Sunday, June 26, 2011

Top Chef Canada Ep. 11 - Street Food Fare: Gagnon goes goodbye

This week we saw the Chefs face off in a street food elimination challenge. Street food seems to be a big trend these days with food trucks being all the rage in L.A. Living in Montreal we can only look at this trend with envy because food trucks and street food are prohibited under Montreal municipal bylaw. Because street food is a trend we keep expecting this issue to come-to-light. We think that the prohibition of street food has had an impact on Montreal's food culture because small time businesses exist but in different forms. Street food enterprises are in operation but they just appear in different forms.
Rumour is that Montreal Mayor Jean Drapeau outlawed food trucks because they were an eyesore. This coming from the guy responsible for the Olympic Stadium. If you think about it Montreal's climate does not really lend itself well to outdoor food culture. No wonder the food truck trend is popular in L.A., al fresco is possible all year round. We have just spent the last two weekends visiting the street sales in Balconville and the Main where street food was bountiful. These food celebrations are exceptions to the city's food scape making these events more festive. These are events that we can look forward to and are worth celebrating.

Top Chef Canada: Street Food Challenge
The combination of municipal prohibition and climate has lead to the creation of a multitude of hole in the wall tiny sized joints. Think of $2 chow mein on the Main. Dollar pizza slices, Buns Hamburger House, Picks, Thali, Patati Patata... These closet size operations offer street food fare. In addition to these closet operations you can find some small time operators in food courts. Buffet Maharaja is a now a resto complex that boasts an adjoining hotel but started out as a food court stand in the Eaton Centre, their butter chicken still tastes the same. 
One of our favourite food court stops in the Downtown area is Poulet Torino. Located in the Simons food court (977 Ste-Catherine West) they specialize in Mediterranean grilled chicken. The menu offers chicken dishes in every variety, shape and form. Dishes include traditional brochettes (on a pita or a platter), grilled chicken breast, club sandwiches and chicken poutine. Also worth mentioning is the garlic mayonnaise that we love for having so much bite. They also make a delicious tangy hot sauce that is mild in taste and only adds to some of the best chicken in town. Their couscous and the hot sauce is absolutely addictive.

Torino: The Science of Chicken
On Top Canada the Chefs were challenged to create fusions street food dishes after randomly choosing countries. Francois Gagnon was voted off after getting China and Vietnam. Gagnon served up a Pho with dumpling and duck in a rice wrapper. The winning dish was Rob Rossi who served up a chorizo sloppy Joe and a grilled cheese with serrano ham.
There has also been a bunch of Top Chef rumours this week. Todd Perrin posted on his blog something that alluded to a television show. If you think about it a Newfoundland cooking show is a great idea that has yet to be tapped. Besides being interesting Canadian food programming it could also serve as a way of promoting tourism for the Rock.
Chef, Rob Rossi announced he is leaving his current position as head Chef of Mercatto group. No word of what the Chef has up his sleeve next but Rossi has thrown a bit of cog in the wheel of our theory that Dale takes the win because of the opening of his new restaurant. Naturally the online buzz is that Rob might have taken first prize but we will pose another theory. When you are voted off Top Chef it can be a time of getting some press for a new project. We are curious to see if the Chef gets voted off in the upcoming episode and what announcements will follow. Rossi has gotten a lot of camera time in the series. We heard Mark McEwan on CJAD last week saying that Rossi seemed mild mannered in person and was surprised with the Chef's behind the scenes fuuny comments when he saw the episodes on television. All this to say that perhaps the Chef also has television plans in his future.

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