Maverick Canadian Chefs 2007

By / Mavericks / February 26th, 2009 / 2

While on the trail of Canada’s maverick chefs, I told my grandmother I’d been thinking about the burnt-orange Ford Maverick she drove when I was five. “Oh”, she said emphatically, “that car did just what they promised — it would go anywhere.” She’s right. Though I was very young, I recall adventuring in the Maverick, the noise and vibration from the turn of the throaty engine and the warm prairie wind whipping hair into my eyes on summer days. With my body buckled safely in the passenger seat, the car went places my little mind could only dream existed (though my grandmother reminds me that most of our adventures occurred within fifty km of home). The car was called a Maverick for a reason. So are the six chefs you’re about to discover.

This year’s mavs are Melissa Craig of the Bearfoot Bistro in Whistler, Martin Picard of Au Pied de Cochon in Montreal, Sean Furlong of Dayboat Restaurant on Prince Edward Island, Giuseppe di Gennaro of Capo in Calgary, Steve Vardy of the Whalesbone in Ottawa and Ricardo Larrivee, Radio-Canada and Food Network host.

If you haven’t been fortunate enough to cross paths with these chefs already, get out the map and mark the spots across the country where they can be found, doing what they do best. The mavericks don’t represent cuisine in our country that pushes boundaries; they have no boundaries. They’re driven by passion and limited creatively only by their imaginations. They share a desire to use fresh, local, seasonal ingredients that celebrate their unique regions. It’s amazing what they’ve discovered within a small radius of their base.

Like the car, thesechefs use the open road — in a culinary sense, that is. They dwell in the space where anything is possible. They do things their way,constantly exploring and evolving, and their success has inspired others to do the same. They come in all models, and styles of cuisine, from Quebecois, to West-coast, contemporary seafood, modern Canadian and new Italian. And, they’re unlike anything or anyone else on the map.



Melissa Craig

Executive Chef, Bearfoot Bistro, Whistler, British Columbia

At only twenty, Melissa Craig won the National Apprentice Competition — the first woman ever to win. She went on to work with Chef Edward Tuson at the Sooke Harbour House, an inn on the southwestern shore of Vancouver Island, often rated as the best restaurant in the world. The Harbour House offers truly authentic local cuisine — no ingredient is used that’s not grown in the area. “It was an amazing experience,” says Craig of her time there. She also spent two weeks at Eigensinn Farm in Ontario, apprenticing with iconic chef Michael Stadtländer: “It was just like cooking in a kitchen in someone’s home, which is exactly what it is. Apart from cooking, I was also a farm hand —tending the animals and plants.”

After the Sooke Harbour House, Craig landed at the Bearfoot Bistro in Whistler in 2004. There she worked her way up to the position of executive chef in just one year. At the Bearfoot, she uses West Coast ingredients to create a modern Canadian cuisine. Her game burger (to die for, in case you’re wondering), the Vancouver Island black cod and the house-smoked wild Arctic caribou chop are fine examples of this.

On my first visit to the Bearfoot Bistro a couple of years ago, I ended up in the wine cellar (12,000 bottles and over 1,800 labels strong), practising a tradition that dates back to the Napoleonic wars: I wielded a sword and sabered the top off a bottle of Champagne. Napoleon would probably have been impressed with Bearfoot proprietor André St Jacques — he holds the Guinness World Record for sabering: twenty-one bottles of Champagne in just under one minute. As you might have guessed, the Bearfoot has an impressive selection of Champagne (which they sell more of than any restaurant in Canada). But even more impressive than their wine cellar (which harbours a bottle of 1914 Moët & Chandon Brut Impérial) is their executive chef.

Where did you grow up?

Duncan, Vancouver Island.

How old are you?


I think I heard you wrong. How old are you?


Where did you get your culinary education?

The Culinary Arts program at Malaspina University-College in Nanaimo.

Who has influenced your cooking the most?

