Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Preview: Top Chef Canada in-depth Chef Biographies

Yes, we know our blog has been on the back-burner lately but that is because we have been working on bringing you this article: The Who’s Who’s of Top Chef Canada. This is your comprehensive guide to the Top Chef Canada Chefs featuring detailed information about the competitors.
We are really excited about Top Chef Canada because we are huge Top Chef fans but also because it appeals to our inner-hoser. The first episode of Top Chef Canada is scheduled to air April 11, 2011, (9 p.m. eastern time on Food Network) but we have been given a few amuse-bouches. We know the names of the sponsors, Head Judge, Chef Mark McEwan, Host Thea Andrews and most importantly the Chefs that come with their Top Chef  audition videos but we want to know more. 
The Who’s Who’s of Top Chef Canada is like reading a big Toronto Food Network F-You to the rest on the country. Why do we say this,? Before moving onto the the contenders consider these stats. 16 Chefs, that will compete over 13 episodes, are featured in the competition. The provincial breakdown (number of Chefs) is, Ontario 7 (43.75%), British Columbia 3 (18.75%), Alberta 2 (12.50%), Quebec 2 (12.50%), Winnipeg 1 (6.25%), and Newfoundland 1 (6.25%).  Is this going to be like having to watch Maple Leafs games on CBC when you live in Montreal and are a Habs fan? Wait a minute, they have to watch Leaf games in the Maritimes too. This Torontocentric perception of Canada is the malady of the CBC, our so called National Broadcaster, that is now pervading other networks. Seriously? Are you for real? You are telling us is that 44% of food culture comes from Toronto. Obviously we are Montreal biased but what about the rest of Canada? This is about Toronto versus the rest of the country. Was this to save on the show’s travel budget? Did the people picking these Chefs, no doubt from Toronto, get out of bed? This is the best that Canada has to offer? This is an even bigger insult to the Maritimes, you read it here first but the next great Canadian export after poutine will be the Halifax Donair. We should all be taking up arms, "we stand on guard for thee", at this culinary insult. Get this, Toronto boasts 37.5% of the Chefs in the competition, that’s 6 Chefs, versus Montreal that comes in at 12.5% (2 Chefs). The glove has been dropped so we are not going to hold back.

Toronto, how many Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Red Lobsters, Pizza Pizza, are there in Ontario versus say Quebec? Toronto is about following food trends unless we are really not familiar with any of its innovation and impact on the culinary world or even Canada. At least Quebec has poutine, the Maritimes has the Donair, Calgary is Beef, B.C., Nanaimo bars and this is just off the top of our head. I cannot think of any signature dish from Toronto except for the CN Tower. Ottawa, where nachos are on every restaurant menu, has Beaver Tails but Toronto?
Speaking of Ontario food culture do not forget about Dundas. Yes, Dundas, an Ontario city that has half as many Chefs as Montreal in the Top Chef competition. In fact, both cities have the same amount of Chefs when you look at our revised bios, but Dundas? I am always one for supporting the underdog but when Ontario comes in with 43.75% of the competition and our adjusted stat (see Francois Gagnon’s bio below for details) for Montreal is 6.25% something smells fishy. Let’s get back to Dundas, and its food culture. Dundas is famous for its Cactus Festival, in case you are wondering they use greenhouses, where part of the annual festivities include (we are not making this up) “a Saturday night drunken brawl at Ducks Sports Bar.” “Cactus-fest revelers,” according to the festival's Facebook, “are encouraged to throw plastic chairs at each other or get into an old fashioned fist fight.” I know what you are thinking but wait there is more. “The winners of the fights spill onto King Street and celebrate their victory with an assorted Sub sandwich at Super Sub.” Ontario fine dining and good clean fun at its best, seriously, we are not picking on Dundas because we both know who the enemy is... Toronto.
Loblaws is one of the sponsors and judging from the previews it looks like the Chefs will be shoppping at the grocery store during the challenges. We are guessing that there might be a challenge to create a new President’s Choice frozen entree but what we are really hoping for is an appearance by none other than Galen Weston Jr., the smiley face (and Executive Chairman) of Loblaws. Hey Bieber, you little punk, we know where you stole your haircut from because Weston is the man. GE is the other major sponsor and we know the winner gets $30,000 worth of GE kitchen swag. Expect close ups of GE appliances in several shots of the Top Chef Kitchen. 

