Tag Archives: Top Chef Canada

Best Places to Eat in Toronto: Top Chef Canada’s Matt Sullivan

Matt Sullivan has spent nearly a decade-and-a-half in the kitchen, working everywhere from a Michelin-starred restaurant to his current role as the corporate chef of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. While some may say that working a corporate job has made Matt lose touch in the kitchen, that statement just makes him all the more determined to win this year’s title of Top Chef Canada.

Matt’s interest in elevating the food programs under his current title has made him pay closer attention to the modern and versatile menus out there. So when he’s not hustling in the kitchen, here are the hotspots where this chef loves to enjoy someone else’s cooking.

Related: Read Matt Sullivan’s full bio here.

Foxley Bistro

This decade-old establishment is so successful it doesn’t even need a website. Featuring a cozy dining room and a slew of small plates inspired by Asian and Pan-Latin cuisines, Foxley and chef Tom Thai are considered Toronto culinary masters.

“It’s a staple in Toronto. It has been for 10-plus years and it (hopefully) will be for a long time [to come],” says Sullivan. “Get the beef cheek and sea bream ceviche. The servers have all been there forever and are the best in the city.”

Grey Gardens

Jenn Agg’s eclectic eatery features North American cuisine, a topnotch wine bar, an open kitchen and a secret sake service to boot. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the creative team has a pretty impressive resume too; chef Mitchell Bates (who co-owns with Agg) previously worked at Momofuku Ko and Shoto, which means he has the goods to back this menu up.

“[It’s] maybe the best food I had in all of 2017,” Matt says. “Mitch Bates is a Jedi and Jen Agg’s service is always on point. It’s just an amazing overall restaurant that everyone who lives in Toronto or visits here should check out.”

Branzino, turnips, capers, fried leeks #kintsugi

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Bar Buca

It’s industrial meets classic in Chef Rob Gentile’s follow-up eatery to Buca. This spinoff features seasonal small plates, skewers, bites and handcrafted cocktails that make it a great spot for small gatherings and celebrations. With an open kitchen, a beautiful dining room and a gorgeous patio, this is another hit with Torontonians and tourists alike.

“I have been so many times and never get tired of the food and service there,” Matt says. “The last time I was by myself, I spent two hours there and ate nine dishes!”

Superpoint

Locals have long enjoyed the house-made pasta and pizza from this favourite haunt, which features takeout or dine-in options and plenty of other Italian favourites like arancini, burrata and grilled seafood.

“Everything on the menu is awesome there — Johnny Poon is my favourite chef in the city; I can eat his food all day,” Matt says. “They also have a great wine menu and cocktails.”

Perfect day for a slice ???????????? #dinein #takeout #delivery #superpoint #onpoint

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Bar Raval

There are no reservations at this fun spot, where intimate hangouts and shared experiences are pretty much required. With an ever-changing menu and special, handcrafted cocktails, the space is further elevated by a carefully curated soundtrack.

“[It’s] such a fun spot to eat at with a group of friends. The service is super professional and friendly and the food is stupid good,” Matt says.

Get Chef Elia Herrera’s Top 5 Toronto Eats

See Chef Ivana Raca’s Top 5 Toronto Eats

Read about Chef Dustin Gallagher’s Top 10 Toronto Eats

Best Places to Eat in St. John’s: Top Chef Canada’s Ross Larkin

Ross Larkin didn’t go to culinary school like some of his competitors, but he did begin his career as a potato peeler at his family’s fish and chips shop. Then he spent some time in professional kitchens where he developed a taste for the quick pace of the culinary world. Now he wants to prove he’s got the chops to be Canada’s Top Chef.

As the chef de cuisine at St. John’s Raymonds, Ross knows how to take locally sourced ingredients and create an unforgettable dish. So naturally, he’s also impressed when other chefs demonstrate that same talent. When this hard-working chef has a night off, here’s where he loves to eat.

Related: Read Ross Larkin’s full bio here.

Seto Kitchen + Bar

Ross is particularly fond of this eatery that features contemporary Canadian dishes inspired by traditional Asian culinary techniques. In addition to featuring delicious cocktails and bites, the spot is also open late–a bonus for all those out there in the food industry.

“I used to work with Kenny Pittman, the chef and owner of Seto; I love going there for some of the best cocktails in the city and food that you just want to eat more and more of,” Ross says. “Seto does a late night menu offering that is great for those of us in the industry. It gives us somewhere to go after a service, have a drink and [eat] some killer food. I highly recommend the French fries if they’re on the menu that day. Kenny does an Instagram post of that night’s late-night menu and if those fries are on it I’m there!”