Edward Tuson at theSooke Harbour House — by far. He was my first chef, and I worked beside him every day for three and a half years. We worked with whole animals, picked our own garnish from the garden. Very different than, say, as a hotel chef, where I would just open a bag and out would come a salad or chicken breast, for example. We didn’t serve anything that didn’t grow on the property—like lemons. I didn’t use citrus for four years!

What made you decide to be a chef?

I was going to be an elementary-school teacher, and two weeks before school started I decided to go to chef school instead.

Which cookbook changed everything for you?

A 1997 article in Gourmet magazine, the same year I started culinary school. It was called “The Mysterious American Chef,” and it really describes what it means to be a chef.

What was your first job in a professional kitchen?

My four years at the Sooke Harbour House.

What’s your favourite country or region to eat in?

Japan. I just returned from a two-week tour there. I love the freshness of the food, and how much they care for each piece of produce — even in a corner store, peaches are individually wrapped. The cooks give the same care to food. One person specializes in each task. I met a man who’s spent thirty-five years making soba noodles — no ramen or udon — just soba. And they import the wheat from Canada!

What’s your favourite kitchen tool or gadget?

The soba chef gave me a soba knife. I have yet to use it here. I love knives in general, my new sashimi knife in particular. I also love my Thermo mix; you turn it on, set the time, add ingredients, and return later to find blended soup! Or my Paco jet, for making snow.

What are you fanatical about?

I must have metal inserts; no plastic or I freak out.

What music do you like to play in the kitchen?

No metal, but then I find Jack Johnson is too slow. Any pop music with a good pace.

Do you have a guilty secret ingredient?

Cock sweet chili sauce and Frank’s RedHot.

Who would you be nervous to cook for?

Not celebrities. I’m nervous when I cook for others in the industry, like if Sinclair [Sooke Harbour House proprietor] came in, I’d be nervous.

What’s your favourite drink?

Champagne! I didn’t drink it before I started working at Bearfoot. They sent me to Dom Pérignon to taste six vintages with food pairings. I ended up trying magnums. My favourite year is 1990 or 1999. I love pairing food with Champagne.

Favourite ingredient?

I like cooking fish right now: kampachi, a white, fatty tuna you eat raw.

Name an overrated and an underrated ingredient/seasoning.

Foam is pretty much done now. Jelly is overused, though I do like to use jellies …

Is there a food that you really don’t like?

Animal kidneys. I eat everything else. In Japan I even had fish liver.

What rule matters more than any other in your kitchen?

To be proud of the food that’s going out. Everything has to be perfect. Cleanliness. I like people with ideas; I’m fine if they want to try anything. I don’t like people who just go day to day; if you’re doing that, you’re not improving.

What skill does someone need most to work in your kitchen?

A good attitude, a good palate, and patience with me: I don’t write recipes, I just dictate them.

What’s the most embarrassing thing that you’ve done while cooking?

At the Harbour House, in my first year, I’d clean 200 pounds of fish each day. One day, I also had an octopus to clean. As I tried to finish the fish to get to the octopus, I watched it reach out of the pail and inch its way to a wall of pots and pans. I would turn around from time to time and push the pail back. Octopuses turn red when they’re mad, and this one was red. During all of this, when my back was turned to the octopus, one of the guys decided to grab my ankle. I screamed like a schoolgirl and turned around to see the staff, lined up, laughing at me.

What makes your restaurant stand apart from others?

It’s fun; the atmosphere that’s created; the way food and wine come together. The great relationship between front and back. The sabering of Champagne in our cellar is a hit with customers. I can order in almost anything: white Alba truffles, beluga caviar, Kobe beef. We also get everything local as much as possible.

What are your plans for the future?

Maybe open my own restaurant, travel and work in Europe, learn how they cook there.

Do you have anything surprising in your home fridge?

It’s all condiments, and cream for coffee and hot sauce for pizza.

What do you eat for breakfast?

