Tag Archives: Top Chef Canada

Top Chef Canada season 9 final four wait for the winner to be announced

Top Chef Canada Winner: Exclusive Interview With the Season 9 Winner

From the moment Erica Karbelnik stepped into the Top Chef Canada kitchen, she was a force to be reckoned with. The Toronto-based executive chef came in hot with the season’s first Quickfire win, and she continued to impress in a series of tough challenges throughout the entire season.

Of course, it probably helped that one of her fellow competitors was her husband, Josh Karbelnik, a chef de cuisine in Toronto. The duo supported each other through thick and thin throughout their season 9 run, and as a result, they proved to be among the best of the best. No one was really surprised when they both made it to the top 4.

Unfortunately though, Josh stumbled with the amuse bouche and appetizer during the last cook, and he was eliminated alongside fellow top 4 finalist Andrea Alridge in the finale. The good news was that Josh got to stay behind to help Erica finish her menu against Kym Nguyen (and their new sous chef Andrea).

It all led up to one of the closest calls ever on Top Chef Canada, but in the end judges Mark McEwan, Chris Nuttall-Smith, Mijune Pak and Janet Zuccarini awarded Erica $100,000, a Lexus RX Hybrid Electric SUV, and the title of Top Chef Canada.

Following Erica’s big win we caught up with the chef to get her hot take on this year’s competition, working with her husband, and what’s next for the winning couple with a baby on the way.

Chefs often say doing this show is harder than they expected, but what was the hardest part for you?

I’d say not knowing what to expect when you get there and what’s going to come your way. I’ve been a huge fan of Top Chef and Top Chef Canada for over 15 years, and I’ve watched every episode. But it doesn’t really prepare you for what it’s like when you’re actually there and how real it is. When the judges say you’ve got 30 minutes on the clock, you have 30 minutes on the clock, and you want to make the best things that you possibly can make. There’s no room for error and that puts a lot of pressure on everybody.

On the flip side of that, what was the most rewarding part—other than winning!?

It was really finding myself and finding who I am as a chef and as a person. I’m classically French, Italian trained. But going on the show, I was pulling out things from my backgrounds and cooking with a lot of Moroccan flavours, which I don’t normally do. So it’s definitely helped me find my stride in who I am as a chef.

What was it like to do all of that alongside your husband?

Honestly, it was amazing. We’re each other’s biggest support system. Being there together, this is something that both of us have always wanted to do. So to make it on the show together is a huge accomplishment. Like we never thought in a million years that would happen. It was really cool. It’s an accomplishment for us. And it’s something that we both get to look back on years down the road and have the laughs about, have some cringes about. But honestly, I loved every minute.

You two shared such a positive rapport on the series, with each other and with your competitors. Does that speak to how we’re maybe moving away from some of the negative perceptions of all kitchens being this pressure-cooker environment?

Not necessarily, I think Top Chef Canada really wants to show everybody in their best light. They do a good job in that. I had some rough times in that kitchen, and they definitely showed a few moments of weakness for me… I guess you can say not my best moments. But that’s what it is to be a chef. Nowadays, we want things to be a lot calmer in the kitchen than they once were, a lot nicer. And I guess I could say things are a little bit more sugar-coated. But at the end of the day, our kitchen is the kitchen, it’s a high-stress environment, it’s a tough industry, and you have to have a really tough backbone to be able to do this job.

The judges and Top 4 contestants cheers to the winner of Top Chef Canada season 9

Related: The Season 9 Chefs Talk Eating Local

In nine seasons, you’re the second female to win Top Chef Canada (Nicole Gomes was the first). What is it like to be a female working in the industry these days?

I’m so proud to be the second female to win Top Chef Canada. I really am. But I’m also the person that, when I walk into a kitchen, I don’t see gender, I don’t see colour, I see food. And food is what matters at the end of the day. And whether you’re male or female. It’s about if you can cook, and how you cook, and how you represent yourself. The food is what speaks for itself.

I’m extremely happy to represent women in the kitchen. We do have a hard time because of that reputation. So that makes us have to work harder. Let’s show them that there is no difference. We are just as good. We can do the exact same job. I’m currently four and a half months pregnant and I’m still working every day. Still pulling 12-hour shifts sometimes to try and kick butt in a kitchen because I don’t think that being a female should get in the way of that. It’s something to be very proud of. But it doesn’t matter whether I’m male or female. One of my favourite chefs, Dominique Crenn, [who is] one of the most respected women in the industry, says, “I am not a female Chef. I am just a Chef.”

Related: Mijune Pak Reflects On Reinventing Her Career

Congrats on the pregnancy! Have you and Josh thought about what you’ll do if your kid winds up being a picky eater?

I really don’t think the kid will have a choice in the matter! I don’t think it’ll be a picky eater though, because I have to say my cravings are like left, right and center. I’ve been eating everything and anything under the sun. So I think we’ll be okay.

Erica and Josh Karbelnik on the set of Top Chef Canada

You watched every episode of Top Chef Canada leading up to your season, so of the former competitors who would you say is your inspiration?

Dale Mackay from Season 1 is the one who really struck my nerve to want to be on this show. And to put my best foot forward and to be that competitive person… and to go for it and just do you. He’s an extremely talented chef. He’s very accomplished. And his food was spectacular on the show. When he was on Top Chef Canada I was an apprentice, so he opened so many doors for so many chefs for us to say, “Hey, we can do that, too!”

How much did your knowledge of previous seasons help you out when it came time to plan and execute your final menu?

Watching the show previously definitely had an advantage. You do learn what the judges are looking for. But at the end of the day, when we’re doing challenges, there’s a box that we’re placed in and there’s restrictions. You have to follow guidelines on exactly what the judges are looking for in that dish. So you don’t really have free rein to kind of create whatever you want to create.

Going into the finale menu, I said it in the semifinals: “If you let me into the finals, you’ll be able to read me like an open book. Let me show you who I am in my cooking.” At the end of the day, that’s what I do every day. I want people to understand me through food. I am not always able to express myself fully in words. And a lot of people misunderstand me. So food has always been my go-to, it’s always been like my voice. But I really wanted to showcase myself in that menu. Those dishes are dishes that I would put forward over and over and over again. I’m so insanely proud of who they represented. Each dish represented something that was extremely close to my heart and really told the story of who I am and who my family is and where I come from.

Other than Josh, who else did you originally expect to go all the way to the finale?

To the honest, Galasa. From the moment Galasa started cooking, just the way he carried himself in the kitchen, the way he understood flavours. I think that dude is a force to be reckoned with. He’s going to do really great things in his future culinary career. He was definitely one that I was a little scared of.

See More: Top Chef Canada Judge Janet Zuccarini Talks Resilience in the Restaurant Industry

You and Josh have been doing catering while your current gig with Elmwood Spa is on hold because of COVID. And you talked about opening up your own place if you won. Is that still the plan?

We would love to have our own restaurant, we really would. We would love to also have our own catering company. With COVID, a lot of chefs had to rethink and pivot their ideas and their future plans. Unfortunately, restaurants at the moment really have an unforeseen future and we don’t know what’s coming our way. So it’s always good to have a backup plan. That’s been our backup plan for now and it’s been working really well for us. And, as I said, we did get pregnant. So, our little sous chef has a nice college fund started. We’d like to use that money to create a stable home and a future for us and for the baby.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Competing on Top Chef Canada was awesome and I’m very happy with the outcome and to be able to do it with my husband. I’d like to thank him for being my support system there, and for helping me through the finale. And also just for being an amazing partner. There’s nobody else I would have rather have done this with.

Watch Top Chef Canada and stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

steak with garlic sauce

Take Our Quiz to Find Out What Your Cooking Style Says About You (Plus Recipes!)

Eating may be universal, but everyone has their own flair in the kitchen. Whether your signature style is pressing buttons on a microwave, sauteing veggies to your heart’s content or marinating and grilling the choicest cuts of steak, your style is your own. And it can say a lot about you.

Look no further than this season’s batch of Top Chef Canada contestants for proof. The cast is the most diverse ever featured on the series and as a result we’ve also seen some of the most exciting dishes ever pulled off. Want to know which chefs share your style and maybe even dig up a new recipe or two to try out in the process? Take our quiz and then grab your Interac debit card to get shopping for ingredients. Of course, how you prepare those ingredients is totally up to you.

Watch Top Chef Canada and stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

Instant Pot and microplane and ghee photos courtesy of Getty Images. All other quiz photos courtesy of Unsplash.

Mijune Pak on set of Top Chef Canada season 9

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

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

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

Mijune Pak on the set of Top Chef Canada

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

Related: We Tried Mijune Pak’s New Chocolate Creations

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

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

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

See More: Watch Full Episodes of Top Chef Canada

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

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

Take This Quiz to Find Out Which Top Chef Canada-Inspired Meal Should You Make for Dinner Tonight

Hungry for a little dinnertime inspiration? No worries, because Top Chef Canada has your back. It’s still early in the season, but already the contestants on this year’s show have proven they’re concocting some of the most diverse and flavourful dishes to-date. From spice-filled fish dishes to flamed-kissed meats to delightful vegan offerings and everything in between, it’s hard not to salivate when tuning in.