Mallard Cottage

This 18th Century Irish-Newfoundland style cottage isn’t just a beautifully restored property that’s recognized as a National Historic Site of Canada, but it’s also one of the oldest wooden buildings in North America. Top Chef Canada All-Stars competitor Todd Perrin is a co-owner alongside his wife Kim Doyle and sommelier Stephen Lee, making this place a must for any and all food lovers.

“When you walk in there’s usually a local group sitting around a table playing music. It makes you feel like you’re walking into your friend’s house every time,” Ross says. “Just sitting at the bar talking to Steve Lee, seeing Todd Perrin in the kitchen and all the crew down there… They are always in good spirits it seems. It’s nice living in a place where almost everyone knows each other and you’re welcomed when you walk through the doors. You can just sit down, relax and enjoy.”

Moose chorizo, spicy molasses glaze on an @mallard_schteeeek

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Fixed Coffee and Baking

This is a coffee spot that takes its java seriously. The team here only brews up to six cups at a time made in a Feto coffee brewer, and they never brew blended coffee. The result? Pure, single-origin coffee that represents the region it’s from.

“Fixed is one of our local coffee shops and is a stop on my way to work every morning,” Ross says. “It’s a great neighbourhood coffee spot with some amazing baked goods. The crew is great, they’re always doing pop-ups in the evening as well, to offer a little something more for people.”

A cap a day keeps the doctor away

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The Grounds Cafe

If it isn’t from a local farm, it doesn’t make it onto the menu at this “farm-to-fork” establishment. While the café doesn’t do a dinner service, brunch and lunch are available every day until 3 p.m. After that, they offer fresh coffee and baked goods until close.

“The Grounds Cafe is located at one of the farms we deal with at the restaurant,” Ross says. “It’s great to see a small cafe that has all of the amazing products from the farm right at their fingertips.”

Partridgeberry Flakie #thegroundscafe #passionflakie

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Merchant Tavern

This upscale restaurant boasts lots of fresh, local and sustainable ingredients, which in St John’s means plenty of fish and seafood. In fact, everything on the menu comes from and is inspired by local purveyors.

“Merchant Tavern has some great wines and a vast selection of different beers to match some exceptionally fresh seafood,” Ross raves.

Read more about Mallard Cottage

See Chef JP Miron’s Top 5 Eats in Montreal

See Chef Matt Sullivan’s Top 5 Eats in Toronto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taste Testing the Calgary Stampede with Top Chef Canada: All-Stars Champ Nicole Gomes

The sky’s the limit when it comes to what can be served on the Calgary Stampede.

Every year, the Stampede releases a list of new and noteworthy – or jaw-dropping, depending on how you look at it – midway foods to try. This has ranged from unorthodox edibles like pizza topped with fried mealworms and crickets, red velvet chicken strips, a corn dog containing a dill pickle-wrapped hot dog and ice-cold dulce de leche mini doughnut popsicles.

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This year, there are 40 different new items to try on the Calgary Stampede grounds. Since that’s too much for two people to eat in one outing, Top Chef Canada: All-Stars winner Nicole Gomes and I tried 10 of the most interesting creations while helping judge the annual “Best new midway food” competition.

Here’s what Nicole, an award-winning chef, thought of the wild midway offerings at The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.

funnel cake poutine calgary stampede

Funnel Cake Poutine, from Next Generation Concession
“This is the best thing ever,” says Nicole and it’s hard to disagree – especially as it was awarded “Best new savoury food on the midway” at this year’s Stampede. The deep-fried dough that’s usually topped with sweet powdered sugar gets a savoury twist with fresh cheese curds and beef gravy. One bite and Nicole’s chef mind is spinning with ideas for more fair funnel cake creations. “You could add some chicken, white gravy and bacon or make a beef taco salad-funnel cake hybrid. Ah, so many great things you could do with a funnel cake base!”

raindrop cake calgary stampede

The Raindrop Cake, from Sweet Tooth
This unusual jiggly “dessert” made of water and agar-agar (a vegan equivalent to gelatin) rose to fame in New York last year. Since then, it has popped up in countries like England, Japan and now Canada. “Just not my cup of tea. It just tastes, um, Jell-o-ish, but tasteless,” says Nicole, trying to describe the translucent creation.