I don’t. I just have coffee. And Greens Plus, which tastes awful. I need to start. InJapan, I had three square meals a day and I felt great.

You’ve got twenty-four hours left to live. What’s your last meal?

I’d go home for Sunday dinner. I don’t see my family enough.

What was your favourite meal as a child?

My dad’s cooking: he only does breakfast and BBQ.

What’s your favourite meal to cook at home?

Japanese instant noodles, with miso paste and chicken stock, and veggies thrown in. Or popcorn.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I’m so busy in the winter season I don’t have a chance to ski or snowboard. I love surfing, kayaking — all water sports, but we don’t have access to that in Whistler!

Where do you shop?

I love Whole Foods for their cheese bin, all the little mini-pieces they have. That way you can buy fifteen different kinds of cheese to sample.

If you weren’t a chef, what would you be doing?

I’d be lost. I don’t know anything else.

Heirloom Tomato Salad, Arugula Pumpkinseed Pesto, Marinated Goat Cheese

Serves 6

variety of heirloom tomatoes

fleur de sel

cracked pepper


1/2 lb arugula

200 g toasted pumpkinseeds

80 g grated parmesan cheese

200 ml extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves roasted garlic

25 ml aged balsamic vinegar

Blend all ingredients in food processor, adding cheese at the end.

Season with salt and pepper, adjust consistency by adding more oil.

Marinated Goat Cheese

10 oz semi firm goat cheese

1 head roasted garlic

basil leaves

cracked pepper


olive oil

Break goat cheese up into bite size pieces, add enough olive oil to cover, mix in herbs and roasted garlic, cover and refrigerate. This is best done 24 hours in advance.

Slice tomatoes in all different shapes, season with fleur de sel and pepper. Drizzle with pesto and arrange goat cheese around tomatoes. Garnish with bay basil. It’s very important to get tomatoes that are in season because they are what make the dish.


Sean Furlong

Executive Chef, Dayboat, Hunter River, Prince Edward Island

At sixteen, Sean Furlong enrolled in his high school’s culinary program and started working at Hogan’s Inn in King City, Ontario. At eighteen, he was recruited by Chef Emad Yacoub to work at Joe Fortes, a bustling Vancouver seafood joint.

That was the beginning of a love affair with seafood (though you might say that Furlong, a native Islander, has it in his blood). He took further culinary training while working his way up at Joe Fortes. Three years later, he left Joe Fortes for Vancouver’s Brix, where he worked under Chef Sean Riley.

A year later, Furlong was recruited to open Solo, a seafood restaurant in the heart of Toronto. With no advertising and just fifty seats, Solo has enjoyed unbelievable success. “You could say we brought the Vancouver seafood edge to Toronto,” says Furlong. Finally, after doing his homework, he set his sights on New York restaurateur Robert Shapiro’s Dayboat restaurant in PEI, returning to his roots.

When asked how he developed his passion for seafood, Furlong explains, “I was always surrounded by it, but never aimed to cook it specifically. Then I moved to Vancouver and realized you can be more creative and daring when you cook seafood, because those who eat it usually have more adventurous palates than those who always eat chicken or beef. And seafood has limitations based on freshness, which means I have to be more creative to use and promote the catch I receive each day.” Like any true maverick, Furlong loves a challenge.

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Charlottetown, and I grew up in PEI and Ontario.

Where did you get your culinary education?

Mostly from working in the industry, I started my apprenticeship at sixteen. I also attended the Culinary Arts program at Vancouver Community College.

Who has influenced your cooking the most?

If I were to say one person, it would probably be my first chef: Emad Yacoub; if I could name a place, I would have to say Vancouver.

What made you decide to be a chef?

Three things influenced my decision: my passion for eating great food, the competitiveness and the appeal of constant change.

Which cookbook changed everything for you?

I’m not that big on books.

What was your first job in a professional kitchen?

Garde-manger: cold appetizers and desserts.

What’s your favourite country or region to eat in?