If you’re on the hunt for ideas on what to make for your next dinner, take our quiz and then grab your Interac debit card and select ingredients for your feast while shopping. And get cooking already because your time starts… now!

Watch Top Chef Canada and stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

Photos courtesy of Unsplash.

Janet Zuccarini judging on the set of Top Chef Canada

Janet Zuccarini on Having Resilience in Her Own Life and on This Season of Top Chef Canada

Restaurateur and Top Chef Canada judge Janet Zuccarini learned all about one of the themes of this season — resilience — from her father at an early age. Giacomo Zuccarini opened Toronto’s Sidewalk Caffè before Janet was even born; a legacy that would shape her outlook on restaurants in more ways than one. “The restaurant was really successful, with lineups out the door,” she says. “And one day, when my father took his first vacation to go back to Italy to visit his mother, his business partner emptied out his bank account and fled to Mexico with all the money, and my father had to shut the restaurant down.”

Although Giacomo would go on to have a long career in the espresso machine importing business, he warned his daughter about the travails of being a restaurateur. When Janet went against his wishes and opened up her first restaurant Cafe Nervosa (later renamed Trattoria Nervosa) in 1996, it caused a rift between them. “My father brought me up telling me almost every day to never go in the restaurant business,” she remembers. “And when I did, it upset my father so much that he did not speak to me for one year. It was horrible. Because it was so traumatic for my father to lose everything at one point, he felt that I did it on purpose, in a way. But we healed.”

Janet Zuccarini on the set of Top Chef Canada

Today, Janet’s Gusto 54 restaurant group — named in tribute to year her father first opened Sidewalk Caffè — spans multiple cuisines and cities, including Wall of Chefs judge Nuit Regular’s Pai and Kiin restaurants, Chubby’s Jamaican Kitchen, Gusto 101 and others in Los Angeles, but she’s never lost sight of those early lessons of adaptability and overcoming adversity. 

Related: Eden Grinshpan’s Baba Ghanoush Recipe

This outlook would serve her well when the COVID-19 pandemic irrevocably changed the restaurant landscape. According to a December 2020 survey from industry group Restaurants Canada, eight out of 10 restaurants are either losing money or barely scraping by in today’s climate, and 48 percent of owners of single location restaurants are expecting to close within six months if conditions don’t improve. “It’s been absolutely devastating and has been a decimating experience for anyone with a small business, but the restaurant industry has been hit arguably the hardest during the pandemic,” says Janet. “With this third wave, we spent money that we don’t have to reopen outdoor dining just to be shut down again for the third time. Every time there’s a shutdown on short notice, you furlough all your team members that you just hired and paid to train, and figure out what to do with all of your inventory of food. We just keep getting one blow after the other. “

Viewers will be able to see this shift in the industry reflected in this season of Top Chef Canada, from behind-the-scenes logistics to Quickfire and Elimination Challenges. “The show is going to be very relevant, because not only did we have to shoot the show in such an extra safe way, with everyone on the set being tested every day they were on set, and of course wearing face shields and masks, and sitting separated at the judges’ table,” says Janet. Creating pandemic appropriate challenges was also an issue. “We had to address COVID, and what restaurants are going through and create challenges that represent how we’ve changed our way of relating to food and dining with regards to restaurants,” she says.

Related: Meet the Season 9 Top Chef Canada Competitors

Janet Zuccarini on the set of Top Chef Canada with Mark McEwan and Eden Grinshpan

Overall, what Janet hopes the audience takes away from this season is a feeling of looking forward in terms of the restaurant industry. “As a restaurateur, I’ve shifted and adapted from selling groceries to takeout to home meal kits with chef tutorials over Zoom. We’ve opened four restaurants during the pandemic. The ideas have to keep coming, and going, and changing,” she says. “As the year has gone on, we’ve had different needs: people are not traveling, they’re not going to concerts, they’re starved for experiences. So, I have a lot of hope for the future.”

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

Eden Grinshpan’s Baba Ghanoush With Za’atar, Pomegranate and Mint Will Be Your New Favourite Dip

What makes this an essential is the eggplant technique, which is so simple but blows your mind at the same time. I learned about charring eggplants whole when I was twenty-one years old and working in a restaurant in Tel Aviv. They’d score an eggplant, throw the entire thing on the grill, and then let the fire do all the work. The skin gets completely charred while the heat steams the flesh until it is smoky, tender, and juicy. That becomes the foundation of baba ghanoush, a smoky, velvety dip that’s an essential in its own right.

Baba Ghanoush with Za’atar, Pomegranate, and Mint

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20-35 minutes
Total Time: 30-45 minutes
Servings: 4 cups

Ingredients:

3 medium eggplants
½ cup tahini paste
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, grated
1½ tsp kosher salt
Za’atar, for serving
Extra-virgin olive oil, for serving
Pomegranate molasses, for serving
Fresh mint leaves, for serving
Pomegranate seeds, for serving (if in season)

1. With the tip of a knife, pierce each eggplant in two places—doesn’t need to be perfect or in the same place every time; this is just so the eggplant doesn’t explode on you (it’s happened to me, and it’s not pretty).

2. Pick a cooking method for the eggplant: grill, broiler, or stovetop burners. The bottom line is that you want this eggplant to be almost unrecognizable. It’s going todeflate and the skin will get white in some places, but that just means the fire is working its magic on that eggplant.

OPTION 1: Grill Preheat the grill until hot. Add the eggplants and let the fire do its thing, making sure to keep turning the eggplants so they char all over. You want them to get black in some places, 20 to 30 minutes total.

OPTION 2: Broil  Preheat the broiler. Put the eggplants in a broilerproof roasting pan and place the pan as close to the heating element as possible. (You may have to adjust your oven rack to accommodate the size of the eggplants and the depth of the pan.) Broil until they are evenly charred all over, 30 to 35 minutes, checking and turning the eggplants periodically. You want the eggplants to keep their shape but get really charred and wilted.

OPTION 3: Stovetop Gas Burners Line your stovetop around your burners with foil. Working with one at a time, place the eggplant over a medium flame and let it char, making sure to turn it every 5 minutes. Continue cooking until it is deflated and black all over, 20 to 30 minutes.

3. Transfer the cooked eggplants to a colander in the sink and let the juices run. (The juices can make the dish taste bitter.) Once the eggplants are cool enough to handle, remove the stem and all of the skin.

4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggplant flesh with the tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and salt.

5. To serve, first make a za’atar oil by mixing together 1 tablespoon of za’atar with 1½ tablespoons of olive oil for every 2 cups of baba ghanoush.

6. For each serving, use a spoon to spread about 1 cup of the baba ghanoush over a platter or in the bottom of a bowl. Drizzle over 1 to 2 teaspoons of the pomegranate molasses (go easy—it’s very tart and sweet), followed by the za’atar–olive oil mixture. Finish with a sprinkling of small mint leaves (or large leaves, torn) and a small handful of pomegranate seeds (if using).

Excerpted from Eating Out Loud by Eden Grinshpan. Copyright © 2020 by Eden Grinshpan. Photography by Aubrie Pick. Published in the United States by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Eating Out Loud, Amazon, $35

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Jordan Andino, Lynn Crawford and Anna Olson on the set of season 2 of Junior Chef Showdown

6 Hot New Releases to Binge on Amazon Prime This Spring

The change of seasons means one exciting thing around here: a brand new slate of fresh spring shows from Food Network Canada to watch with STACKTV on Amazon Prime. From a new season of a classic Canadian culinary competition to a show about revamping struggling restaurants, here are all the Food Network Canada shows you won’t want to miss.

Top Chef Canada

When to Watch: New Season begins Monday, April 19 at 10 p.m. ET/PT

Host Eden Grinshpan and Mark McEwan on the set of Top Chef Canada season 9

Canada’s homegrown culinary competition returns for its ninth season of high-stakes challenges. Host Eden Grinshpan and head judge Mark McEwan return to welcome 11 talented and diverse chefs from across the country to compete for the ultimate bragging rights and

Related: Meet the Season 9 Top Chef Canada Contestants

The Big Bake

When to Watch: New Episodes Tuesdays at 9 p.m ET/PT

Eddie Jackson, Anna Olson, Ron Ben-Israel and host Brad Smith on the set of The Big Bake season 2

If you love over-the-top baking creations, we’ve got some great news for you! The Big Bake returns for a second season of larger-than-life competition that sees three talented baking teams compete to create large-scale theme cakes. Hosted Brad Smith returns along with judges Eddie Jackson, Harry Eastwood and new judges, Anna Olson and Ron Ben-Israel.

See More: Baking 101 With Anna Olson

Chef Boot Camp

When to Watch: New Series begins Thursday, April 15 at 9 p.m. ET/PT

Chef Cliff Crooks on the set of Chef Boot Camp

There’s no doubt that it’s been a tough year for chefs and business owners. Enter Chef Cliff Crooks whose goal is to help struggling chefs rehabilitate their kitchens to find the culinary success they deserve.

