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!

Ready for a waffle rumble?

There’s a new waffle in town. A franchise of Wannawafel, a company originally out of Victoria, B.C., opened up in Edmonton recently. They serve Liège waffles, just like Eva Sweet does. Let’s compare them, shall we? (I apologize in advance for the missing waffle parts. It was vital to taste them while they were hot and could not wait for my photographic efforts.)

Eva Sweet

Eva Sweet sells their Liège waffles out of a food truck, and charges $3 for a waffle without toppings (or at least they did last summer, not sure if the price has changed or not). They have three different flavours – vanilla, cinnamon and maple – and have numerous toppings available at an additional cost.

Eva Sweet truck

Eva Sweet truck

I’ve tried all three flavours without any toppings. The vanilla flavour is a little plain and the maple is a little too sweet for my personal tastes, but for me the cinnamon one is near perfect. The amount of cinnamon is just right. These Liège waffles use pearl sugar, which provides a great caramelized crust. My only issue with the sugar is that sometimes you find chunks of grainy, uncooked sugar inside the dough of the waffle.

Eva Sweet Liège waffle

Eva Sweet Liège waffle

Wannawafel

Wannawafel uses a cart, complete with waffle irons. They charge $4 per Liège waffle, and at this point are serving only one plain flavour with no toppings. Wannawafel in Victoria does serve their waffles with toppings.

Wannawafel cart

Wannawafel cart

These waffles are made with beet sugar and are a bit smaller than the ones I had at Eva Sweet. The beet sugar melts and caramelizes very well; there were no discernible chunks of uncooked sugar in the waffle. The dough is a more eggy and light than Eva Sweet’s, but the waffles are less sweet and as a result tastes a little more plain. If you find Eva Sweet’s waffles too sweet, then these waffles are the ones for you.

Wannawafel Liège waffle

Wannawafel Liège waffle

My verdict

I would be happy with either of these companies’ waffles. I liked Wannawafel’s dough better, but preferred the sweetness and flavour of Eva Sweet’s waffles. Eva Sweet’s waffles are also cheaper.

Eva Sweet
www.evasweet.ca
Their location changes a lot, so your best bet is to check their Twitter @evasweetwaffles.

Wannawafel
www.wannawafel.com
Wannawafel Edmonton’s Facebook page
Currently located at 108 St and 99 Ave during the work week. Also planning on appearing at various festivals and events around the city.

Fun Friday

Mario Batali is hiring, and he did a cross-promotion video with Monster.com to advertise for the job. Definitely an interesting marketing concept.

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.