horchata mini doughnut popsicle

Mini Donut Chata, from Family Squeezed
It’s hard to decipher from its name, but this epic drink-meets-dessert draws its inspiration from the Latin American drink horchata. The iced beverage is a mix of rice milk, cinnamon and vanilla and it’s surprisingly refreshing. But the garnishes – whipped cream, toffee crumble and the food vendor’s famous mini-doughnut popsicle dipped in butterscotch – takes this drink over the top. In a good way. “I love this popsicle! It is such a clever spin on a mini doughnut,” says Nicole. “The drink it comes with, though, is really, really big, but it would be an easy thing to share.” Nicole’s enthusiasm was shared by the Stampede, which awarded this concoction “Best new sweet food on the midway” for 2017.

chicken and waffles calgary stampede

The Texas Waffle,  from Waffles & Chix
Since Nicole owns the popular fried chicken spot, Cluck ‘n’ Cleaver, it takes a lot to impress the chef. “This is a cute idea, but it needs something more,” Nicole says after taking a few forkfuls of lightly battered chicken sitting on top of a Texas-shaped waffle that’s been filled with sliced jalapenos and aged cheddar. While tasty, this one is not ideal for walking and eating. “You’ll need to grab a fork and a knife and find a seat to really enjoy it.”

deep fried lemonade calgary stampede

Deep-fried Lemonade, from Family Squeezed
Just when you think everything in the world has been deep-fried, someone thinks of just one more thing to dip into the fryer. This year, the unofficial “strangest item to deep-fry” award has to go to Family Squeezed’s deep-fried lemonade. But, as Nicole discovered, it’s not quite what you’d expect. “I was sort of expecting to get a burst of frozen lemonade inside, kind of like when you bite into deep-fried ice cream, but this is more like a little doughnut,” the chef says.

cheeto dusted corn calgary stampede

The Flaming Cheeto, from Fresh Roasted Corn on the Cob
After taking a big bite, Nicole thought this mayo and Spicy Cheeto covered corn was much sweeter and less spicy than expected. This “flaming” addition to the midway is supposed to be a spin on Mexican street food, but ends up being a miss. “The Cheetos are so finely ground, they get mushy really quickly,” says Nicole. “They would have been better off coating it with something crispier.”

Waffle Taco, from Steve-O’s “Deep Fried” Public House
When it comes to the flavour, Nicole approves of the crispy sweet waffle shell and ice cream. “Ice cream options like this at the Calgary Stampede are good for people that like to mix and match, since you can choose different toppings like berries, sprinkles, chocolate sauce and more,” she says, but admits that it can be a mess to eat. “I just hate when you have to walk around with sticky hands,” says Nicole after biting into a taco-shaped waffle cone filled with ice cream and whipped cream.

rice krispie ice cream sandwich stampede

Cereal Monster Sandwiches, from Monster Cones
Whether you’re a kid or a kid at heart, this spin on a traditional ice cream sandwich – featuring two scoops of your choice of ice cream sandwiched between rainbow cereal marshmallow squares – is worth sinking your teeth into, says Nicole. “If I wanted something that was just cold and sweet, this is what I would go for,” she says. It’s not for the faint of heart or appetite, though, because of its giant portion. “The size does sort of intimidate me. It’s huge,” Nicole says and laughs. “It would be a great thing for kids. This is another thing you would have to go find a place to sit to eat.”

macn cheese hot dog calgary stampede

Double Bacon Mac ‘n’ Cheese Hotdog, from Super Foot-long Hotdog
Enjoying at least one hotdog while spending a day at the Calgary Stampede is a given, but finding a dog that truly rises above mediocre can be hard to find. Nicole seems torn about this particular new midway offering that’s a foot-long dog wrapped in bacon and then topped with a few spoonfuls of bacon mac ‘n’ cheese. “You can tell that the hotdog is good quality,” she says.  “I’d say just stick with their regular foot-long dog and skip the mac ‘n’ cheese.”

Mr crab sushi taco calgary stampede

Mr. Crab, by Happy Fish
Sushi may not be the first thing a person gravitates toward while strolling down a midway lane full of doughnuts, hot dogs and cotton candy, but this Top Chef Canada champion doesn’t want anyone missing out on this fulfilling sushi taco.  “This dish is fun. This is what Stampede food should be all about,” says Nicole while holding a crispy-fried nori taco filled with rice, imitation crab meat, tempura-fried soft shell crab that’s been topped with avocado and unagi and mango sauces. “It’s interesting, it’s tasty, it has great textures – I really love soft shell crab too – and it’s really easy to eat while you’re walking around!”