See More: Canadians Aim to Set Record on National Takeout Day

Junior Chef Showdown

When to Watch: New Season begins Sunday, April 25 at 9 p.m. ET/PT

Young cooks display big talent on this culinary competition that showcases the best cooking talents from ages 9 to 12. Lynn Crawford, Anna Olson and Jordan Andino return as judge-mentors, coaching the junior chefs through a series of culinary challenges.

Jordan Andino, Lynn Crawford and Anna Olson on the set of season 2 of Junior Chef Showdown

Related: Meet the Season 2 Junior Chefs

Top Chef

When to Watch: New Episodes Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT

Host Padma Lakshmi and judges Gail Simmons and Tom Colicchio return for another season of grueling kitchen battles. This season, Top Chef heads to Portland, Oregon where a new batch of 15 of the most talented chefs from across the U.S. compete for the whopping $125,000 grand prize and the coveted title of Top Chef.

Related: Top Chef Portland: Meet the Competitors

Fire Masters

When to Watch: New Episodes return Thursday, April 15 at 11 p.m. ET/PT

Pre-heat your barbecue because it’s officially grilling season now that Fire Masters is back with all-new episodes! Host Dylan Benoit is back for another flame-packed season where chefs compete in two rounds of competition. In the final round, the remaining competitor must face off against one of the judges in order to take home the $10,000 cash prize.

Related: The Best New Ways to Use Your Grill This Year

Composite image of the season 9 cast of Top Chef Canada

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

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

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

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

Aicia Colacci, Montreal

Previous Gig: Chef de Cuisine at Impasto

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

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

Alex Edmonson, Calgary

Current Gig: Personal Chef and Owner of AE Chef Services

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

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

Andrea Alridge, Vancouver

Current Gig: Chef de Cuisine at CinCin

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

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

Emily Butcher, Winnipeg

Current Gig: Chef de Cuisine at Deer + Almond

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

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

Erica Karbelnik, Toronto

Current Gig: Head Chef, Elmwood Spa

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

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

Galasa Aden, Calgary

Current Gig: Executive Chef, Cliffhanger Restaurant

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

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

Jae-Anthony Dougan, Ottawa

Current Gig: Owner, Chef Jae Anthony Pop Up

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

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

Josh Karbelnik, Toronto

Current Gig: Chef de Cuisine, The Broadview Hotel

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

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

Kym Nguyen, Vancouver

Current Gig: Sous Chef at Pidgin

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

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

Siobhan Detkavich, Kelowna

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

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

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

Stéphane Levac, Nova Scotia

Current Gig: Chef, Maritime Express Cider Co.

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

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

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

Composite image of Noah Cappe, Eden Grinshpan and Steve Hodge over a close-up image of Valentine's Day conversation hearts

Local Restaurants That Food Network Canada Stars Are Loving This Valentine’s Day

This Valentine’s Day, Food Network Canada stars are sending love notes to their favourite local restaurants across the country. From baked goods to a romantic takeout meal at home, these are the local spots across Canada that our stars are crushing on (and with one bite, you will be too!). To participate in the #MyLocalValentine campaign, head to Food Network Canada’s Instagram on February 14th, and share your love notes to your favourite local restaurants using the Valentine’s Day templates in stories.

Related: Easy Pink Beet Pancakes Are the Perfect Valentine’s Day Breakfast

Tiffany Pratt: Tori’s Bakeshop (Toronto, Ontario)

 

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Toronto’s first vegan café and bakeshop in 2012 that has gained a loyal following with Food Network Canada staff and chefs alike. “I love Tori’s Bakeshop in the Beaches so much! I have been eating those breakfast cookies for as long as they have been open! Also their Easter cream egg is the most addictive thing I have ever put in my mouth. I even designed one of their locations! The food is made with love and everything tastes amazing and is good for you too. Gluten-free and vegan alike – this food is for everyone! I LOVE YOU TORI!”

Love the design of Tori’s Bakeshop? Did you know that it was designed by Tiffany herself? See more of Tiffany Pratt and her local restaurant designs in Project Bakeover.

Mijune Pak: AnnaLena (Vancouver, BC)

 

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In Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighbourhood, AnnaLena offers contemporary Canadian fare. “Love the creativity, quality of ingredients and commitment to flavours at AnnaLena, and they’re offering a Valentine’s Day tasting menu available for dine-in as well as a take-out.”

Speaking of Valentine’s Day, we tried Mijune Pak’s new chocolate creations (a perfect gift?) and here’s what we thought.

Renee Lavallee: Doraku Sushi (Dartmouth, Nova Scotia)

 

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This Japanese restaurant has been open for nearly thirty years, and is considered a local staple. “My favourite local love goes to Doraku Sushi in Dartmouth. Hands down THE BEST sushi in Nova Scotia. Perfect for a Valentine’s date night at home.”

And if you’re wondering where else to eat in Nova Scotia, here are Renee Lavallee’s top picks.

Eden Grinshpan: Joso’s (Toronto, Ontario)

Another longstanding favourite, this restaurant is a Yorkville staple. In business since 1967, it aims to transport guests to the warmth and beauty of the stunning Dalmatian coast. “My family and I have been going to Joso’s for years and are dear friends with the owners, Leo and Shirley. We LOVE their fresh seafood, squid ink risotto and the overall ambience. We always have the best time there.”

Looking to make a sweet dessert for your Valentine at home? Have you tried Eden Grinshpan’s Pistachio-Dusted Rose-Glazed Yeast Donuts?

Noah Cappe: Mallard Cottage (St. John’s, Newfoundland)

 

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Located in an 18th Century Irish-Newfoundland vernacular-style cottage, you can expect to find traditional fish and chips, moose croquettes, fishwiches, and Nutella crepes on the menu.

Restaurant picks aside, here are 10 more things you ought to know about Noah Cappe.

Suzanne Barr: TORA

 

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If you’re a fan of aburi sushi (or if you’re looking to try the novel flavours of this flame-seared take on the original), TORA ought to be on your list, as it’s on Suzanne Barr’s: “Since we’ll be celebrating Valentine’s Day at home this year with our son, we’ve opted to go for a family-friendly menu from TORA – one of our fave spots for high-quality sushi and lots of it. And of course, a nice bottle of sake for after the little one goes to bed ;)”

Here’s how chef Suzanne Barr will make you think about your dinner plate differently

Steve Hodge: Two River Meats (Vancouver, BC)

Two Rivers Specialty Meats has something for those who enjoy the process as much as the results; offering house-made sausage, steak burgers, and more, the meats are thoughtfully sourced from farmers who care about their animals.  “For anyone looking to cook at home, they are the best and can be shipped!”

Aside from being in Project Bakeover, here are 10 more things you need to know about Steve Hodge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neapolitan Baked Alaska Snowballs, $18.95

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maple Syrup French Toast, $11.95

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top Chef Canada season 8 winner

Top Chef Canada Winner: Exclusive Interview with the Season 8 Champion

This past season of Top Chef Canada was one of the most diverse, creative, and all-around toughest installments of the series to date. So when Stephanie Ogilvie, Lucy Morrow and Francis Blais went into the finale with their progressive four-course tasting menus, it really was anyone’s game.

 

Related: This Season on Top Chef Canada

Who Won Season 8 of Top Chef Canada?

In the end, it was Francis Blais’ amazing technique and bold flavours that catapulted him to the big win, making him the show’s first-ever Montreal chef to take home the crown. We caught up with Le Mousso’s chef de cuisine hot off his victory lap to chat all things Top Chef Canada, find out what he’s doing with his winnings, and whether he has any updates on that famous proposal he hinted at on the show.

Was there extra pressure knowing you were facing off against two chefs in the finale instead of one, like they did on previous seasons?

Not really, I tried to focus on my food and my menu. I wasn’t spending energy on things that I couldn’t control. When I knew I was going on the show I had already started planning my final menu. The squab pithivier was a really technical dish and it was just executed perfectly because I’ve been doing them and practicing it a lot. But to do it in four hours? That was an achievement for me.

See More: The Season 8 Judges Answer Each Other’s Burning Questions

Have you always been into the technical side of cooking and learning new techniques?

I’ve always been interested in techniques that involve flavours or that improve the end results. I’m not into techniques just to showcase techniques. It’s part of my journey at the restaurant.

Who has been your biggest mentor?

Massimo Piedimonte. He’s a really good friend. We’ve been working side-by-side for a very long time. We’ve evolved together and he’s been showing me so much.

What does it feel like to be the first Montreal winner?

It means a lot because I went in representing my restaurant and in Montreal, we work in the community. So it was representing all of the people in the Montreal food scene. It means a lot to me.


Francis’ pigeon pithivier main and buttermilk mousse dessert

What was the most challenging part of doing Top Chef Canada?

It was probably the time limits. We were never in our comfort zones because of the time, but also because of the circumstances—always moving from restaurant to restaurant and never really knowing the equipment that was going to be available. The circumstances were very hard. I was always trying to focus on the end result and what I could control. Putting all of my energy toward that.