Canada: Meet Your Top Chefs

When we started looking at the official Food Network bios we noticed a strange phenomena. Most of the restaurants listed next to the Chef’s names no longer seemed applicable because they have moved onto other projects. In a CBC radio interview, Newfoundland Top Chef competitor, Todd Perrin, revealed that the show was shot last summer (2010) so this might explain why the audition videos, released with the names of the Chefs at the end of February 2011, are a bit dated. Also, is it us or does every Chef cook a fish in their audition video? 
At 26 years old Clayton Beadle is the youngest Chef in the competition. Born in the Yukon, this Chef has worked for 8 years at Whistler’s Four Seasons Resort where he currently holds the position of Chef de Partie. Beadle trained in the culinary Arts at Vancouver Island University. In his audition video Beadle looks fast in the kitchen and we really like the part when he kicks the oven door shut. The Quick-Fire Kid should kick-ass in the time trial challenges.

Link to his Facebook  - Link to his  Twitter account 

Chef Bocking, no pressure but the fate of our city rests in your hands. Montreal seems to have only 1 real entry in the competition and Bocking is the Chosen One. Your role is not limited to culinary representative but also as epitomizing the Montreal zeitgeist.
Bocking's official bio has the Chef, with no formal culinary training but 15 years experience, in humble log cabin settings starting out in the kitchen at a West-Island “wooden shed tacked onto an old house.” Bocking’s audition tape has him working as Head Chef at Confusion Tapas du Monde but the Chef seems to have moved on to Beaver Hall Bistro Gourmand. A restaurant named after the street it resides where Canadians like James Frobisher built his fur trade warehouses. Chef Bocking has worked under Fred Morin at Globe and was present during the legendary soiree of lobster and champagne with Anthony Bourdain. Bocking’s move to Beaver Hall is a big one because the restaurant’s Executive Chef is Jérôme Ferrer from Europea.
From his Facebook page we have learned that that Bocking is a Concordia University English major with excellent taste in books. Bocking also writes a food blog with recipes. We are going to go out and purchase a copy of Ham of Rye , so please do not take offense of these comments. We speak to you as a fellow blogger with no editor and a blog full of typos, spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. Your post: “Eggs Benny: its the penultimate brunch dish.” Penultimate means next to last.  Another note, “Eggs Bennidict” should read Benedict, but then again as a literate person this might be on purpose. Are you re-inventing the dish? We are still trying to figure out the concept of a penultimate brunch dish because it sounds like post-modernism. It only took us a few days to figure out that the name of your former restaurant Confusion Tapas du Monde was clever.
As the only real Montreal chef in the competition, we also have the same hat, we are of course on Team Bocking. Go Habs, Go Habs Go. On second thought, we read your recent post and recipe for rabbit pot pie... may we remind you that it is a bad idea to eat your biggest fans. P.S., this was his Top Chef  audition recipe. 
Link to his Facebook - Link to his blog 