12 Farm-to-Table Restaurants Celebrating Canadian Cuisine

This Canada Day we should be celebrating the restaurants highlighting the fresh and local ingredients surrounding them. A hyper-local menu (very similar to local food and is in many ways the same thing) will taste differently on the west coast of Canada compared to the heart of the prairies, but our vast and diverse landscape is what makes this country so great.

Here are 12 must-try restaurants from coast to coast that do right by the farm-to-table approach and serve some pretty tasty food, too.

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Chives Bistro: Crab Cakes

Chives Canadian Bistro (Halifax, NS)

One of the institutions of the Halifax dining scene, Chives Bistro and owner Craig Flinn have always stayed true to the “work with what’s around you” mentality when it comes to their menu. Naturally, you’ll find some fresh East Coast lobster being offered here, but also a ton of local produce, Nova Scotia cheeses and more.

fablekitchen
Fable Kitchen

Fable Kitchen (Vancouver, BC)

With a name like “Fable” that merges the words “Farm” and “Table” into one, you’d better hope that the restaurant places an emphasis on knowing where their ingredients come from. Top Chef Canada’s Trevor Bird and his kitchen team work with a long list of B.C. producers onshore and offshore, receiving whole halves of beef or lamb and butchering them down in-house. Getting a side of the signature house-made bacon is a must when you’re popping by for brunch on the weekend!

farmhousetavern
Farmhouse Tavern

Farmhouse Tavern (Toronto, ON)

When it comes to a meal here, diners looks to a chalkboard with an ever-changing list of options that go along with the season. In terms of libations to enjoy with the hyper-local menu, expect local craft beers and a nice list of VQA wines from the Niagara area.

Fusion Grill (Winnipeg, MB)

Though the name may not really imply it, Fusion Grill’s thought process with food is “local, local, local,” through and through. On the menu you’ll find Manitoba grass-fed beef (a protein that is not overly common in the city), pike, bison and even a variety of cold-pressed canolas used in various dishes that are specific to the Manitoba region.

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Fusion Grill

Langdon Hall (Cambridge, ON)

Hyper local has never looked quite as beautiful as (if you don’t believe me, check out his Instagram right this second: @langdonhallchef) the food coming out of Langdon Hall’s kitchen. If you’re looking to splurge a bit on local, foraged and good quality cuisine, then head to the proper restaurant, but those looking for something a little more casual then Wilks’ Bar on the same property, which has the same mentality but with more approachable fare.

Mallard Cottage (St. John’s NFLD)

Top Chef Canada season one alumnus Todd Perrin embodies Newfoundland cuisine in an old character cottage that (through much blood, sweat and tears) was transformed into a restaurant just outside the heart of St. John’s.
Like Farmhouse Tavern, the menu is ever-changing, but don’t be surprised to see uniquely Newfoundland ingredients like seal or salt beef popping up on the menu. To stay up-to-date with what Perrin is cooking up, check out his Instagram: @mallardcottagechef.

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Mission Hill: Halibut

Mission Hill Winery (Kelowna, BC)

In terms of location, the Okanagan offers one of the best growing seasons in Canada, which also means having access to locally grown produce almost all year round is sort of like a chef’s dream come true. Aside from working closely with a long list of Okanagan producers, the winery restaurant chef Chris Stewart also cares for the large on-site garden that has everything from herbs to peach trees and huckleberries (say, what?). All of these things will end up on the menu at Mission Hill in some shape or form.

It’s also pretty tough to beat the view while dining on the terrace here, especially when the sun begins to set and a light breeze comes up from Lake Okanagan.

Prairie Harvest Cafe (Saskatoon, SK)

I’ve mentioned this cozy Saskatchewan restaurant before because of their great weekend brunch, but one of the main reasons why most Saskatoonians (myself included) love Prairie Harvest is because they work closely with the city’s farmers’ markets to use local products like beef, pork, lake fish like trout and more.

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River Cafe: Fiddlehead Soup

RGE RD (Edmonton, AB)

The name of the restaurant itself is an ode to the country roads (range roads) that you can find in the Prairie Provinces; roads that cross over hundreds of kilometres of farmers’ fields. As it implies, RGE is all about using the best ingredients Alberta has to offer on the plate and showing you how tasty the province can be.

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River Cafe: Octopus Salad

River Cafe (Calgary, AB)

One of the first restaurants in Western Canada to embrace a “local” mentality and definitely the first in Calgary, River Cafe has been a staple of the dining scene since the 1990s. Being around for that long, you’d think the restaurant might have a hard time keeping up with what’s new and trendy, but the food remains as contemporary as ever, and the restaurant continues to be rated as one of the best establishments in the city for years.

