Delicious dishes with Top Chef Canada contestant Andrea Nicholson

This Top Chef interview is a little different because instead of doing it over e-mail, I actually spoke to Andrea Nicholson over the telephone. We had a great chat… but unfortunately I kind of suck at taking notes and find it hard to quote someone verbatim for long stretches at a time. Anything that she said directly is in quotes, and everything else is my interpretation and rephrasing of her words.

Top Chef Canada - Andrea Nicholson (photo courtesy of Food Network Canada/Insight Productions)

Top Chef Canada - Andrea Nicholson (photo courtesy of Food Network Canada/Insight Productions)

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

“I applied because I am a junkie of a fan of the American version and wanted to see what it would be like and showcase my food. It was a nudge to show that I’m a great cook and can do great things.”

What surprised you most about the competition?

“Everything surprised me because it was unknown territory from hour to hour.” I expanded the question by asking about the U.S. show, and she said, “Watching the American version kind of prepares you,” but that they didn’t have the same kind of budget that the American show has. “No high tech equipment, no nitro,” she said.

Another thing that surprised her was the process of how it the show came together behind the scenes.

What special items did you bring from home to help you in the competition?Andrea brought all her knives, a vacuum sealer, tea from Great Cooks’ tea boutique for cooking and smoking, star anise, truffle paste from her truffle supplier out of Italy, and a huge meat saw that came in handy for the butchering of the pig.

Tell us about your favourite challenge. Why that one?

“The first one because they really let us highlight what we do and show what we create on a daily basis.”

As one of three women in the competition, did you feel there was more pressure on you to do well?

“No, not really. I’ve worked my whole career with his kind of stigma and I don’t want to try to segregate myself from the other cooks.” Andrea went on to tell me that she encourages her kitchen staff to treat everyone equally and that she’s doing what she’s doing because she’s a chef and not because of her gender.

“I do think female chefs can be amazing because they can multitask,” she added.

You’ve worked in a number of restaurants in the past; how did you get into teaching?

“We’re also a restaurant,” she said, speaking about Great Cooks. “During my 15 year career I was asked to do a teaching gig at Humber College. A butchery class. And I really liked it. I did it for a semester. I met Esther (the co-owner and CEO of Great Cooks) 7 years ago and did a guest chef gig. It was an easy transition. Teaching is something you do anyways as a chef; you are constantly teaching line cooks, etc.”

In the French food episode you had to make a dish using horse. At the time, did you realize the issues that could arise from that ingredient?

“I didn’t realize [there would be an] issue because we have restaurants in the city that prepare horse.” She’s been to Quebec and France in the past, and has eaten horse. “It’s kind of hypocritical when you think of foie gras.”

Why make a tartar?

“We all collectively came up with the menu progression. It would have been one of the mains or starters, and had to go into the cold section of the menu. I had made it and eaten it that way before.”

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

“We filmed the show almost a year ago. I’ve got a very successful condiment company called Killer Condiments. Doing a lot of travel to promote myself.” She recently had a contract with Tim Hortons to make a birthday cake for the 35th anniversary of the Timbit. She’s also been really busy at the restaurant and doing a lot of dinners including a Top Chef Canada dinner with Todd Perrin.

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

Per Se in New York City.

Any last comments?

“It was a great opportunity. I would do it again if I could.” She was pleased that people watch and enjoy the show, but was a little disappointed by some of the criticisms that have been on the Internet about the quality of the production and the food that the contestants made. “We’re just cooking food and at the end of the day, food needs to taste delicious. It doesn’t need to be totally out of the box and it’s not rocket science.”

You can read all the other past interviews by using this Top Chef Canada list.

One last note – I know that there are a lot of very passionate people who are upset about the use of horse in the show. While I do have my own opinion, I respect that people may not agree with me and so for that reason I am not talking about the specifics of this for either side of this issue. I hope that you will respect me in return and not flood my blog with comments for or against horse meat. I do my best not to censor comments on this blog, but any disrespectful comments will be edited or deleted. If you want to educate yourself about this issue, I highly recommend doing a search on the Internet. There are many detailed resources out there.

Home grown cuisine with Top Chef Canada contestant Todd Perrin

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.

Top Chef Canada – Todd Perrin (photo courtesy of Food Network Canada/Insight Productions)

Top Chef Canada – Todd Perrin (photo courtesy of Food Network Canada/Insight Productions)

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!

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!

Food for thought with Top Chef Canada contestant Jamie Hertz

Was Jamie Hertz all that he seemed to be on Top Chef Canada? Was he unfairly portrayed? Have a look at my interview with him and judge for yourselves!

