Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Top Chef Canada Season 2: Chef Biographies

Just like last year we are bringing you our rundown of Cheftestants for the sophomore season of Top Chef Canada. The series begins March 12, at 10 pm ET, and airs on The Food Network. Also like last year, the competition seems to be more about Toronto and Ontario than Canadian cuisine. Seriously, consider these stats, 10 Chefs, out of 16, are from Ontario (62.5%) and 6 of them are from Toronto (37.5%). We know Toronto is jealous of Montreal because we make the coolest food shows, in Canada and the U.S., thanks to Martin Picard, Chuck Hughes and Nadia G, but do you have to make up for it by making the entire cast of Top Chef from Ontario? How is it possible that Ottawa has twice as many Chefs as Montreal? We should credit the selection committee for really outdoing themselves this year by casting one more female than the previous season. That’s 3 women in the whole competition folks. On a true positive note, there are quite a few Chefs whose ethnic backgrounds (India, China, Peru) should bring some exciting new flavors and cuisines to the competition. In fact, we think that the diverse backgrounds of all the Chefs this year should make for a very exciting season. 

Joel Aubie, originally from Bathurst (Go Maritimes!), is Head Chef at Shelter in Tofino, British Columbia. The surfin’ Chef finishes his audition video by running off into the sunset  and surf. We really liked it when Chef Aubie wore his jacket to go crabbing so we were a bit disappointed when the Chef dropped his whites when hitting the waves. The new faux-hawk among Chefs seems to be an ingredient or cooking utensil tattoo. Aubie just might rule the competition with his fresh herb body ink. Given, fellow Chefestant, William Thompson’s, passion for cars and greaser looking hairdo (or is it Raveen) we expect major heat in the kitchen as Chefs battle it out in the cool department (surfers vs. rockers?). Note to Nadia G. and Chuck Hughes, look out guys we think you might have some competition. 

Trevor Bird, originally from Montreal, is working in Vancouver as Chef de Partie at Market Restaurant at the Shangri-La hotel in his audition video. Market is a project of 3 star Michelin Chef, Jean-Georges Vongerichte. No stranger to competition he was on Global TV‘s, Next Great Chef 2005. Bird has worked at the now defunct Garçon in Montreal that was one of EnRoute magazine’s best new restos in 2005.  According to the (Straight.com) Bird is currently running his own catering company in Vancouver and is also in the process of opening his own restaurant. When season 1 of Top Chef Canada aired, TCC champ Dale MacKay announced the opening of his new restaurant Ensemble. The fact that Bird has the collateral to open a restaurant might be-an-indication of how the competition ends. Like Dale Mackay, Bird worked at Daniel Boulud’s shuttered Lumière in Vancouver. 

David Chrystian is from Toronto where he is partner and Executive Chef at Victor at Le Germain Hotel. From his audition video Chrystian seems a bit nerdy but very confident. Not sure if it was because he was playing golf or perhaps the glasses but for some reason he reminded us a bit of Jamie Hertz from season 1. As much as we would like to nominate Chrystian, as a possible candidate for the next Top Chef villain, we really liked his cooking demo as the Chef goes all out. The dish is inspired by Chrystian’s favorite Chef Martin Picard of Au Pied de Cochon. The dish is a bit Epic Meal Time so we can't help smiling. Behold, Chef Chrystian’s, Turducken Tower that consists of a mashed potato moat, a roast turkey as base, a bridge of phyllo pastry, 2 ducks, a chicken, a fried potato nest, some quail, quail eggs, gravy and Hollandaise sauce. We found Chrystian’s restaurant menus interesting with plates reflecting Toronto’s diverse ethnic cuisines. From what we have seen thus far we are itching for more of Chrystian’s outside the box dishes and presentations during the show. 

Gabriell Cruz works as Sous-Chef at Restaurant Quatrefoil in Dundas, Ontario, He is originally from Hamilton, Ontario. Quatrefoil was one one of EnRoute magazine’s best restaurants in 2010. You have all noticed that desserts can be a Chef's downfall on the show as they lack repertoire in this area. Cruz displays in-depth knowledge of desserts which will definitely be an asset. We also expect that Cruz’s pastry prowess to be an advantage in the plating and presentation departments. In his audition video Cruz does a sous-vide, olive-oil, poached-halibut. This only had us wondering if any of the Chefs used sous-vide during season 1. This might be Cruz’s chance to make TCC history.

Ryan Gallagher is from Toronto where he works at Ruby Watchco where the Chef/Owner is Canadian celebrity Chef Lynn Crawford. Like David Chrystian, Gallagher’s audition video is unique in its approach. The Chef does not cook, he does not show us his restaurant, he does not talk about local fresh sustainable ingredients and he does not clean his house after hosting a wild BBQ. We also discover that Gallagher likes to make furniture out of  logs. Gallagher offers us a tour of the leftovers from his shin-dig where dishes included potato salad, corn on the cob with chili lime butter, homemade pickles (the Chef tries to grow his own ingredients at home - example jalapeno) hamburgers and hot dogs. If his audition video is any indication expect Gallagher to be going after the Top Chef Life of the Party Award. Then again playing the lummox might be smart strategy, with all the other Chefs battling in out to strut their chops for the camera, Gallagher might just fly under the radar and surprise everybody. 