Was there anyone you had your eye on as the biggest competition?

Everyone scared me! Everyone had their own styles and I didn’t know what to expect. I also didn’t know what to expect from the judges—what they like, what flavour profiles they like. There were no chefs there that I took for granted.

Were any of the judges more intimidating than another?

They all have their opinions. For sure Mijune Pak; when she gives her opinion it can be rough so you don’t really know what to expect. But they are all like, professional eaters! They’ve eaten everywhere so [they know their stuff]. I didn’t receive a lot of bad feedback, but for sure when I went overboard or made a mistake by putting too much salt on the potatoes for example… those mistakes helped build me and made me stronger for the finale.

What was the most shocking twist or elimination that you faced?

I was really shocked that I couldn’t cook for the first elimination challenge. And then there was the challenge that involved food from around the world. Those kinds of foods involve technique that we’re not always used to, so it was our job to make it happen. But that was pretty challenging—cooking a dish that you don’t really know about that represents a country. We mostly rely on our own knowledge and you don’t want to hurt any community or country [by] misrepresent[ing] them.

When you won the skills competition you said you were putting the money towards an engagement ring—any updates?

Obviously [now] is not a great time to buy a ring. I could have done it before, but yeah. She wasn’t surprised in watching the show that I wanted to marry her. We’ve been talking about it for years so it was a nice thing for her to see on TV but she already knew that I wanted to marry her. It’s a matter of time. We will do it when the time is right. She is [part of the reason I got into this]. That’s why I wanted to dedicate part of my experience on Top Chef Canada to her.

Top Chef Canada Francis Blais girlfriend

What are you going to do with your winnings?

The goal is to invest in what I love, which is food. I want to bring something new to the world of food as a partner in my company, Fermentation Oryzae . We’re developing new seasoning for home chefs with legumes and cereal from around Montreal. We’re doing a Montreal miso and soy sauce out of the miso. We want to de-Japanize the miso and soy by introducing local ingredients and show people how to cook with it. It will be ready to use for people at home.

Related: 10 Fabulously Fermented Foods Worth Exploring

What else are you doing in quarantine right now?

Mostly doing research and development for the business. There are four partners and we all have our own expertise. We had plans of opening a restaurant, that’s always been a dream for me. But we’ve postponed it because of the situation. It would be crazy to open a restaurant while so many of them are in trouble right now. We’ll do it eventually. It will be a restaurant where everything—every seasoning—will be made in house. A super intimate, small space. The intimacy is one of the reasons we’re postponing actually. And then I’m also doing some pastries to raise money for an institution that works with the homeless here.

Do you have any advice for people who want to pursue a culinary career?

It’s really important to try stuff. Not knowing where you’re going or staying at home and getting in trouble is never the answer! Try your hardest to evolve and make a name for yourself.


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

 

Tips for Making Perfect, Top Chef Canada-Worthy Fresh Pasta

Perfecting pro-level pasta at home may seem like a daunting feat, but we’ve got you covered with these tips from Top Chef Canada’s recent pasta-making elimination challenge, plus a few recipes to get you started in your own kitchen. From soft and supple gnocchi to tender ravioli, this advice from professional kitchens will get you rolling in no time.

Get the Recipe: Fresh Homemade Fettucine

The Best Flour For Homemade Pasta

The lucky cheftestants got to work with freshly milled flour from urban mill Brodflour, but chances are, you’ll have to settle for supermarket flour. Nonetheless, a few wise choices will help your success rate when making pasta. The specialty flour known as 00 or tipo 00 is the traditional pick when it comes to making pasta, due to its fine grind (this attribute also make it a good option for pizza dough). Depending on the kind of pasta, which dictates other factors such as the amount of eggs added, coarsely ground semolina or all-purpose flour can also be used in forming pasta dough.

Related: This Week on Top Chef Canada…

Eggs in Fresh Pasta

For some types of pasta, especially fresh egg pasta, the golden yolks lend a sunny hue to the finished product. Recipes vary in terms of the number but it is generally around a 1:1 ratio of eggs to cups of flour. Some kinds of pasta dough, such as tagliatelle, use a combination of two whole eggs and four egg yolks per four cups of flour for added richness.

Eggs also play a crucial role in the elasticity and texture of fresh pasta, although dried pasta is often made with no more than flour and water.

Related: Get Funky With 10 Fermented Foods

Methods For Making Homemade Pasta

Although the tried-and-true method of making a well in the flour and adding the wet ingredients in the centre, then drawing the flour slowly inwards, works well to combine the ingredients gradually, this process can be automated using a stand mixer or other equipment (Alton Brown has an easy food processor method for his ravioli dough, for example). The dough is then kneaded, shaped into a disk and rested before rolling through a pasta machine or by hand using a rolling pin for flat types of pasta such as fettuccini, or shaping using molds or one’s hands with smaller shapes, such as pici.

Related: Get the Recipe for Valerie Bertinelli’s Homemade Pici Pasta With Carbonara Sauce

Homemade Pasta Shapes and Tips

There’s still more choices awaiting you: pasta shape dictates cooking method, time and even which type of sauce you should use. In a stressful double-elimination, the remaining five chefs had to choose their pasta types, make their own dough and create their best dish for guest judge Danny Smiles (a former Top Chef Canada contestant himself and now owner of three restaurants including Osteria Fortuna, planned to open in June 2020). Adding to the pressure was the freshly milled flour, which will cause pasta dough to oxidize (changing colour and flavour) if made too far in advance. As a result, chefs couldn’t use the one hour prep time the day before to make their dough, instead needing to make it the day of the Eliminate Challenge.

At home, however, you have the advantage of all the time you need to tackle a fresh pasta project. Take some inspiration from each of the Top Chef Canada contestants and their dishes to create your own prize-worthy creation.

How to Make Homemade Orecchiette

Orecchiette is made by hand, with the pasta maker’s thumb forming the distinct indents that give each piece its distinctive “little ears” shape (Francis used a non-traditional method of forming it on a paddle, giving the pasta small ridges). Although he had never made orecchiette before, Francis’ precautions in making a test batch to experiment with the fresh flour and his technique paid off. The judges raved about his version with broccoli sauce, crunchy broccoli stems, fried spelt grains and an Asiago emulsion. Judge Danny Smiles observed that the dish adhered to its roots from Puglia, where orecchiette and broccoli are frequently used together.

Pro tip: Francis put his pasta dough in a vacuum bag to take the air out and speed up the resting process. If you have a vacuum sealer at home and are in a hurry, you can try this technique as well.

Get the recipe for Orecchiette With Homemade Ricotta And Cherry Tomatoes

How to Make Homemade Gnocchi

Due to the time constraints, Stephanie didn’t have time to make the traditional potato-based version of gnocchi, which requires cooking and cooling potatoes before putting them through a food mill, combining with flour and eggs and shaping into individual pieces. Instead, she opted for Parisian-style gnocchi, beginning with a choux paste (similar to eclairs) where butter and water are cooked, then combined with flour before putting it in a stand mixer to beat in the eggs. The mixture is piped into a pot of boiling water to cook. The judges liked the softness of Stephanie’s gnocchi, although they felt that they were a bit lost amidst the cornucopia of other ingredients in her Parisian gnocchi with pattypan squash, white asparagus, wild rose harissa and white asparagus sauce with ricotta.

Pro tip: When combining the eggs in the stand mixer, add them slowly one by one to ensure a soft and tender, eggier dumpling.

If you’d like to try a potato-free version of gnocchi, take a look at these Ricotta Gnocchi from head judge Mark McEwan.

How to Make Homemade Ravioli

Lucy’s first job on her first day as a chef at Terre Rouge was making pasta, so it’s no wonder that her cashew, caramelized onion and Gruyère ravioli won favour with the judges for its texture, winning her a place in the finale. Ravioli is made by running pasta dough through a pasta roller to achieve a thin, smooth sheet, then dolloping spoonfuls of filling in a single row across the bottom half. After folding over the top and pressing gently between sections of filling to remove excess air and seal each ravioli, a pasta cutter is used to trim each piece.

Pro tip: Listen to sound of the dough in the stand mixer — it will tell you when the dough is reaching the right consistency (you are looking for a stiffness similar to play dough).

Want to tackle your own ravioli? Try this Short Rib Ravioli and Creamy Mushroom Sauce, or Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli.

Related: How to Host a Top Chef Canada-Worthy Drag Brunch

How to Make Homemade Agnolotti

This pocket-sized filled pasta (or “little cute pillows with a beautiful pocket of filling on the inside”, as Imrun described it) starts out the same way as ravioli. The dough is rolled and dots of filling are piped onto the sheet of pasta, but before the final cuts are made, imprints are pushed into the sides of the filling to create a pillowy dent. Although Imrun’s use of nutritional yeast to top his kabocha squash and mascarpone agnolotti mystified the judges, they loved the thinness and execution of his pasta.

Pro tip: Using a piping bag to fill the agnolotti ensures even distribution and neatly centred dots.

Try one of these tasty ravioli recipes and adjust the method and filling size as described above to try them with agnolotti.