Top Chef Canada – Jamie Hertz (photo courtesy of Food Network Canada/Insight Productions)

Top Chef Canada – Jamie Hertz (photo courtesy of Food Network Canada/Insight Productions)

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

I applied for Top Chef Canada to see where I stand. To get out there seeing as being a chef out of the city is difficult.

What surprised you most about the competition?

The thing that surprised me the most was the level of stress you under go with cameras on you.

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

I had brought a bunch of Japanese ingredients from home to showcase my balance of flavors but never really got to use them.

In the elimination challenge you said you wanted to show West coast cooking. Why did you decide to do a salmon mousse as opposed to something like a cedar planked salmon?

As for the salmon. I had 80 percent smoked salmon and wanted to make the mousse just using that, but late in prep I felt that I didn’t have enough so there were some ends in the main kitchen so I chose to add some to ensure I had enough portions. Cedar plank is Milestones type food (a restaurant chain) and felt it was not good enough nor did we have cedar planks.

Why did you complain about the need to use a student sous chef? Did you have problems working with your student?

I had no problems with the work I did with the sous chef. There was a point during prep where they put my chef in a so called penalty box. I was frustrated because the rules to using the sous were not laid out. This is the only problem I had and it was nothing to do with the sous himself.

To me, it seemed like you were frustrated with the competition process. In the show and in your online exit interview, you mentioned that you were second guessing a lot of things, that contestants were placed in unrealistic situations and that there was little feedback about your food. Was this the case? What was really going on?

Well I was frustrated with the competition – with the lack of dishes we could use and not having the access to ingredients that allow me to truly show my true colors as an established chef and successful restaurateur. I also hated the fact that Mark McEwan said in the country challenge that I was in Dale’s wind following and or copying him. To me it showed he really had no idea of who I was and where I came from. I am my own chef and never followed someone to achieve my success.

If given the chance, would you compete on Top Chef Canada again?

I would compete again with a new strategy and I would feel more comfortable being in that situation. I am much much better then I did on the show and wish I had a chance to find my footing and wow the judges. The real question is would they have me back seeing as I didn’t make it further.

Any future plans that you’d like to share?

As for future plans I am going to keep fusion going and hope to have much more success. I am hungry for achieving my goals and being a well respected chef, so if anything it was a kick in the ass to push to the next level.

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

Well my fav place to eat in Vancouver is Hapa Izikaya. In the Toronto area as a child I loved Apache Burger and Montreal Deli.

Any last comments?

As frustrated as I was in the competition, the Food Network gave me a well needed second wind in my career. I was so appreciative of the opportunity to be a part of Canada’s Top Chef.

I didn’t like the character I was portrayed as. I would like to one day sit down with Mark and perhaps Shereen when cameras aren’t around to chat with them.

Thanks for everything Insight (the production company) and Food Network.

You can read past interviews by using this Top Chef Canada list.

A slow simmer with Top Chef Canada contestant Clayton Beadle

Clayton Beadle was eliminated in a surprise double elimination episode featuring Canadian cheese. This interview is a little late due to scheduling issues, but here it is now for your reading pleasure!

Top Chef Canada - Clayton Beadle (photo courtesy of Food Network Canada/Insight Productions)

Top Chef Canada - Clayton Beadle (photo courtesy of Food Network Canada/Insight Productions)

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

I applied for Top Chef just for the simple reason of finding out where I compare against other Canadian chefs. I also did it for my Mom who was the one who brought the show to my attention.

What surprised you most about the competition?

The sheer fact at how fast the time goes by when you have a task to complete and your life depends on it.

Did you learn anything from your experience?

Absolutely, I think we all became better chefs in the end. Being involved in something like Top Chef Canada brings out aspects of each one of us that we probably hadn’t seen yet, from handling extreme pressure to creating something way out of our everyday cooking realm.

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

I brought an immersion circulator for doing sous-vide but I didn’t get the chance to use it.

Did you do anything special to prepare you for Top Chef?

Nothing can really prepare you for the show except good skills attained over many hard years spent in the kitchen. But watching the previous series helped.

Why did you choose to make the cheese dish that you presented in the Quickfire challenge?

I made that dish because Mark had mentioned that he liked this specific cheese melted on toast in the morning. I took that idea and ran with it, putting my own spin on it. But I made a fatal technical error on the sauce when it crystallized.

What went through your mind when it was announced that it was a high stakes Quickfire challenge, and that there would be an elimination?

That was probably the single most terrifying moment I experienced on the show. But I just accepted it and planned what my next move would be. And I think that the dish I produced was excellent and should have kept me in the competition.

Do you think that your age and level of experience hindered you at all in the competition?

