to build his restaurant empire, Flay joined Iron Chef America in its first season in 2005, racking up 43 wins out of 61 battles. Among them, a battle that saw his competition, Hiroyuki Sakai (who had the most wins under his belt in Japan) make ice cream from trout – and serve it with a trout skin crisp. (Being a judge on Iron Chef America would never be dull.)

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ron Chefs Symon and Flay team up against Alex Guarnaschelli and Geoffrey Zakarian in Iron Chef America’s Thanksgiving battle.

Compared to those two chefs, Michael Symon is a relative neophyte, only joining Iron Chef America in Season 5.  He opened his first restaurant, Lola, in Cleveland in 1997, followed by Lolita and his B-Spot burger joints in the same city.  Roast, in Detroit, began dishing up meat-centric meals starting in 2008. His latest restaurant, Mabel’s BBQ opened last year. Symon was named best new chef by Food & Wine Magazine in 1998 and Bon Appetit named his burger joint as one of the country’s ten best. His food has a Mediterranean focus – something he comes by honestly, having grown up in a family of Greeks and Sicilians.

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Michael Symon and Masaharu Moritmoto meet again in Kitchen Stadium in an Iron Chef America Holiday Battle.

His first foray into Kitchen Stadium was as a competitor on Iron Chef America, trying to best Morimoto in a battle featuring asparagus. The Japanese chef showcased a stunning dish of “stained glass” sushi, wowing the judges with all his plates and taking the win. Symon may have lost, but clearly did not lose his fire for competition.
Three years later, he competed on The Next Iron Chef, coming out on top and earning a spot on Iron Chef America alongside Morimoto and Flay. Although the newest of the three to join the show, Symon has the highest rating of the trio with an impressive 34 wins out of 42 battles.

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Michael Symon (third from left) with the cast of The Next Iron Chef.

Go behind-the-scenes of Iron Chef Gauntlet:
Watch Iron Chef Gauntlet Set Tour
Watch Tools for Iron Chef Gauntlet

Five All-Star Knife Skills Every Cook Should Know

The secret to a smooth restaurant service is perfect mise en place.
With each ingredient prepped properly and literally “in its place,” chefs have everything they need on hand to prepare a dish as soon as it’s ordered. For the Quickfire Challenge in this week’s episode of Top Chef Canada: All-Stars, chefs’ prep skills were put to the test through a series of tasks that had them filleting fish, finely dicing shallots and shucking oysters — all to the exacting standards of head judge Chef Mark McEwan.

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Those shallots aren’t going to brunoise themselves, chefs!

“Every great dish demands accurate preparation,” he says before the challenge is launched. While those cooking at home aren’t under a clock or McEwan’s watchful eye, there’s no doubt making a meal is faster and easier when all the ingredients are ready to go. Knowing how to properly slice and dice underpins all that prep; uniform cuts guarantee even cooking and also makes it all look like you’re a professional.

Here are five knife skills essential to perfect mise en place:

1. Julienne
Julienne simply means to cut food (usually vegetables) into long, thin strips, some 1-2 mm square and 4-5 cm long. This cut is also sometimes known as alumette, which refers to their matchstick shape. Squaring off the edges of round vegetables like carrots helps keep the julienne precise, and you can pop those trimmings into stock or soups. Once squared, simply slice the food into slabs and then again into strips.

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A perfect carrot julienne.

 

2. Batonnet
The big brother to julienne, batonnet uses the same technique of cutting food into strips, but to a more robust size. Food cut into batonnet (literally batons) is about twice the size of a julienne, with the sticks some 6 mm square and 6 cm long. Just like for julienne, it’s best to start by squaring off the vegetable, then slicing into slabs and then into batons.

3. Dice
Dicing vegetables is a snap once you’ve learned the basics of batonnet. There are a few different sizes of dicing, which are essentially cubes of food. Depending on the recipe, it may call for a large dice (20 mm cubed), medium dice (13 mm) or small (6mm cubed), which is the size of dice you will get when starting with the batonnet cut above. The smallest type of diced vegetable, the brunoise, gets a category of its own (see below).

To go from a batonnet to a dice, simply take the item that has been cut into batons, turn it 90 degrees and slice cross-wise. This will make the right-sized cubes. (For larger dices, simply start with larger batonnet-type cuts.)

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Different sizes of diced vegetables.

4. Brunoise
The smallest of the dice cuts, brunoise is a mere 1-2 mm square. Just like dicing starts with batonnet, a brunoise begins with food cut into julienne. Then, it’s a simple matter of turning it 90 degrees and slicing it cross-wise to make the small squares.

Brunoise is particularly great for things like shallots, where tiny cubes of the allium go a long way. Pop them on top of salads, to flavour a vinaigrette or use as a base for pan sauces, like Andrea Nicholson did in the Quickfire after finely dicing an impressive 273 grams of them in three minutes.

Watch How to Brunoise an Onion:

5. Chiffonade
This knife skill is generally used for herbs or leafy vegetables (think spinach or chard) that cuts them into ribbon-like strips. A larger chiffonade of leafy greens is great for cooking, while using the technique on herbs like basil or sage makes a beautiful garnish.

Start by stacking the leaves one on top of the other and then rolling them tightly, like a cigar. Slice through the stack cross-wise (across the cigar shape). The narrower the cut, the more fine your ribbon strips will be.

Watch How to Chiffonade Basil: