Infusing flavours with Top Chef Canada contestant Patrick Wiese

Patrick Wiese has an enthusiastic, sunny personality that jumped out at you from the screen. Even his responses to my questions put a smile on my face. I opened my e-mail and they were all in bold!

Top Chef Canada – Patrick Wiese (photo courtesy of Food Network Canada/Insight Productions)

Top Chef Canada – Patrick Wiese (photo courtesy of Food Network Canada/Insight Productions)

Why did you decide to apply to be on Top Chef Canada?

I have always been a fan of the show in the states and watched it religiously…. I almost went to go audition in Dallas for a season of Top Chef…, but thought “why don’t they have Top Chef Canada – I would so do it!!!” and it was shortly after that is when I saw that they were taking auditions for it here. I was turning 40 and told myself this is my year… my mid-life crisis moment to be brave and bold to get myself and my work out there more than I already have had with all my successful restaurant and private Chef work here in Toronto.

You came to Canada the same year that Top Chef started in the U.S. Did you ever apply to be on the U.S. edition of Top Chef or think about going back to the U.S. in order to do so?

I came to Toronto 6 years ago – getting married to a Canadian – now a Camerican (Canadian+American) I had thought about auditioning several times but my career here has been busy and wouldn’t let me be able to attend due to scheduling conflicts.

What surprised you most about the competition?

What surprised me the most is the amount of talent that surrounded me – the intense attention that is taken by the network and production company and staff to put this show together – the long days it takes just to get what you see on TV – that was brutal and also the stretching of my culinary abilities and mental abilities to be able to juggle something so fast as those Quickfires and the stress of Elimination Challenges and not knowing if your going in a direction the judges want or what the elimination calls for… the pressure is so intense. I was also surprised on how close you can become with complete strangers in a short period of time. You have to remember we are stripped from our basic lives – no loved ones – no TV – no just walking outside to go get a latte.

What special items did you bring from home to help you in the competition?

Well I brought my instinct and intuition… without that I believe you can’t be a Chef… but I also had special spices, spatzle maker which I love  never got to use :()… I had some interesting Asian ingredients and of course my best knives!!!

Did you have any dishes that you wanted to make for the competition but never got a chance to?

Geesh that’s a big question cause when you’re in the zone of what am I gonna make… and you have to think about the rules of the competition and the secret ingredients… you go thru a Rolodex of things in your head and it is spinning fast… in a normal situation when running a restaurant you get to do more trial and error or more research…you have no time…but yes there would have been some dishes I think I could have pulled out and produced… I love game meat… and fish… I love mixing things up. Keep it comfortably twisted… :)

You describe your food style as “comfortably twisted,” but for me it was a little hard to tell from the show what exactly that means. Can you explain and/or maybe give an example?

For me its simple – I like to approach normal concepts – i.e. lasagna – and make it a caribou version. One time at Fuzion Restaurant I decided to do fish and chips… but I had to go get barracuda and deep fry that with an apple cider ale beer batter. People were like “really you can do that??” My response was YES I can and I did.. and it has been successful. Comfort foods from different cultures fascinate me and I love finding out what others eat… and twist it up… just a touch.

How did you end up cooking for Oprah Winfrey and what was it like?

I ended up meeting Chef Art Smith at a culinary event – I was in culinary school and doing culinary competitions. We spoke a bit and he told me he cooked for Oprah Winfrey. I thought that was absolutely amazing – then without any hesitation he asked me to help him at the studios on a food project. I met him at the studios – we produced food for the food portion of Oprah.com and I did a lot of the food styling – he liked what I did and asked me to join him working there!! It was  a happy moment in my life and the time spent with Oprah’s Family at the network was the best experience for me cause it shaped me into the Chef I am today.

Any other future plans that you’d like to share?

Well I have been very busy – working with other Top Chef competitors doing top chef cooking classes… currently working on a future charity Top Chef dinner with several of the other Chefs – being booked for special demo appearances – this fall at the X on the CNE  grounds (the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto) – and works on my own TV show!! Who knows a condiment line – a cookbook – a restaurant – stay tuned!!

Other than your own establishment, name one of your favorite places to eat.

I’m a big fan of Earth Restaurant right now – great simple fare but with a flair. I love Mildred’s Temple for lunch and brunch – and my good friend Chef Lynn Crawford’s Ruby Watchco is great for an amazing simple meal with the freshest ingredients – she’s amazing!

Any last comments?

I first want to thank you for asking me to do this interview. It’s an absolute honor to be able to tell those out there a little about me. I have had an enormous response from being on Top Chef Canada!! My life has changed and is going into the next chapter of my culinary arena… I feel blessed with those I have met and worked with and got a chance to do some amazing things in my life… and this is just the beginning!! All i can say is the “Chef SUGARBEAR” isn’t done yet… I have a lot more people to feed my food to. Thanks to everyone and please visit my web site if you need Private Chef services and catering www.ChefWiese.com.

Chris Kanka’s interview is delayed, but I hope to post it soon. In the meantime, you can read all the other past interviews by using this Top Chef Canada list. Got a question for a soon-to-be eliminated contestant? Let me know in the comments!

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