Maybe but at the end of the day I still made it on the show and I plan on taking it on again. Age shouldn’t have played a role in my opinion, we were all there because we are great at what we do.

Any future plans that you’d like to share?

Just travel the world on the most epic cooking adventure ever. I’d like to visit Spain, Italy, and Thailand to learn the culinary secrets the hold.

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

Samurai Sushi here in Whistler, Harajuku Isakaya another Japanese place here in Whistler and I am definitely looking forward to eating in Dale’s new restaurant Ensemble opening soon in Vancouver.

Any last comments?

You haven’t seen the last of me yet, I WILL be back.

You can read past interviews by using this Top Chef Canada list.

Turning up the heat with Top Chef Canada contestant Derek Bocking

I don’t know about the rest of you, but to me it seemed like last week’s episode was a tough one for the contestants thanks to guest judge Susur Lee. Unfortunately for Derek, this wasn’t his week.

Top Chef Canada - Derek Bocking (photo courtesy of Food Network Canada/Insight Productions)

Top Chef Canada - Derek Bocking (photo courtesy of Food Network Canada/Insight Productions)

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

My brother Steve, and his girlfriend Melanie really pushed for me to apply. I left it for the last minute, because I wasn’t sure if I could get the necessary time off work, but when I decided I was going to go for it, they rushed over to my apartment and we filmed the audition video in one day. I still thank the two of them every time I see them and will be forever grateful that they push me to do this

What surprised you most about the competition?

How “real” it was. There were many moments where I was just pushing myself to get the job done and I would forget that I was on TV and not in my restaurant. But then Chef McEwan would walk into the kitchen I would be suddenly reminded that, of s#!t, I’m really on Top Chef! One of my favorite moments was when Andrea was being a little abrasive and I had to remind her that we were on the same team. I have to admit, I smiled when her comeback was “Yeah, well this is still Top Chef!”

Did you learn anything from your experience?

So much.  Besides learning some of the ins and outs of TV land, I learned a lot of little tips and tricks from the other chefs. I’ve been cooking in one style for most of my career, French/North American comfort, so it was interesting to see the techniques that some of the other chefs were using, especially those who came from a more fine dining background.

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

Besides my knives, I brought my own pair of tongs, because I’m very particular about the kind I use and I was glad I did, because the ones in the Top Chef kitchen didn’t feel right. For ingredients I brought a few modern stabilizers and emulsifiers. I brought them to maybe do something fancy and modern like a flaming sorbet recipe I know from the Fat Duck, but I also knew that they work wonders added to the more traditional recipes I usually do. They saved me in episode 2 when the acidity of the blue cheese that I put into my cheesecake split my mix into curds and whey. I used one of my emulsifiers to bring it back together and the dish was a hit.

We never saw your Quickfire salad; what did you make?

They skiped my Quickfire dish twice! I was pretty upset about that. I didn’t win any Quickfires, but I did come on the bottom either, so unfortunately two of my dishes didn’t get any airtime. For the breakfast challenge in episode 2, I made my version of cheese on toast, with a nod to the traditional Irish Sunday fry up. I made worchestershire glazed wild mushrooms with back bacon, served on grilled bread with melted camembert. My salad was a beet carpaccio (had no idea that’s what Dusty was making!) with persimmons and a citrus vinaigrette.

What went through your mind when you pulled that knife and saw that it said “Mexico?”

Ironically it was “sweet, this will be easy!” and it should have been. I was paired with Dustin, who was Susur’s sous chef, so besides the fact that I’m already familiar with Mexican cuisine, that was a definite advantage too. There were so many dishes that I could have chosen to make that I could easily have banged out in less than 2 hours, but I felt the need to over reach and try to make one of my signature dishes, a dish that I usually make over the course of 2 days, in just 2 hours.  It was a foolish, foolish decision, one that will haunt me for the rest of my life, but that is the game. Everything happens so fast in the Top Chef kitchen, and that’s what makes it an exciting show. I knew I made a terrible choice early on in the challenge, but once the clock started, there was no turning back.

Top Chef Canada – Thea Andrews and Susur Lee, Episode 4 (photo courtesy of Food Network Canada/Insight Productions)

Top Chef Canada – Thea Andrews and Susur Lee, Episode 4 (photo courtesy of Food Network Canada/Insight Productions)

Why did you decide to use a braise on the ribs even though you’d have only a portion of the cooking time normally needed?

