Todd Perrin brought some much needed Maritime influence to Top Chef Canada. With his unique, but traditional, ingredients and cooking skills, he quickly became a fan favourite and many people were sad to see him go.
Why did you decide to apply to be on Top Chef Canada?
A friend sent me the notice of the casting call and for the first time in my working life I actually had time to consider something like Top Chef Canada. In my previous work, I was just too busy to be able to get away for such a long time in the height of summer. I am still amazed that some of the other Chefs could do it given their restaurant commitments. It just sounded like it would be fun and winning $100,000 wasn’t bad motivation either!
What surprised you most about the competition?
A bit cliché, but just how hard it was! It is an extremely difficult competition and I wasn’t really prepared for the intensity and difficulty of the challenges. Having said that I thought I held my own pretty well, but it was very, very tough.
What special items did you bring from home to help you in the competition?
All my specialty items pretty well made it onto the screen, salt fish, seal flipper, moose, capelin (dried and salted). I also had some rabbit, but didn’t get a chance to use it.
And along those same lines… in various challenges you used salt cod, moose and seal flipper. They’re all traditional foods that aren’t used as much (or in some cases hardly ever) in Canadian kitchens anymore. Why did you decide to use them?
They may not be used as often as they used to be, but there are many homes in the country that still enjoy these traditional items – especially here in Newfoundland and Labrador. I mean that’s where I am as a Chef. I try to use local ingredients wherever and whenever I can and I wanted to show that NL food is not all about Fish and Chips. My province offers great ingredients that can be prepared in a myriad of ways and that’s what I hoped to get the opportunity to showcase. Lucky for me I held on long enough to do that pretty well. I felt it important to show these items on Top Chef CANADA, emphasis on the Canada. It was the best way I saw to represent where I come from – both my province and my country.
What has been the reaction to your use of seal flipper since that first episode aired?
Generally very positive. There was a little negativity which given the controversy that sometimes surrounds the seal hunt, was not unexpected. Overall I’d say people respected that I thought it was important enough as a local ingredient to use it. I mean people eat seal! Flipper pie is not everybody’s bag no doubt, but it isn’t a made up dish. Seal meat is a sustainable, healthy readily available protein source that has been eaten here for hundreds of years and prepared properly can be quite delicious!
You’ve worked in some busy kitchens before but are now running your own place. Did you find it hard to adjust from your B&B to the speed of the Top Chef kitchen?
A little, but it’s a bit like riding a bike. I have spent a lot of years working in very busy, well respected restaurants. I have taken a different path for a bit, but I still have those skills. They just needed a little of the dust blown off them perhaps and being with the other Chefs certainly helped to do that. The whole thing has re ignited the fire I used to have in my belly when I worked on a busy line for 14 hrs a day. Not sure my wife is happy about that but there it is!
Did you have any dishes that you wanted to make for the competition but never got a chance to
Except for the winning dish on the final episode, nothing that really comes to mind. I mean I did have a personal agenda to incorporate the ingredients that we have already talked about, but I really tried to react to the challenges that we were given and not plan my dishes in advance.
Any other future plans that you’d like to share?
We are working on a couple of things. An expansion of The Chef’s Inn to include a small restaurant is on the table. Also working on a couple of concepts to pitch for my own food show perhaps? Who knows about that, but I have been given lots of encouragement to do that. I think there are some people that would like to see more of me doing my thing?! We’ll see.
Other than your own establishment, name one of your favorite places to eat.
Top of Signal Hill watching Humpback whales, with a take out Chicken Curry from International Flavours!
Any last comments?
Just to say a big thanks to everyone involved with Top Chef Canada. I had a blast and would do it all again in a second! Also thanks to the folks who watch the show. The support I have gotten from across the country has been truly humbling and very inspiring. Keep watching for me guys, I hope I can keep spreading the message about accessible, local simple but delicious food! Lastly, I hope that I have helped to dispel that thought that “nice guys finish last” – they finish 8th, or at least on Top Chef Canada they do!
Did you know that they’re casting for Season 2 of Top Chef Canada? I hope more chefs from outside of Toronto apply. It’d be nice to more people from different parts of the country. Imagine what kinds of things someone from up north could do!
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!