Top Chef Canada

5 Apr

I weaned myself off  Dancing with the Stars last year (except a few YouTube peeks at Jennifer Grey channeling Baby–oh, the nostalgia–and Bristol Palin channeling her mother–horrifically compelling).  Watching Idol makes me feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog’s Day these days, and now that Simon Cowell has gone… I’m thinking I’m in the market for a new reality TV show.

So I was very excited to learn that we’re getting our own Canadian kitchen showdown on the Food Network this month–Top Chef Canada. It starts April 11, and will feature 16 young chefs from across the country slugging it out over hot stoves.

I will be rooting for Connie DeSousa from Calgary. This is an entirely biased position, based on the fact that she’s the only contender I’ve ever met in person. But the ballet dancer-turned-Chez Panisse-trained chef is so passionate and talented, I’d not be surprised to see customers licking their plates at her roast house, Charcut. EnRoute magazine named her restaurant one of the top ten to open in the country last year, so my favouritism aside, she’s definitely one to watch.

The head judge on Top Chef Canada will be Mark McEwan, executive chef and owner of well-loved Toronto restaurants North 44, Bymark and Fabbrica and former host of Food Network show The Heat. When we met in the kitchen of his gourmet supermarket, McEwan, the chef told me one of his favourite things about the Top Chef Canada experience was seeing footage from behind the scenes after shooting was done.

Mark McEwan with his pastry chef, Kadie MacDougal and a couple of very distracting sticky toffee puddings

“I had no idea what was going on before that. People I thought might be quiet were not; it was fascinating to see the complexity of their relationships.”

The contestants stayed together in a hotel with no Internet or cellphone access. They were sleep-deprived, and regularly brought to their knees by hardcore culinary challenges, often far outside their skill sets. “I was amazed at the stress levels,” says McEwan. “I felt compassionate for the young chefs–it was like a horse race. If ever you’ve watched horses race, you’ll know it’s actually almost violent.”

I like it! Since my Monday nights for the next few months will be spent bum on sofa, eyes glued to screen, I figure I may as well take the coziness factor up a notch by throwing in some comfort food to eat from a tray. So my next blog post will share Mark McEwan’s recipe, from his book Great Food at Home, for Sticky Toffee Pudding. It’s adapted from his Scottish mother’s recipe, and incredibly gorgeous with its glazed orange finish.

So now you know what I’ll be tucking into when the premiere airs. Let me know if you’re already rooting for a Top Chef contender from your neck of the woods…

4 Responses to “Top Chef Canada”

  1. Milena April 5th, 2011 at 3:23 PM #

    I’ll be rooting for Connie too. But could be persuaded to vote McEwan. Well, if you share some of that toffee pudding I could.

    • Valerie Howes April 5th, 2011 at 3:36 PM #

      You don’t get to vote for McEwan, but you can definitely try his sticky toffee pudding, Milena!

  2. Joie Negron April 5th, 2011 at 6:04 PM #

    I will be rooting for Chris Kanka, our Executive Chef here at Mojo Vino Fine Wine & Tapas Restaurant, in Whitby Ontario. He is not only a culinary genius and or pretty face, but great with customers, and an all around wonderful guy. He is humble but knowledgable as well as confident and courageous. All the makings of a Top Chef in my mind! We are sure Canada and your viewers will appreciate him as much as we do.

  3. Kim April 6th, 2011 at 12:33 AM #

    Rooting for Connie all the way. You go girl!

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