A new season of the Food Network’s #1 hit series, Top Chef Canada, premieres Monday, March 10 at 9pm ET/10pm PT, on Food Network Canada. This time I’ll be yelling at the TV in support of my bearded buddy Pierre Lamielle.
Got a thing for underdogs? Then Pierre’s your man! Unlike most Top Chef Canada contestants, he does not work in a restaurant kitchen. He’s a cookbook author-illustrator and designer-in-chief at T-shirt company Food On Your Shirt, which he co-runs with his true love, roller derby princess Candace Bergman. He has worked as a food columnist for SWERVE magazine and occasionally gives cooking classes around his hometown Calgary.
“I wanted to represent all the people in the food industry who work on the periphery: the great food writers and the people who are not restaurant chefs but still very passionate about food,” says Pierre.
When Pierre first got the letter from Food Network Canada saying he was in, he couldn’t quite believe it. “I was thinking ‘Holy shit, I got to start cooking stuff,’” He put on an undisclosed “bunch of weight” before taping began. “I was cooking so much and eating it all,” he says. “I ended up being the fat guy on the show–I had the fatvantage.”
Pierre sees his art background as another thing in his favour: “It gives me a way of wrapping my head around things in ways that other chefs wouldn’t think of.” He also draws on an extensive knowledge of food history. “I like food that tells an interesting story; if something is significant, I like to know why: Who was it named after? What were its origins?”
I won’t be surprised if we see this guy sharpening his knives in the final episodes of Top Chef season 4. He has a habit of excelling at whatever he turns his hand to. Although he chose to work as a graphic designer, he aced his chef training at the prestigious French Culinary Institute in New York. His foodie T-shirt company has done so well in its first two years, that he has already been able to upgrade it from sideline to full-time gig. (Famous fans include Martin Picard from Pied de Cochon, who wore an “Original Pig” tee on Wild Chef; Mark McEwan, who loves his “Beaver Balls” top and all the Chopped Canada champs, who are proud owners of the “Chop, Chop” shirt.) And Pierre’s debut book, Kitchen Scraps—published by a small Vancouver publisher—took first place in the WORLD for Best Illustrated Cookbook at the International Gourmand Cookbook Awards.
Another thing Pierre is very good at: keeping secrets. I did a double take on seeing him in the trailer for Top Chef season 4. We spoke several times over the past 12 months, and not a word about this. “It was really difficult keeping it a secret,” admits Pierre. “I didn’t go out as much as I would normally have, and I generally avoided talking to people.”
Season 4 was shot in summer 2013 and has been framed this year as a battle of the sexes, with an equal ratio of male to female chefs competing.
Pierre will be cooking at Top Chef Canada viewing parties—from premiere to finale—at CHARCUT, the Calgary restaurant co-owned by the last woman standing in season 1, finalist and fan favourite Connie de Sousa. His co-host at this throwdown, Gabriela Neda, is a fellow season 4 contender, who sous-chefs at Calgary Petroleum Club.
Win or lose, past Top Chef Canada contenders have seen their careers take off in all kinds of exciting ways, becoming everything from first-time restaurateurs to preserve company founders to Food Network hosts. What does Pierre hope will come of it all? “That more people will get to know Food On Your Shirt, and that one day soon I can do another cookbook with a really big renowned book publisher.”
So are you guys on Team Pierre yet?
And to show your love on Twitter, use the hashtag: #beardonyourshirt .
Good luck, Pierre!