Canada. Because we are so multicultural and progressive, we can experience the flavours of the world without ever leaving the country.

What’s your favourite kitchen tool or gadget?

Zesters. Believe it or not, they have many uses.

What, if anything, are you fanatical about?

A clean, organized fridge. I can’t stand containers that aren’t downsized, labelled or clean.

What music do you like to play in the kitchen?

Hip hop is definitely my favourite music to play, but as I mostly work with older staff, you will quite often hear rock music playing.

Do you have a “guilty” secret ingredient?

Butter. Butter makes everything taste better.

Favourite wine? Drink?

Red wine; my favourite is probably Shiraz, but I also like a nice Sauvignon Blanc with my seafood.

Favourite ingredient?


Is there something you refuse to have in your kitchen?

Frozen vegetables and concentrated fake stocks.

Name an overrated and an underrated ingredient/seasoning.

Overrated: smoked sea salt. Underrated:honey.

Is there a food that you really don’t like?


What rule of conduct matters more than any other in your kitchen?

Respect for co-workers.

What skill does someone most need to work in your kitchen?

Three main skills that you should possess are: a willingness to learn, speed and knife skills.

What makes your restaurant stand apart from the others?

The use of fresh local ingredients sets us apart from the rest. Nothing served at Dayboat is pre-made, all our fish and meat is received whole and we butcher it all ourselves.It is truly a chef’s dream come true to be receiving and using most of your ingredients from within fifty kilometres of your restaurant.

What are your plans for the future?

To own my own establishment.

What do you eat for breakfast?

Eggs, oatmeal and yogurt — every day.

You’ve got twenty-four hours left to live. What’s your last meal?

My last meal would definitely include lobster and steak, peaches-and-cream corn, a bottle of wine and ice cream with strawberry shortcake.

What was your favourite meal as a child?

Breakfast: bacon, eggs and pancakes.

What’s your favourite meal to cook at home?

Pasta, because it’s fast and you can use almost anything for ingredients.

Do you have any spare time? What do you like to do in your spare time?

Not really. When I do, I spend time with my girlfriend and go to the gym.

Where do you shop?

Sobeys. I find they have the freshest meat and seafood in the winter.

If you weren’t a chef, what would you be doing?

I ask myself that all the time.

Who is your dream dinner date and why (spouse and family not included)?

No one in particular, just someone who is well-educated in food and gives an honest critique.

East Coast Cioppino

Serves 1

2 oz salmon, cubed

2 oz halibut, cubed

3 mussels

1 jumbo scallop

1 oz sliced red onion

1 oz sliced zucchini

1 oz sliced red pepper

1 tsp garlic purée

3 oz tomato sauce

6 oz fish stock or water

1 tbsp whipped citrus butter

parsley, chopped (optional)

Citrus Butter

Zest one lime and one lemon. Chop zestand mix with juices. Fold into one tbsp of whipped butter.


Sauté the vegetables in a hot pan.

Add the seafood and puréed garlic, then season.

Once the fish is seared, deglaze with the fish stock or water, add the tomato sauce and cover with a lid to steam.

Once the mussels have opened, remove from heat and incorporate the butter, season to taste, with salt and pepper.

Add chopped parsley and serve with two pieces of garlic bread for dipping.


Giuseppe di Gennaro

Executive Chef and Owner, Capo, Calgary, Alberta

Giuseppe di Gennaro says he grew up on “the sunny side” of Italy, in Naples. As a teenager, like many Italian boys, he went to nautical school — rather than culinary school, though he’s quick to mention he’s always been in cooking-related businesses. His first experience with fine dining came when he moved to London, England, to learn English at age sixteen. He worked his way through the culinary ranks at a number of renowned establishments in Italy, London and Australia, where he met his wife Fiona.