How to Make Homemade Tagliatelle

Rich with added egg yolks, tagliatelle’s long, flat ribbons make it a tender and versatile pasta. Adrian discovered the perils of deviating from the traditional recipe when he attempted to substitute squash purée for eggs, resulting in a soggy dough that stuck and broke in the roller during his first attempt. His second try was also too wet, forcing him to roll out the dough by hand, which ended up with tagliatelle that “looked more like spaetzle”, according to head judge Mark McEwan. Overall, although the judges liked the flavour of his butternut squash tagliatelle with butternut béchamel and scotch bonnet cremini mushrooms, the errors in executing the pasta itself sent Adrian home.

Pro tip: Be careful when substituting ingredients or adjusting your recipe, especially when using wet ingredients such as butternut squash that add moisture to the dough and can disrupt the water to flour ratio. Try making it yourself with this recipe for Homemade Tagliatelle.

Once you’ve made your fresh pasta, try one of these 50 Best-Ever Pasta Recipes for Easy Dinners. Watch Top Chef Canada Mondays at 10ep and stream Live and On Demand on the new Global TV App, and on STACKTV. Food Network Canada is also available through all major TV service providers.

How To Host a Top Chef Canada-Worthy Drag Brunch at Home

This week’s episode of Top Chef Canada turned the party with its seamless blend of drag artistry and culinary skills.

With the eighth season of the hit series well underway, the diverse cast of culinary warriors have embarked on plenty of intense challenges already. This week, however, the chefs were challenged to a fabulously unique Quickfire Challenge that focused on creating a scrumptious drag brunch – and it gave us life! Spoiler Alert: You’ll want to watch this week’s episode, Drag Brunch, before reading any further to avoid spoilers.

Related: Recap the Top Moments From Top Chef Canada

For the uninitiated, drag brunches are increasingly popular Sunday morning staples in most major cities – an entertaining way to enjoy your eggs and down some mimosas while taking in a live comedy and lip-sync performance extravaganza from a local queen. In light of recent circumstances, however, drag artists have taken the internet by storm, streaming live performances to their loyal fans. (All you need to do is Google your favourite queen or visit their Instagram page to check out their upcoming schedules.)

And so, with Toronto-based drag artists Baby Bel Bel and Miss Moco looking on, the chefs offered up plenty of opulent eats that left us drooling.

Dominique, Adrian and Jo came out on top with their cinnamon and orange zest-themed eats. With that team’s convincing win in mind, we’re sharing our recipes for a fancy drag brunch based on the winning team’s recipes – albeit easier and less time-consuming (we can’t all be top chefs, after all).

Related: What Famous Food Dish From Top Chef Canada Should You Make?

Dominique’s first course: Scotch Quail Egg with Radicchio Salad with Spiced Orange Vinaigrette

Try it Yourself: Scotch Egg

Don’t have quail eggs on hand to mirror Dominique’s dish? Fear not! There’s nothing wrong with a deliciously simple regular egg instead. Pair your homemade breaded Scotch Egg with a light salad if you’re feeling particularly peckish.

Try it Yourself: Brunch Frittata

Treat yourself to a low-key drag brunch by combining tomatoes, asparagus, herbs and goat cheese for a dish that’s ready in less than 30 minutes – leaving you plenty of time to queue up a drag queen performance to stream live.

Adrian’s second course: Allspice French Toast Orange Peel-Infused Fried Chicken with Scotch Bonnet, Rosehip and Ginger Syrup

Try it Yourself: Biscuit French Toast with Cinnamon-Orange Cane Syrup

If straight-up French Toast isn’t your jam, you can still stick to Adrian’s southern comfort food theme by crafting this mouth-watering biscuit-inspired version.

Try it Yourself: Fried Chicken with Wild Rice Waffles and Pink Peppercorn Sauce

Before you take in all those sickening death drops on your drag brunch livestream, curl up with some crispy fried chicken on homemade waffles that will leave you feeling full right up to dinner.

Jo’s third course: Carrot Cake Scone with Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting and Candied Walnuts

Try it Yourself: Waffled Carrot Cake

If you didn’t opt for waffles in the second course, there are still opportunities to save the best for last.  Elevate the average waffle with carrot cake-infused cream cheese frosting and roughly chopped pecans for a drag brunch that will satisfy your sweet tooth.

Try it Yourself: Bacon-Cranberry Scones with Citrus Basil Butter

If you’re not a fan of carrot cake, try these savoury scones you can enjoy with your second (or third) cup of coffee or tea.

Watch Top Chef Canada Mondays at 10ep and stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

Take This Quiz to Find Out Which Famous Food Dish You Should Make

It’s dinnertime and let’s face it: when it comes to cooking fresh fare for yourself and your family every single night (AKA adulting), everyone could use a little inspiration or some easy dinner ideas every now and again. But, whether you love whipping up new creations by invoking your favourite Top Chef Canada winners, or you prefer to splurge on takeout and sample some inspiring new plates (and grabbing ideas to try out in your own kitchen while you’re at it), there’s always something to be said about the classics. You know the dishes we’re talking about: the tried-and-true recipes that are so great they will always have a place in our hearts (and on restaurant menus everywhere), no matter how they’re reinvented, deconstructed, or reimagined.

Try it: Get the recipe for grilled Caesar salad with cheddar crisps

The best part about classic food dishes is that they can be made to fit your own personality depending on your tastes, preferences, and flair. They can be transformed into deconstructed plates, made into comfort food, or rolled into a home chef’s menu for the ages with just a few simple tweaks and a little creativity. And quite often, they’re typically just as delicious as the OG dishes on which they’re based.

Just ask the contestants on Top Chef Canada. In this season’s second episode host Eden Grinshpan had them each spin a wheel to see which one of five classic dishes they would reinvent for the judges in the Quickfire challenge, injecting their plates with new ideas in what can only be called the ultimate (foodie) personality test. Some cheftestants churned out plates that were real winners, inspiring us to wonder what we would recreate given the same opportunities.

Related: Which 2020 Culinary Trend Do You Need to Try?

Would poutine be just as delicious if it were smothered in a béchamel sauce and topped with a poached egg? Could you reinvent fish and chips with some crushed salt and vinegar potato chips as a batter and then mix some carrot and turnip fries into your typical potato batch? Of course! So given the chance, how would you put your own spin on one of these classics, from the Caesar salad to a shrimp cocktail?

More importantly, which classic recipe should you tackle in the first place? In honour of the contestants on the show, take our personality quiz to find out which classic dish from the series you should recreate the next time you’re feeling a little bit stuck in the dinner department.

What 2020 Culinary Trend Should You Try

Quiz: Which 2020 Culinary Trend Do You Need to Try?

You could say that culinary trends are an industry staple — the foundation on which all other dishes are eventually spun off. Just think about it: as soon as one chef blows your mind with a plate full of crunchy, edible bugs, other chefs clamour to create their own rendition of the dish. Before you know it, your local carnival is serving critters on top of ice cream. Maybe with some fried vegan butter on the side (because, you know, carnival food).

Or, if bugs aren’t your thing, consider all the ways intermittent fasting and plant-based diets have transformed the scene. Odds are you’ve probably tried cauliflower rice and there’s vegan protein in your daily smoothie. Maybe you’ve even considered becoming a flexitarian – after all, you’ve discovered it’s too hard to give up those steaks, sushi, and fried chicken forever, especially at dinner parties when you don’t want to be the odd man (or woman) out.

There are less subtle trends to consider, too. Many chefs are embracing nose-to-tail cooking as zero waste kitchens pop up in today’s climate, while online ordering and delivering have changed the fast food and takeout game. Are you doing your part to try and eat locally sourced, sustainable foods? Are there milk alternatives in your fridge and nutritional yeast in your cupboard? And hey — who else remembers when craft beer became a thing and opened up a whole new world of hoppy flavours?

We may no longer be chowing down on charcoal-everything or ordering up rainbow-coloured bagels, but trends in some shape or form will always have a place in the kitchen. From cooking techniques and ingredients to diets and new flavour combinations (two words: chocolate bacon), there are many ways to embrace them. But, which current or future trend is for you?

The chefs on Top Chef Canada were tasked with thinking about that in the eighth season premiere, when host Eden Grinshpan asked them to create a dish that represents a food trend of the future. Through healthy bowls, recycled technologies and a few ideas in between (fried grasshoppers, anyone?), these contestants proved that “trendy” doesn’t really mean one particular thing or idea.

Think you’re ready to tackle some trends in your own kitchen and prove your culinary prowess once and for all? Of course you are, you foodie, you. Take this quiz to find out what kind of a trendsetter you are in the kitchen, and how you can use that trend to concoct your own spectacular Top Chef Canada-worthy meal.

Top Chef Canada season 8 cast reveal and predictions

Meet This Year’s Top Chef Canada Contestants (Plus Our Season 8 Predictions)

It’s been a long wait, Canada, but the culinary competition show that shines a spotlight on some of the greatest chefs working across the country is back for an eighth season and we’re ravenously awaiting that first Quickfire. Until then, there are 12 hot new contestants ready to fire up those stovetops and take their plates to that next Top Chef Canada level, all under the watchful eyes (and seasoned palates) of a notoriously tough judging panel.