Kunal Ghose works and is from Victoria, British Columbia. He is owner of Red Fish Blue Fish that appears to be a pier food stand. Ghose’s operation is about sustainable seafood and zero waste. In his audition video we learn that Ghose formerly worked at Go Fish in Vancouver where he created the city's famous Tacone. Ghose decsribes the dish as a “Mexican/ Japanese hybrid hand-roll”. Chef Ghose serves a variety of fish tacones at his restaurant. Ghose seems adept at cooking Indian food at home and is the oldest Chef in the competition. Despite his age Ghose looks like he will be an original in the Top Chef Kitchen. 

Carl Heinrich, works as Executive Chef in Toronto at Marben restaurant and is originally from Sooke, British Columbia. In his audition video, the Chef debones a chicken and a side of beef so we expect Heinrich to be the next bacon ninja in the Quick Fire Challenges. Given his young age and reputation as a Chef’s, Chef we think Heinrich is a safe bet if forced to pick an early favourite in the challenges. 

Jonathan Korecki, works in Ottawa and is originally from Caledon, Ontario. Korecki is Chef at the Side Door Contemporary Kitchen and Bar. I know what you are thinking, Ottawa has some great cool places to eat! Just a joke, actually the Side Door was highly recommended to us by a waiter at another Ottawa restaurant. Expect Korecki to sport some boss bandanas during the show because he runs a head dress printing business for Chefs out of his basement. In looking over Korecki’s menu we noticed Asian flavors, gourmet tacos and homemade donuts for dessert (he makes them in his audition video). We are really hoping that the show’s Two Taco Kings, Kunal Ghose and Korecki, go head to head in at least one episode. Whose Canadian Taco will reign supreme? 

Xavier Lacaze, works in Calgary and is originally from Auch, France. He is the Executive Chef at Muse restaurant. It will be interesting to see the French Chef, who has only lived in Canada for 4 years, bring his style to the Top Chef Canada kitchen. No pressure but you are representing your country’s proud culinary tradition in a cooking competition. 

Curtis Luk, according to his audition video, Luk moved to to Canada from Hong Kong when he was 5-years-old. An Ottawa based Sous-Chef with no formal training the self confessed kitchen gadget freak makes baked Alaska with liquid nitrogen for his audition video. Note another audition where the Chef makes a dessert. Luk works at The Courtyard Restaurant that has been a destination restaurant in Ottawa for a long time. From what we understand the resto has gone in a new direction under Head Chef Michael Hay. 

Sergio Mattoscio, as the only Montrealer in the competition we have little choice in rooting for Mattoscio - Forza Italia! Mattoscio, a 2003 culinary graduate of the I.T.H.Q., is the Chef and Co-Owner of the fist-pumpin’, hyper-trendy, Saint-Laurent Street, Macaroni Bar. In his audition video the Chef makes his signature gnocchi poutine. We think we will make this dish at home in honor of the first episode on March 12. With the announcement of Mattoscio's participation in Top Chef Canada, Macaroni Bar has reopened after being closed for renovations. 

Elizabeth Rivasplata works in Toronto at the AGO as the Production Sous-Chef. Rivasplata is originally from Lima, Peru and if you believe what Anthony Bourdain says about Peruvians in restaurant kitchens then expect the Chef to be a major contender. Come to think of it there is a-lot-of pressure on this Chef to do well by her people considering their reputation.

Trista Sheen is from Toronto and a culinary graduate from George Brown. In her audition video, Sheen says she is the Sous-Chef at the French bistro, Crush Wine Bar. The restaurant’s website reveals that Sheen is now the Chef de Cuisine. After her shift, the Chef takes us out for a night on the town at the Drake Hotel where there is a cameo by season one competitors, Steve Gonzalez and smilin’ Dusty Gallagher... too cool. Sheen has done an internship in the U.K. where she worked at Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck.

Jimmy Stewart works in Whistler where he is Sous Chef at the Bearfoot Bistro. He is originally from North Van and is the youngest Chef in the competition. Stewart worked at Daniel Boulud’s, Lumière, just like last year’s winner Dale MacKay, who Stewart considers a mentor. Also like MacKay, he has worked at a Gordon Ramsay restaurant. Stewart’s connection to Top Chef Champ Dale MacKay might make for some interesting drama during the series since Dale is bound to pop up at some time.

William Thompson works and is from Caledonia, Ontario. He is the Executive Sous-Chef at Ste. Anne’s Spa. Expect the Chef to be full of inspiration during the show as he is hot of an internship in Italy. From his audition video the Chef looks driven, we are not talking about his passion for cars, but rather the fact that he seems to be looking to move on from cooking for clients at the spa. 

Sarah Tsai works in Toronto and is originally from Taipei. Chef Tsai works at the Toronto Lawn Tennis Club. We think the Chef might surprise us in the kitchen with a serious take charge get out of my way attitude. A Chef trained in classical styles, French and Italian, we expect her Asian background will only add to her arsenal in the Top Chef challenges.

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