After doing their homework, the couple decided the best place in the world to cook was — wait for it — Calgary. There, Gennaro opened Il Sogno with a partner in 2001. At Il Sogno, he offered “new Italian” cuisine — a risk in Calgary, says Gennaro, where residents were used to more old-fashioned Italian food. “I wanted to serve non-traditional Italian, using strong flavours and well-presented food.” Il Sogno was very well received, though after five years, Gennaro and his business partner parted ways.

He opened Capo in March 2006. Fiona does the book work and marketing. “She’s the brain of the company,” he says, laughing. He calls his cuisine “global Italian,” mixing flavours from all regions of Italy, with a heavy French influence. His menu is small, and each dish is simply perfect. He says he doesn’t have a favourite. “They’re like children, I love them all.”  When pressed, he admits he’s especially fond of the roasted pheasant breast, with a Muscat and rosemary reduction (served with morel mushrooms and parsnip purée). “It’s a beautiful dish. It takes two days to put together; there is no rushing, it must be made properly.”

He buys fresh fare from local farmers when possible, though he notes that because Calgary’s climate isn’t conducive to growing certain things, he must source some products outside of the city. “Calgary can be a tough city because of the lack of fresh ingredients and the hard-to-please palates of the diverse communities.”

It can’t be that tough, though: according to my Cow Town colleagues, there are rarely any free tables in the stunning and intimate room at Capo, where Gennaro plates his creations in full view of the privileged diners.


Ricardo Larrivée

Host, “Ricardo” (Radio-Canada) and “Ricardo and Friends” (Food Network Canada), Chambly, Quebec

When he was barely twenty, Ricardo Larrivée landed what he calls his “dream job” in radio at Radio-Canada in Regina. Eager to make new friends, he started cooking dinner for his colleagues, and the word spread. “People said: ‘Goto Ric’s place, his food is great’,” he recalls. “When they asked me to do a food show, I thought: I’m not an expert, I don’t know about Egyptian food. I just love cooking.” But very quickly he became known as “the food guy” in Regina and, later, in Montreal, where he’d moved back and continued working as a food reporter.

That was then. Now, twenty years later, he’s got a Food Network show, a Radio-Canada show and a magazine, Ricardo. “Food to me is about family and friends,” says Larrivée. “And preserving what we have that’s unique. Protecting our diversity. Celebrating what’s different in every province and region.” The obstacle to this, he says, is not the producers, it’s us. As a society, we must ask for more and expect more: “If we don’t buy it, they can’t sell it.”

Larrivée emphasizes the impact that everything we buy has on the environment, on the local economy and culture. “And it tastes better! If you buy honey from Chile, you don’t help your local economy. In every province, the food is different, and I want to keep it that way. A country where everything is the same scares me. Tourists don’t want to come to Canada and find it all the same either.” He stresses that it’s important to deliver the message without being obnoxious, so people can make their own choices. “I try to do it with fun and pleasure,” he says.

Where did you grow up?

Chambly, Quebec.

What made you decide to become a chef?

I’m not a chef, just a good cook. I’d rather be thought of as the guy next door, helping his neighbours make tastier and easier food.

Did you obtain formal culinary education?

I didn’t. I studied hotel management at the Institut de Tourisme et d’Hotellerie du Québec in Montreal and journalism at Algonquin College in Ottawa.

What message are you trying to get across with your show?

I encourage families to cook at home instead of eating fast food. They’ll feel good and it will be cheaper. In less time than it takes to order a pizza, they can have a great meal at home for the same price. And buying local products has a positive impact on the environment, the local culture and the economy.

What made you decide to cook?

Growing up, there was always lots of food in my large family. We oriented parties around food. Food is what brings people together.

What’s your favourite country or region to eat in?

I love Asian and Indian food: they know how to use vegetables and spices. I also love pasta in the summertime: my godfather is an Italian from New York …

Favourite wine or drink?

Ice cider.

Favourite food or ingredient?

I love salty food.

What is your favourite dish to prepare?