Who will impress judges Mark McEwan, Mijune Pak, Chris Nuttall-Smith and Janet Zuccarini (not to mention host Eden Grinshpan) when the show kicks off, and whose culinary masterpieces will fall flat? We’ve had some time to investigate these contestants—whose experiences and hometowns are among the most diverse yet—and we have a few first impressions and predictions to share…

Top Chef Canada Season 8 Competitors


L-R: Francis Blais, Adrian Forte, Elycia Ross, Brock Bowes, Dominique Dufour, Jo Notkin, Xin Mao, Stephanie Ogilvie, Nils Schneider, Shaun Hussey, Imrun Texeira, Lucy Morrow

Brock Bowes, Kelowna BC

Current gig: Chef/Co-Owner Crasian Food Truck

First impressions: Obviously this chef, with his wacky moustache and his knee-high socks, is full of personality. But he also seems to have the talent to back it up. He’s won Chopped Canada in the past (he donated all $10,000 of his winnings), and he was named the best chef in the Okanagan for four years before trading it in to run a food truck with his girlfriend. Brock says he plans on winning this thing the unconventional way: “I’m going to crush this show and I’m going to do it in a way that nobody has done it before.” Now that’s a first impression.

Our predictions: Sometimes it’s the super creative guys that you need to watch—they try to do everything and then they wind up second-guessing themselves. We all know that there’s no time for that in the Top Chef Canada kitchen, so hopefully, Brock stays on track, cooks the basics the best way he knows how, and then elevates those plates in an elegant way.

Xin Mao, Vancouver

Current gig: Chef/Owner of M8 Bistro & Bar

First impressions: Xin plans on bringing a competitive edge to this competition, something he first learned in business school but has since refined working under Vancouver’s legendary chef Pino Posteraro. The 26-year-old may be young but he’s spent plenty of time honing his skills, and given that this wasn’t his father’s first career choice for him, he also seems to have a lot to prove.

Our predictions: Xin hails from a small town in rural China, but his culinary training is Italian. That means his Chinese-Italian fusion could seriously impress the judges… now all the chef needs to do is stay calm in that pressure cooker of a kitchen so that he can properly execute his vision.

Elycia Ross, Calgary

Current gig: Chef/Owner of Lil’ Truck on the Prairie

First impressions: Elycia is all about redefining classic male toxicity in the kitchen and injecting her plates with good old-fashioned love. As the owner of a successful food truck she definitely knows a thing or two about busting her butt in a small and stressful space, but she also seems like the type to do that with creativity and grace.

Our predictions: The fact that Elycia owns a food truck may have some of the other chefs underestimating her, but once they see and taste her food they’re bound to change their tune. In fact, she may be one of our early underdogs.

Nils Schneider, Calgary

Current gig: Pastry Chef at Hotel Arts

First impressions: Desserts tend to trip up even the best of Top Chef Canada contestants, which makes Nils’ background as a pastry chef so interesting—this guy is all about mastering the different kitchen skills required to execute an amazing plate. From cooking, to butchering, to baking, this guy hasn’t just done it all, he’s also working towards becoming one of the country’s youngest Certified Master Chefs.

Our predictions: You know what they say about a Jack-of-All-Trades… he’s the master of none. So while Nils definitely seems to have a solid foundation heading into this competition, here’s hoping he’ll be equally strong in all of those basics to really stand out.

Dominique Dufour, Ottawa

Current gig: Chef/Owner of Gray Jay

First impressions: This wild child is breaking barriers in terms of female representation in the kitchen and it’s hard not to be here for it. Dominique isn’t shy about her love of butchering animals and using them from nose-to-tail; it’s something her team practices every Saturday at her restaurant, Gray Jay. Given that, we think she will definitely handle the heat in this competition.

Our predictions: Dominique seems pretty fearless, which will definitely come in handy given some of the crazy challenges the contestants face in the Top Chef Canada kitchen. But will she push her plates too far in terms of creativity and let some of that quality slack? Only time will tell.

Imrun Texeira, Ottawa

Current gig: Sous Chef at Stofa

First impressions: If there’s any chef in this competition that seems likely to leave his soul on the plate, it’s Imrun. He’s been classically trained as a French chef but he fuses his food with international techniques and flair, something that has to result in some pretty unique dishes and flavour combos.

Our predictions: Traditionally the Top Chef Canada judges love to be won over by fusion cooking, but only if the basics are done well. If Imrun can nail technique while also giving the judges something innovative, he’s likely to go pretty far in this thing.

Adrian Forte, Toronto

Current gig: Chef Consultant, Chef Du Jour

First impressions: This Jamaican-born chef is in it to win it. As a former Chopped contestant, a chef on Chef in Your Ear, and a culinary instructor at George Brown, he has the experience to back up his craft. Oh, and did we mention he’s also cooked for Drake and his crew? This chef screams confidence and flavour, which will be a spicy combo in the Top Chef Canada kitchen.

Our predictions: Of course celebrity doesn’t impress these judges, they’re here for flavour, creativity and technique. So long as Adrian doesn’t get too comfortable and he pushes his plates to that next level, he may definitely be the one to watch this season.

Jo Notkin, Montreal

Current gig: Chef/Owner of Zoe Ford Catering

First impressions: There have been self-taught chefs in this competition before but none quite like Jo. A decade ago when the recession hit her textile business went under, and she realized her passion was in food. Now as the owner of a successful catering company she has a more simplistic approach than some of the other chefs in this competition, but simple is sometimes the most delicious way to go.

Our predictions: The creations thrown together in a matter of minutes on this series is seriously mind-boggling, so Jo may need to adjust. Still, her flavour-profile game seems strong, so if she can use this as a learning experience she may catapult over the competition yet.

Francis Blais, Montreal

Current gig: Chef de Cuisine at Le Mousso

First impressions: Have you heard the story of the wayward boy who met a girl, fell in love and put his life on track by getting a job as a dishwasher at a restaurant? Before long he worked his way up to chef de cuisine at one of the highest-ranked eateries in Canada, and now he’s on this season of Top Chef Canada. It seems like it took Francis a long time to find his passion, but now that he’s got it he will fight for that prize until the very end.

Our predictions: Francis will definitely blow the judges away by taking risks—after all, that’s how he got his start in the kitchen. What we don’t know is whether those risks will pay off—it’s a fine line in the Top Chef Canada kitchen, folks, and sometimes the things that seemed destined to work out wind up falling flatter than a collapsed soufflé.

Stephanie Ogilvie, Halifax

Current gig: Chef de Cuisine at Chives

First impressions: How do you know if a chef truly loves what he or she does? When she spends her one night off a week running a 12-course underground style supper club with her husband, perhaps? That’s how Stephanie rolls, and now she’s ready to show the rest of Canada just how passionate (and delicious) her plates can be.

Our predictions: Stephanie has a long-standing but friendly rivalry with last season’s female frontrunner, Renée Lavallée, so she may have gotten a few insider tips on what it takes to survive in this competition. Not that she’ll necessarily need it, but any edge on this show is still an edge.

Shaun Hussey, St. John’s 

Current gig: Chef/Owner of Chinched

First impressions: Shaun may not have the confidence that the rest of the competitors seem to have walking into this competition, but his wife definitely believes in him. At any rate, we’re hoping Shaun will continue what season six winner Ross Larkin started, and that’s shining a light on the culinary prowess of Canada’s easternmost province.

Our predictions: If we learned anything from watching Ross on this series it’s that the judges always appreciate a dish that showcases distinctive Canadian roots. So if Shaun can show his unique East coast upbringing with elevated techniques, he’s someone we could get pretty excited by.

Lucy Morrow, Charlottetown

Current gig: Executive Chef at Terre Rouge Craft Kitchen

First impressions: Lucy may be young, but she is one talented chef. At 26 years old she’s already been named executive chef at one of the country’s Top 100 restaurants, she’s cooked for the prime minister, and she seems to have an unmatched passion for what she does. This chef is definitely going to show us a thing or two about how Millennials do Top Chef Canada.

Our predictions: There are some pretty fierce competitors this season, but Lucy seems to be among those with the most to prove. We’re betting on her to cook some pretty bold dishes this season, which will definitely get the judges’ attention.


The competition begins April 13 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Food Network Canada.

 

 

 

Top-Chef-Canada-season-7-Winner-Interview

Top Chef Canada Winner: Exclusive Interview With the Season 7 Champion

In a Top Chef Canada season full of next-level chefs and emerging Canadian talent, it was Tofino’s own Paul Moran, AKA “The Competition Chef,” who was named the chef to beat from the very first episode. Throughout the series, he pulled out win after win, and while he had some stumbles along the way, he dug deep in a five-course finale showdown against Phil Scarfone to blow the judges away and take home this year’s title.