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Rouge: Tartare 

Rouge (Calgary, AB)

Much like River Cafe, Rouge has long been a leader in the sustainable sourcing food movement in Calgary. A great sourcing ethic paired with one of the largest and most lush backyard gardens in the prairies means you’ve got a culinary experience worth trying. In the summertime, sit on the restaurant’s back patio while you watch Chef Jamie Harling and his kitchen staff pop in and out of the heritage home, picking greens and small vegetables to garnish plates with. Garden-to-table — it really doesn’t get fresher than that.

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The Wolf in the Fog

The Wolf in the Fog (Tofino, BC)

When you’re only a few hundred feet from the Pacific Ocean, it would be a real shame if you didn’t opt for using the beautiful (and sustainable) bounty that’s underneath the waves. The Wolf in the Fog, enRoute’s best new restaurant in Canada for 2014, is big on utilizing local oysters, more meaty underwater delicacies like Humboldt squid, as well as foraged mushrooms from the many forests that surround the beautiful little coastal town that is Tofino.

Dan-Clapson-Avatar Dan Clapson is a food writer and culinary instructor based out of Calgary. He is constantly creating new recipes and striving to expand his culinary horizons. He thinks yam fries are overrated.

Four Easy Tips to Make the Perfect Soufflé

white-chocolate-lemon-souffle-Yellow-Door-Bistro-recipe-Karine-Moulin

I’m never really sure who comes up with these national food days for various ingredients and dishes, but nonetheless, they always seem to be a fun excuse to make something delicious.

Since February 28th is National Chocolate Soufflé Day, obviously, it’s only natural to try to whip a few up for yourself (and some friends — don’t be greedy) at home. Making soufflés can be a little intimidating, especially if it’s your first go at it. To make sure you get the tallest, puffiest soufflé of them all, here are four tips from Top Chef Canada season 4 alum and pastry chef extraordinaire, Karine Moulin.

lemon-souffle-recipe-Yellow-Door-Bistro-Karine-Moulin

How to make a perfect soufflé:

1. Make sure to properly brush the melted butter and then coat the inside of the ramekins completely with sugar. This is what makes soufflés rise evenly and achieve full height.

2. Once prepared, soufflé batter needs to be baked immediately. The longer it sits out at room temperature the less height you will have with the final products.

3. Run your eggs under warm water before using. This will help you get more volume and great height with your soufflés.

4. When it comes to getting creative with a soufflé batter, avoid using whole fruit like pieces of apple or other fresh fruit in the mix as this will prevent the soufflés from rising.

Karine Moulin will be baking these beauties all weekend long at her restaurant, Yellow Door Bistro, in Calgary. If you’re a little too far away to pop into Yellow Door for a soufflé, don’t worry, Moulin has shared her no-fail recipe with us!

Karine-Moulin-Yellow-Door-Bistro

Karine Moulin’s White Chocolate and Lemon Soufflé

Serves: Six 4oz ramekins

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
8 large organic egg yolks
10 large organic egg whites, room temperature
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (or gluten-free flour)
1 cup white chocolate shavings
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (plus the zest of 2 lemons)
1 vanilla bean cut in half, remove the seeds
1 cup whole milk

Directions:

  1. Brush melted butter inside each ramekin, and coat with sugar. Using your index finger, level off the top surface of the ramekin, to make sure there is no butter or sugar on the top of the lip.
    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Whisk together yolks, flour, zest, and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar.
  3. Bring milk to a simmer in a small saucepan. Slowly pour milk into yolk mixture, whisking constantly to prevent yolks from cooking. Return mixture to pan, and whisk until thick like a pudding, about 1 to 2 minutes. Strain through a sieve, and whisk in butter and lemon juice.
  4. Beat whites until foamy. Gradually add remaining 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, and beat until stiff peaks form. Stir a third of the whites into the yolk mixture. Gently fold in the remaining whites using a rubber spatula.
  5. Next, fold in the white chocolate shavings and fill each soufflé dish until it is 3/4 full, removing any excess batter from rims.
  6. Place ramekins onto a baking sheet and let cook in oven until soufflés rise and are golden on top, about 16 to 18 minutes.

Dan-Clapson-Avatar Dan Clapson is a food writer and culinary instructor based out of Calgary. He is constantly creating new recipes and striving to expand his culinary horizons. He thinks yam fries are overrated.