In the previous challenge I played it safe with a dish that left me with lots of time to spare. I got on to Top Chef Canada by cooking a dish (rabbit pot pie) that normally takes hours in just 30 minutes. That definitely impressed the producers in my audition, so I thought I could pull of a 2 hour version of my braised ribs. Unfortunately there were a couple of things that knocked me off my very tightly planned timetable that put me a good half hour behind, and what I presented to the judges was far from a finished dish. What kills me is I’m a huge Top Chef fan and I’ve seen many talented chefs asked to pack their knives and go because of undercooked braises and that is exactly what happened to me.

Your bio states that you have no formal culinary training. In your experience, has that hindered you at all in your career, or do you see it as a benefit?

I think it’s neither a hindrance nor a benefit. Going to culinary school might have helped me early in my career, but by the time I knew I would be making a career in the kitchen it was too late and I would have been relearning things that I already knew for years. I was fortunate enough to work with some great chefs over the years, particularly Fred Morin of Joe Beef, who has had a major influence on my cooking style.

Did you have any dishes up your sleeve to make later in the competition had you not been eliminated?

I was pretty upset that I didn’t once use fois gras. I’m a big proponent of sustainable agriculture and I think it’s incredibly  ironic that fois gras gets so much heat from animal rights activists.  I’m aware that there are some videos out there of unhappy ducks being force fed, but I’ve done my homework and I can tell you that I’d take the life of a fois gras duck over a fast food chicken any day. I was surprised by some of the backlash I saw on the net about Todd using seal, when from a sustainability point of view, it’s a more ecological choice than most of the commercial beef you find in the supermarket.  I’m not saying that seal would be an ideal replacement for everyday meals (that would never be sustainable) but I wish that people put more thought into where their food comes from. I wanted to really represent Montreal and Quebec on the national scene and fois gras is one of our specialties. There are a lot ways a could have used it, but I was waiting for a challenge where I could do my version of the ultimate PB&J: fois gras parfait with blueberry jelly and walnut butter. That one I was saving for the finale.

Any future plans that you’d like to share?

My goal for a while now has been to open my own restaurant by the time I’m 35. I’m 31 now so I have a few years to spare. The exposure from Top Chef has led to a few offers, but I’m in no rush and I want to make sure that when I do open my own place, I do it right.  For now, I have my blog, www.derekskitchen.com , where I post restaurant style recipes that people can try at home.  The recipes are very detailed and I include pictures of all the steps to make them very easy to follow.

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

There are so many amazing restaurants in Montreal. My favorites are DNA, Joe Beef, Le Chien Fumant, and L’Orignal.

Any last comments?

If you want to see more of what I have to offer, visit my blog or come see me at Beaver Hall.

You can read past interviews by using this Top Chef Canada list.

Adding a Latin flair with Top Chef Canada contestant Steve Gonzalez

Poor Steve. It was starting to seem like Steve would be one of the more colourful contestants on Top Chef Canada, but we never did really get to see much about him or his style of food before he was eliminated in last week’s challenge.

Top Chef Canada – Steve Gonzalez (photo courtesy of Food Network Canada/Insight Productions)

Top Chef Canada – Steve Gonzalez (photo courtesy of Food Network Canada/Insight Productions)

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

I decided to do Top Chef cause I felt this will help get my name and face out there. I left Toronto a few years ago and came back saying [th]is was going to do big things.

What surprised you most about the competition?
I was surprised at how well we all got along and how different our food styles where.

Did you learn anything from your experience?
I learned that I can still move fast when I need to.

What special items did you bring from home to help you in the competition?
I brought Yuzu juice, Aji amarillo and achiote.

It seemed like some people had better experiences working within teams than others. What was your team dynamic like?
Our team worked great together. We were all cool and worked like a well oiled machine.

Top Chef Canada – Dan Aykroyd Episode 3 (photo courtesy of Food Network Canada/Insight Productions)

Top Chef Canada – Guest Judge Dan Aykroyd, Episode 3 (photo courtesy of Food Network Canada/Insight Productions)

The potato salad dish you made – did you change the recipe at all to make it fit better with the theme of the challenge, or is that how you would normally serve it?
Ya I changed it totally changed it to fit in the vessel and I really wanted to put caviar in it. It’s not something I make all the time.

Latino cuisine isn’t as common in Canada as say, various Asian cuisines. How fast is knowledge about Latino cuisine growing in Canada? If you had stayed in the competition longer, what kind of dishes would we have seen from you?
Latino food has become a little more know but not as well as I would like. We would have seen more ceviches, modern sancocho and maybe ropa veija.

Any future plans that you’d like to share?
I’ll just be doing my thing here at Origin and raising the bar in the food scene in Toronto.

Other than your own establishment, name one of your favorite places to eat.
I like doing the China town thing. Late night at Taste of China or Pho Houng for lunch [in Toronto].

Any last comments?
I’d just like to say that I had fun and it was a great experience.

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