 Chef Crumb was, trained at the Cordon Bleu in Ottawa and has worked in kitchens in France. At first Chef Crumb’s audition tape might seem boring but wins you over with his charm. Crumb, a former minor-league hockey player, scores at the end of his audition calling himself “Captain Canada.” His mission, bring Canadian food identity to the forefront. As a fan of Trailer Park Boys and Hockey Night in Canada Crumb is certainly on track. 
 CBC news featured  the Chef and you can watch it here . There are two videos in the report, the first a profile of the Chef and second a 24 minute cooking demonstration of his signature dish. In the iinterview Chef Crumb mentions that the judges loved his dish, sablefish on veggies and an arugula sauce covered in leek chips, that must have been part of the audition process. 
 There is another video of Chef Crumb cooking, from when he was in Vancouver,  showing us how to cook salmon ceviche.
Crumb was at the he Regional Tasting Lounge in Vancouver when he made his Top Chef audition tape but has since moved back to his native Winnipeg to work as Executive Chef at the Brooklyn Bistro. According to his twitter page will open on March 25th. No matter what the outcome of the competition we predict a bright TV career for this hunky-hoser, think Sidney Crosby meets Daniel Craig, who might be Canada’s answer to Curtis Stone. 

Link to his Facebook - Link to his Twitter

De Sousa is Chef / Owner of the Charcut Roast House in Calgary, Alberta. We know what you are thinking, a Calgary steakhouse, but De Sousa has re-invented the wheel in a town famous for its meat with her rotisserie, vintage-style slicer and homemade charcuterie. En Route magazine named Charcut Roast House one of the best new resturants in 2010.  De Sousa, a Top-Chef fan, prepared for the show by practicing Quick-Fire challenges in her restaurant in the wee hours of the night. 
 Avenue Calgary did an interview with De Sousa, and fellow competitor Rebekah Pearse, that is interesting because she explains the Top Chef application process. In case you ever wondered this is the drill. First you are required to complete a 20 page form that is submitted with your audition video. De Sousa later heard back from the show and had to do a lengthy telephone interview. Several weeks later she was contacted again and was told that the the television show was coming to Calgary to see her cook in front of a television camera. Weeks later,  De Sousa found out she was chosen for the show and had to sign a disclosure form so she was not able “to tell anybody about it.”
 Chef De Sousa Has worked in Europe but also at Alice Waters’ restaurant Chez Panisse in San Francisco. As one of the few women Chefs in the competition we will be cheering for you. Also we get the feeling that De Sousa will be a very fierce competitor in the kitchen.

Link to Facebook - Link to Twitter

Unless we have really missed something in our research we have no idea why the Food Network has Chef Gagnon as hailing from Montreal. His audition tape has him working at The Teahouse and Cin Cin in Vancouver and we learn that he is from Lac St-Jean, Quebec. He has also worked in France and with Chef Rob Feenie in Vancouver. Gagnon Seems to have embraced the whole B.C. lifestyle with mountain biking and running. We were unable to find out where he is currently employed.
Its seems to have become a staple of Top Chef to have a contestant with a heavy foreign accent and Gagnon, who is supposed to be a funny-guy in the kitchen, seems to be following in the line of Chef Ludo Lefebvre and Fabio.

Dustin Gallagher is the Executive Chef at Grace in Toronto and  has also worked under Top Chef Master competitor Susur Lee for 6 years. Gallagher is so smiley in his audition tape we would love to see him snap and lose it on Top Chef. Grace is a hot Toronto restaurant and his audition video seems to made to speak for itself by filming his service where he displays the eye of the tiger but always with a smile. 

Link to his Facebook

Gonzalez is the Chef de Cuisine at Toronto’s Origin.  The restaurant isa Claudio Aprile venture and has been mentioned in the New York Times. Chef Gonzalez, specializes in Latino Fare or as he calls it “modern Latino style of cooking.” We think Gonzalez should have should have a TV show called Pimp my Latino dish. Gonzalez has spent most of his culinary career in Toronto with a recent stint “refining his style” in Fort Lauderdale.
 Chef Gonzalez does the gangsta’ schtick in his audition tape but it is kind of blown with the lame music playing inside the restaurant, was that Morrissey? Then again there is redemption when the Chef shows us his Ramones poster. 
 The only Chef to use liquid nitrogen during his audition we hope that he lasts in the competition mainly because Canadians need to find out that Latino cuisine is more than Old El Paso and Jalapeno chips. We expect Chef Gonzalez will be bring some of the most original dishes to the table. 