Paul Moran Top Chef Canada Winner

“He did a partridge [pigeon] that was extraordinary. There’s a maturity to Paul’s cooking. He’s worked in a lot of good places and he’s very studied, very dedicated, and it showed on his plate,” says head judge Mark McEwan. “I saw him coming through early on as being very strong. He was not a surprise winner—he was technically the best chef in the kitchen.”

“The same thing kept coming up the entire season, and that was Paul’s technique,” adds host Eden Grinshpan. “No one could really match that level of technique. His confidence was palpable. You could taste it.”

On the heels of Paul Moran‘s Top Chef Canada win, we caught up with the chef to learn how he stayed so calm and focused throughout the entire season, how he hopes his win will shine a spotlight on Canadian foraging, and his very big plans for the future.

What was it like when they called your name as Top Chef Canada?
It had been a pretty intense journey to get to that point, and that made it more real. You’re thinking about getting to the end the whole time that you’re there. And then it happened and it was like, ‘What? It’s over?’ You’re just focusing so hard on the moment. That was definitely surreal.

What was your secret to staying so focused throughout?
I treated the challenges and everything as part of the competition as a whole. Sure, I wanted to have the best dish all the time, but there was a time when I didn’t have the best dish or I was on the bottom. I didn’t let that get me down or affect my confidence in any way. I knew in the back of my mind that I wanted to win the whole thing and I was confident enough in my ability to do it, so that’s what I brought to the whole thing.

Was there ever a moment where you thought, ‘OK maybe I do have a chance at this’?
I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t think I had a good chance of winning — regardless of who was competing. Before I was accepted into the show I was confident. I felt pretty good from the first challenge that I could win.

Were there any particular competitors you saw as the person or the people to beat?
I don’t think so. I approached it in the opposite way; I was more worried about myself than what other people were doing.

What was your reaction to Phil calling you out as the chef to beat from the first episode?
I thought it was pretty funny. Phil and I have known each other, we’d worked together before in the kitchen and at events. He knows that I’ve done a lot of competitions so it was kind of funny to see. I wasn’t expecting that.


Did you do anything differently to prepare for the competition that is Top Chef Canada?
No. It all comes down to your ability to cook and your repertoire of recipes. A lot of the competitions that I’ve done in the past have only ever been like, one or two recipes or dishes that you prepared, not 20. That was part of the challenge here, was pulling out full class recipes time and time again. So making sure that I had those all in the back of my head before going in was pretty important.

Was there like one dish that you’re the most proud of from your time on the show?
I guess the pigeon from the finale, the main course. It just speaks to who I am as a chef and was the best out of any other dish that I made. It showed my passion for wild food and it had a lot of my experiences in there, techniques that I picked up and little things from all different places from all over the world, that I incorporated into that plate.

Paul Moran Top Chef Canada Partridge

How important is travelling for a chef looking to take their skills to the next level?
I think if you want to be one of the best it’s pretty much essential. I don’t think you can substitute that experience or even come close to substituting it. Working for great chefs in Canada who have already done those things, maybe. But that doesn’t substitute for a great, international experience.

Is there a dish you’d love to be able to go back and redo?
Yeah, when our parents and significant others came out, when my dad was out, he brought wild mushrooms and we made a chicken dish in the Quickfire. If I could go back and redo that one I would. I’d probably just do something a little bit simpler. Work on my presentation and maybe make something that was more suitable to sitting around a little bit longer while the judges were tasting other dishes.

Do any of the judges’ remarks or commentary on your food stand out for you now, looking back?
When Mijune Pak knew the origins of my family dish, the heritage dish that we did in the first episode’s Elimination Challenge. I had explained that it was a liver dumpling and she was asking if it was like the authentic Austrian liver dumpling [Leberknödel]. And just the fact that she liked the dish and knew exactly where I was coming from with the story, that was pretty cool.

Along the way, who were you most surprised to see go home?
I was kind of surprised to see Takeshi go so early. I was a little bit disappointed because I was expecting to see quite a bit from him. I have a lot of respect for Japanese culture and cuisine and I figured he would represent that in a small way with the chef that he was working for, but I was surprised to see him go first. But everybody was on a pretty even playing field. It was anybody’s win and this was a pretty talented group of people.

Are you hoping your win brings more recognition to foraging?
Yeah. I’ve been working with wild food for a long time but mostly commercially on a wholesale level, so I just launched a website where I’ll be able to show my passion for wild food to people through recipes and photo galleries. I’ll also have a retail brand for people to be able to purchase a lot of the ingredients I worked with on Top Chef Canada and that I work with in Tofino. I want to reflect on the day-to-day mission statements of promoting wild food and wild food culture and make it an essential part of all Canadians’ lives. That’s a big goal of mine moving forward.

I also just finished my free-diving certification so I can go out and harvest all the seaweed I want. Water foraging is kind of the last frontier for me. So things like wild mushrooms and seaweed and wild rice, different things all over the country will be on the website and accessible and there will be a lot of inspiration in terms of photos and recipes for people to check out as well.

Paul forages a giant puffball mushroom

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start foraging?
Go with somebody who knows what they’re doing, treat them well and see if they’ll take you out a couple of more times. Just go with as many people as possible, as many times as possible, before you go out and do it on your own. There are lots of different clubs you can join.

Do you have any other plans for your winnings?
With the Air Transat flight, I’m definitely going to go somewhere warm. They fly to lots of sunny beaches. I’m super excited [for] the Italy and Napa trips. There’s a six-hector property I’m planning on purchasing on a pretty remote island out in B.C this fall. The end goal is to develop it into a boutique, seasonal resort. People can follow along with the progress of that on the website, and that will take up a lot of my attention over the next few years. I have a five-year plan to turn it from a small vacation rental to a proper, functioning, seasonal resort. And to be able to share my whole passion of cooking, foraging, fishing up there.

Top-Chef-Canada-Chef-Congeniality-BFF

The Season 7 Chefs Reveal Their Top Chef Canada BFF

When it comes to the cooking competition that is Top Chef Canada, kitchen prowess is only part of the game. Okay yes, a contestant’s culinary skills are what the judges are evaluating for the grand prize, but the impression a chef makes on viewers and on their fellow competitors counts for something too.

This year we asked each of the chefs to name who they think should win the title of Top Chef Canada Congeniality, and three chefs stood head and shoulders above the rest. So who, among the bromantic pals, goofy gals and dreamy studs (here’s looking at you, Dennis) made the cut?

“It’s a very hard question,” Sebastien says. “Renee, Phil, Dennis and Paul… Benet too, he’s an animal! I hope I get to do events with all the contestants from this season. It was great to meet chefs from all over Canada.”

But while Sebastien split his vote five ways, the others made some loud and clear picks. In the end it all came down to Tania, Phil, and of course, Dennis. Let’s take a look.

Phil Scarfone

How can you not appreciate the Vancouver chef, with his impeccable facial hair and undying love for his mother? Phil won us over week after week with his high class dishes and even higher-class attitude. His cooking was no joke (he did make it all the way to the finale, after all), and we’re still dreaming of his delightful-looking pasta, but he also connected with his co-stars.

“Definitely Phil Scarfone,” Renee declares when making her picks. “He was always there to give me a hug and words of encouragement.”

Top Chef Canada Chef Phil Scarfone

Phil Scarfone on Top Chef Canada

Tania Ganassini

While we knew Tania’s bubbly personality and ability to connect with her castmates made her a strong contender for this award, we also can’t forget that time during Restaurant Wars when she offered to act as host… and then forgot the judges’ orders. Somehow, she managed to recover from that gaff and still wow Mark, Eden and co. If you ask us, when it comes to the title of congeniality, that’s just as telling as her knack for hobnobbing with her fellow chefs.

“Tania would have the Chef Congeniality,” says Erin. “She is an amazing chef and person, and always has a positive outlook.”

“I would vote for Tania because she is just someone you want to hang out with!” adds Wallace.

Tania Ganassini on Top Chef Canada

Tania Ganassini on Top Chef Canada

See more: Tania Ganassini on How to Embrace Zero-Waste Cuisine

Dennis Peckham

“Dennis, for sure. Those eyes, that hair…” Phil jokes about picking Dennis for Chef Congeniality.

But seriously, suave looks aside, Dennis certainly bonded with his share of contestants during his time on the series. We even saw him crash Paul’s house recently for dinner and a viewing of the show on Paul’s Instagram stories. (No wonder Paul voted for him too!)

Even more telling? Of all the chefs on the series, Dennis captured Benet’s vote too. Considering Benet and Wallace were brothers (save that awkward carnival challenge), that’s kind of a big deal.

Top Chef Canada Chef Dennis Peckham

Dennis Peckham on Top Chef Canada

And the winner is…

Tania!

That’s right, the plant-based chef may not have made the judges’ stomachs sing in every challenge, but she definitely managed to capture her fellow competitors’ hearts. While Dennis amassed four full votes and Phil edged in with a few mentions, it was Tania who nabbed five full votes and walks away as this year’s most congenial chef.

It sure was close, huh? But hey, even Dennis doesn’t have any hard feelings. After all, he also voted for Tania.