Link to his Facebook

 Jamie Hertz, Chef / Owner of Fusion Tapas Lounge in Nelson, seems to have two faces, one with the glasses and the other without. We are sad that he seems to have dumped the glasses in his official Food Network head shot.  We like the nerdy look better and you could have been the first Chef at The Smugglers Buddy Holly convention.

 The fact that Hertz has survived as a Chef / Owner in Nelson for 5 years is his testimony because our local sources tell us it is one of the best in a place where you have to be good to survive.

 Link to his Facebook - Link to Twitter

Chris Kanka is Executive Chef from WOO Buffet Restaurant & Lounge. From his audition tape we see that he is master of the wok and Chef Kanka seems to be about have mad skills as he is also an experienced butcher and fishmonger. Judging from his audition video he has Iron Chef presentation skills. Plays the cocky card in his audition so he better put his money where his mouth-is. His Food Network bio has him working on opening a new restaurant.
Link to Flickr stream

Chef Andrea Nicholson is Executive Chef at Toronto’s Great Cooks Culinary Centre,a cooking school featuring Professional Chefs, does lunch service and features a tea boutique. Chef Nicholson has also has her own line of gourmet condiments called Killer Condiments.  
Judging from her resume, Chef Nicholson seems to be an extremely well rounded chef with fascinating skills. In her audition we see her 700 pound Oklahoma smoker and find out that that she dreams about cooking a whole hog, husband permitting, sous-vide in her hot tub. Chef Nicholson is a Pizzaiuoli meaning she is certified by the Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani, pizza police, in making truly authentic Napoletan pizza. Nicholson better bust out a few out pies on the show because we want  to see a master at work.  We also found found references to Chef Nicholson butchering her own animals and charcuterie in her kitchen. Based-on her skills we expect Nicholson to be a force to be reckoned with in the Top Chef competition.
Link to her Facebook - Link to Twitter

Mackay, is from Saskatoon and works as Executive Chef at Lumière in Vancouver. Lumière, that had rave reviews, is a venture of Daniel Boulud but it was announced at the beginning of the month that the restaurant would close on March 13. Chef Mackay has also worked for Gordon Ramsay in London so we know he is tough. Having worked with Top Chefs, Mackay seems ready for his turn in the limelight.
We recently found out that Chef Mackay will open a new restaurant called Ensemble. According to the Vancouver Sun ensemble is a new dining concept for Vancouver,” says MacKay. “we will combine classic French techniques with influences and flavour profiles from around the world, and offer a wide variety of flavours and textures in tasting size dishes priced from $8-$24.  The kitchen will be doing what I’ve always done, but with a more casual and modern approach.”
Link to his Facebook  - Link to Flickr

 Chef Pearse's audtion video has her as the Executive Chef at Nectar Desserts. Pearse was also owner of the Calgary business we have learned that it is now closed. In Avenue Calgary we found out that Chef Pearse has been “helping out” at Anju. Chef Pearse prepared for Top Chef  by going to Aix en Provence for "inspiration" and no doubt a a return to French cooking fundamentals.
 Pearse is a blogger and her page has a detailed, and-funny, account of her experience going through the Top Chef audition process. We also learn that the dish she prepared for the judges was Duck Heart Tartare with Seared Magret, Wild Arugula Salad and Cherry Reduction. We also found a cached entry from her blog where she talks about visiting her friend in Nelson, Chef Jamie Hertz. From the date of the posting we think it was after the taping of the show. A self-described “bad ass chef,” Pearse wants to show people that she is more than just cupcakes.  

Link to her Facebook - Link to Twitter

Most recently Pearse has published a book called Sweet Seasonal DesertsPearse's audition video has was removed from the internet - we assume this was because of the F-bombs. We think this is real shitty and a censored version has emerged.

Todd Perrin is Chef / Owner of his family run Bed & Breakfast, The Chef’s Inn, in Saint John’s, Newfoundland. Chef Perrin is also the consulting Chef for the Myx meeting centre. As a Newfoundlander expect Chef Perrin to be an entertaining character in he kitchen. Consider this, the Chef has taken a stab at running for office in municipal election (his slogan was “Todd Perrin - Why Not?”), he has played a cop on the Television show Republic of Doyle, he serves Warm Gingerbread with Screech & Egg Nog Ice Cream as dessert at his restaurant and has been known to bust out the guitar to sing the occasional John Prine song.
 Chef Perrin did a CBC radio interview, listen to the classic Newfoundland accent, where he described his Top Chef experience as “a bit of an endurance test but ... something unique for sure” Perrin was not a follower of the show until he was selected to be on it. “You live and die on your sword, kind of a one man show,” he says of the experience. This statement seems to represent Perrin’s over all philosophy as he grows his own greens, weather permitting on The Rock, for his restaurant. Perrin says this might be the hot thing now but  Newfoundlanders have always done this. A self-described “kitchen enforcer” and “heavy in the kitchen,” Perrin could be the source of some heat in the kitchen. If Gordon Ramsay is the angry Scotsman then perhaps Perrin will become the screeching Newfoundlander. 

Link to his Facebook - Link to Twitter

 Rob Rossi is the Executive Chef for Toronto’s Mercatto Group that serves up Italian fare where pizza and pasta (not fresh) seem to be the main offerings. We really liked Mercatto Group's website complete with food blog, containing articles like “Staff Wine picks” and “Best Kitchen Apps.” Judging from the fact from the fact they have 3 locations that are always packed, Chef Rossi must be doing something right.

Link to his Facebook - Link to Twitter

Facebook for the Mercatto Group

Michael Stauffer is Chef from the The Culinary Office in Dundas. Stauffer trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. His restaurant features a mix of Italian and French cuisine with Asian influences. Stauffer's style of cooking will no doubt be an asset in coming up with original dishes for the judges.

According to his Facebook page Chef Wiese describes himself as “comfortably twisted.” We think he should describe himself as “almost famous.”
 Looking at Chef’s Wiese’s biography you might cry foul because you might say that technically he is not Canadian but since we are able to claim this Chef for Team Canada we are lucky and excited to have him on the show. Wiese, originally from Chicago fell in love with a Canadian (a bit like Elton John) and moved here but he had previous experience as the food stylist for Top Chef Master competitor Art Smith and the Oprah Winfrey Show. He has also worked as Oprah’s personal Chef. Chef Wiese has his own website with an in-depth bio with even more name dropping but we would too if we lucky enough to meet Julia Child. We were a bit disappointed with the menus on Wiese’s website only because it was a letdown after the food stylist's porn pics on the home page  - more pictures please.
 Wiese worked at Fuzion in Toronto, where he got amazing reviews, but according to his Food Network bio he is now working as a private chef for an investment banker. His website offers his catering services for private events. 
 In his audition video Chef Wiese predicts that the next wave in food will be “orgasmic” cuisine. He also breads chicken breasts with Frosted Flakes and finishes it with root beer syrup. You can really see Chef Smith’s influence on the plate but Wiese has taken it to another place. We are really excited to see Wiese's dishes in the competition. If you had to place money money on a Chef for this competition, Wiese would be the safe choice.
 We expect we might see Chef Wiese on a future episode of Top Chef Masters. In-fact they should have the various Top Chef winners from other countries compete against each other in a series. A Top Chef culinary Olympics or Word Cup type TV show is no doubt already on the minds of the Food Network executives. 
 On his Twitter account Wiese gives shout out to fellow competitor Rebekah Pearse saying “hugs from papa bear.”

No comments:

Post a Comment