“Most all of the chefs were mean or rude to me out of jealousy for my good looks, and piercing blue eyes,” he says. “But if I had to pick one chef it would probably Tania… terrible dancer, great chef, better person.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Hayden Johnston Top Chef Canada

How the Cuisine of Thunder Bay Shaped Top Chef Canada’s Hayden Johnston

Hayden Johnston has a lot of culinary experience under his belt at only 30-years-old, and now he can add a spot in the four of Top Chef Canada to that list. We sat down with Top Chef Canada Season 7 contestant Hayden Johnston to get the scoop on the competition going into the final four, his love for Thunder Bay and the culinary destinations he’d like to visit.

You’re very passionate about your hometown of Thunder Bay. How did the city shape you as a chef?

Growing up in Thunder Bay, you spend a lot of time outside, not necessarily foraging per se, but fishing and hunting. There’s a lot of time gathering with friends and family because it’s a smaller town. It’s close-knit, so we spend a lot of time eating and barbecuing [together].

Read more: 25 Brilliant Camping Food Hacks You’ll Want to Try

Hayden on Top Chef Canada

Were there any hometown dishes that you brought to Toronto with you that people didn’t understand, or that it took them a while to warm up to?

There’s one in particular and I actually cooked it for my first episode — the Shoreline Lunch. That’s something we run as a feature at [Richmond Station] all the time. It’s basically battered and fried fish with roasted potatoes. Maybe there’s a pierogi or two, a can of beans, and whatever else is in the cooler. We would do a more refined version of it. At first, people didn’t get the concept, but now there are diners who come to the restaurant asking when we’re doing Shoreline Lunch next. That’s something that I grew up cooking and eating back home, definitely with friends and family, and something we’ve translated into a more mainstream dish in Toronto.

Thunder Bay Persian Rolls

Is there one item specific to Thunder Bay that you really enjoy eating, like Persians or Finnish pancakes at The Hoito?

My dream is to take over the Hoito. I want to be the chef, cook breakfast and lunch, and be done. It’s just so Thunder Bay. There are so many ingredients, dishes, and techniques that are uniquely “Thunder Bay.” The Persian is a good example of that. We have a large Finnish population, so Finnish pancakes are definitely something, even if you’re not from Thunder Bay. You drive through and everybody goes to the Hoito.

Sometimes I feel awkward throwing that city so much love. People always ask, “What’s so good about Thunder Bay?” For me, it’s home. My family and friends are still there, and I always say that if I have the right opportunity to go back, I totally would.

Get the recipe:  Thunder Bay Persian Rolls

Hayden is joined by his mother on Episode 7 of Top Chef Canada

What was your favourite challenge so far during this season of Top Chef Canada?

My favorite challenge was the Quickfire where we got to cook with a family member. Seeing my mom’s bright, smiling face was the best part of filming the whole season. Even better than my Elimination Challenge win. You’re in a stressful environment for so long that seeing a friendly face that you know is on your team is pretty nice.

Hayden’s Fermented Beef Plate

Which dish are you most proud of so far this season?

I’m most proud of my fermented beef plate that I won the Nordic challenge with. It was very representative of the food that I like to eat and cook, with fresh, clean flavors that are big, bold and acidic.

Read more: Your Guide to Mastering Scandinavian Recipes the Top Chef Canada Way

Do you have a list of culinary destinations that you’d like to visit if you win Top Chef Canada?

If there was one area I could focus on, it would be the Southern US. Not barbecue necessarily, but the Sean Brock style of seasonal cooking. I spent two weeks staging at Husk years ago. I like to see the history of food and [learn about] a group of people that have something that’s specific to them. Finding those little niches is really fun. There’s a place in Tennessee called Blackberry Farm that does a lot of [farm to table cuisine].  At the restaurant, we cook a ton of vegetables, so [visiting] Southern California, Napa or Yountville where it’s vegetable-focused would be really neat.

I’m more ingredient or technique-focused. I went to Husk to learn how to cook rice and beans. I really wanted to learn how to pick vegetables from a garden, so I staged two weeks with Dan Barber at Blue Hill in New York. When I want to learn something, I go and find the person who does it best.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Watch Hayden on the finale of Top Chef Canada on Monday, May 20 at 10 P.M. E/P.

Ask a Plant-Based Chef: How to Embrace Zero-Waste Cuisine

Top Chef Canada Season 7 contestant Tania Ganassini has a mission to introduce nutritious and satisfying plant-based dishes to a wider audience. Here, the vegetarian chef offers up her must-try tips for incorporating plant-based meals into your weekly rotation, and moving toward a zero-waste lifestyle.

How important is it for everyone to start adopting a zero-waste lifestyle?

It’s crucial. Every single one of us needs to start embracing a zero-waste lifestyle, not just in terms of our food waste, but with single-use plastics and even our clothing. Really look at not sending things to landfill, and not purchasing “new” all the time. Repurpose food in the fridge by using the rinds, leaves, and roots that get thrown in the trash. It’s something I’m extremely fired up about. I want to spread the message about zero-waste living, or less wasteful living because we’re a wasteful species post-industrial revolution. We need to revert back to our old ways, like growing our own food and using every part of the vegetable or animal. Being mindful of our consumption and waste is not an option anymore.

Read more: 12 Best Zero-Waste Restaurants and Food Stores Across Canada

Are there easy ways to reduce waste while cooking?

Try to grow your own food. It gives you a different appreciation for the ingredient because you’ve seen it go from seedling to actual vegetable.

Purchase locally from farmers. Having a connection with your grower really changes the way you look at each ingredient and the way you utilize it.

Instead of doing one grocery shop a week, maybe do a few, especially for fresh produce. Logistically, that can be really hard for people, so maybe [try] a grocery delivery program if it’s not convenient for you to leave.

Purchase less so you can manage the amount of food you have in your fridge. We all shop hungry with ambitions of making these meals at the end of the week, but it’s a really easy way to let produce go bad in your fridge.

Know how to use every part of each ingredient, like which leaves are great to use and how to repurpose them. Pestos are an amazing way to use carrot tops, beet tops, kale stems, or chard stems. You can use citrus peels in household cleaners, or candy them. It’s truly endless.

Take a moment, almost like a moving meditation, and [think about] where your food came from. Instead of just haphazardly discarding parts of the ingredient — whether it be plant or animal — take a second to try to be creative. Maybe it takes an extra step to chop up the stems and wash them, but over time it saves you money. It’s amazing for the planet, and it’s the way forward.

Do you have a go-to clean your fridge, food scrap recipe?

We make some version of a classic ribollita easily once a week with Tuscan beans, greens and vegetables. It’s a super easy way to hide stems, or use that one weird carrot in your fridge, or celery that’s going limp. It’s a one-pot, throw everything in [dish]. Beans are the foundation, plus garlic, onion, celery, carrot and some type of green vegetable like cabbage, kale or Swiss chard. You can hide any vegetable in there. Toss in a can of tomatoes, and finish it with lots of herbs, lemon, parsley and Parmesan, if you eat cheese. I like to make a vegan cheese with almond flour, hemp seeds and nutritional yeast. If you want to take it up a notch, add some really beautiful pasta like ditalini or shells.

Read More: 10 Vegetables You Can Regrow in Your Kitchen

Can you suggest some tips for incorporating plant-based meals for meat eaters?

A good first step is replacing your normal animal products with a veggie substitute like vegan cheese or making your own cheese with cashews. It opens up a world of possibilities with cooking because you’re not relying on old favourites like butter, cream and bacon.

Look at recipes that you love, like lasagna. It’s a classic, and everybody probably has one in their repertoire. Translating that into a vegan or vegetarian version is great because the ingredients and flavours are familiar, and you’re just making a few small swaps.

The-Perfect-Vegan-Lasagna-hot-for-food
Get the recipe: The Perfect Vegan Lasagna

It’s different than it was five or 10 years ago, and a lot easier to find substitutes that taste just as good. People still need to really enjoy their meals. I never want anyone to feel like they’re missing out. The joy and pleasure of eating is such a big part of it. One meatless meal a day or week makes a big impact. Pick one day a week, plan it out and get the whole family on board so they don’t feel like it’s being slapped on their plate as a some kind of punishment. You might actually be surprised by how you feel and how much you love it, and then it could maybe lead to two days a week or [more].

Read More: 20 Easy Vegan Weeknight Dinner Recipes

What do you believe is the most underrated food?

I have a mild obsession with lentils. They get a bad rep because they’re boring, they don’t look beautiful. But they’re chameleons of flavour, even on their own with a simple braising liquid, like homemade veggie stock. That’s an amazing way to use food scraps. Veggie stock can be transformed into a trillion different things. Lentils have all kinds of varieties that fit into every cuisine. They are very meaty and packed with nutrition that keeps you full. If digesting lentils is a concern, soak them overnight first and then cook them the next day to help with digestion, or buy sprouted lentils. They are a superfood in every way, and I’ll never get tired of them.

Saskatoon Berry Lentil Muffins
Try: Saskatoon Berry Lentil Muffins

This interview has been edited for clarity.

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