I love desserts. I just wrote a book on desserts. They say you’re either a chocolate person or a toffee/caramel person. I’m definitely a toffee/caramel guy. I don’t feel guilty about eating desserts. If you ate only the desserts you prepared, you’d never have a problem. The problem today is, unlike fifty years ago, baked goods can be found everywhere. It’s too easy to eat too much food. Fifty years ago, you saved your cake, because it had to be made from scratch, and when it was gone, you had to wait another week or two to get it again.

Tell me about your home, which is also your office.

There are four kitchens in my house. We brought the magazine and the show to our home. With thirty-four people working here, sometimes my house feels more like a hotel! We have a 35,000-square-foot garden, with five kinds of raspberries, twelve kinds of tomatoes, three kinds of blueberries, grapes, cucumbers and much more.

Will you ever open a restaurant?

Never. Well, you should never say never, but it would be too demanding on my family.

Is there something you refuse to have in your kitchen?

I have very little, if any, prepared food. As long as you don’t make it your way of living, it’s okay.The problem is if it becomes a lifestyle.

Is there a food that you really don’t like?

Goat cheese and liver.

What do you eat for breakfast?

I love savoury food for breakfast, like soup or dinner leftovers.

Do you have any guilty indulgences?

No, I think everything is good; it’s a matter of when and how often you eat it. The key is balance. It’s okay to enjoy a hotdog at the baseball game, just not everyday.

What’s your favourite meal to cook at home?

We come up with new recipes every day, so my kids often say, “That was good — too bad we won’t get to eat it again!”

What advice would you give to the home cook?

It’s good to have a garden and, if you’re in an apartment, even just a window box.

Do you have any spare time? What do you do in your spare time?

I love to restore old houses that nobody wants, that might otherwise be demolished. I also lobby the government on food and social issues. I’m working with the education minister to develop a course to help kids understand the importance of food, where it comes from, and how it’s different from one region to another.

If you weren’t a chef, what would you be doing?

I would love to be in politics. My wife rolls her eyes when I say that! I’d make a good agriculture minister: I’ve travelled and met so many producers.

What are your plans for the future?

To raise my family in Chambly. I’m very family-oriented. I will never leave the countryside, no matter how much success I achieve elsewhere. This is home.

Lattice-Top Apple Tart

Serves 6 to 8


1 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp cornstarch

1 1/2 cups applesauce

1 Royal Gala apple, peeled, cored and diced

In a saucepan off the heat, combine the sugar and cornstarch. Add the applesauce. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Stir in the apples. Remove from the heat and let cool. Cover and refrigerate until lukewarm, about 1 hour.


2 packages puff pastry dough, (200 g)

2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted


Line a 30 x 43-cm (12 x 17-inch) baking sheet with parchment paper.

On a floured surface, roll each piece of dough into a 15 x 35-cm (6 x 14-inch) rectangle. Place them on the baking sheet. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

With the rack in the middle position, preheat the oven to 400°F.

Place 1 of the dough rectangles on a cutting board. Using a pizza wheel or sharp knife, cut the rectangle into 12 strips about 1 cm (1/2 inch) wide.

Spread the apple mixture on the remaining dough rectangle, leaving a 2.5-cm (1-inch) border. Brush the border with water.

Form the lattice top: Over the apple mixture, lay 6 evenly spaced dough strips down the length of the rectangle at a 45-degree angle to the sides. Press the ends gently into the border. Repeat with the remaining 6 dough strips, laying them perpendicular to the first 6 strips.

Brush the dough strips with melted butter. Using a pizza wheel or a knife, trim off the dough overhanging the border so the edges are even. Dust with sugar.

Bake until the pastry is golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Serve warm or cold with crème fraîche or vanilla ice cream.


Season the filling with ground cinnamon to taste. Delicious with homemade caramel sauce.

Caramel sauce

1/4 cup water

1 cup sugar

1 tbsp corn syrup

1/4 cup semi-salted butter, chilled and cubed

6 tbsp 35% cream

In a saucepan, bring the water, sugar and corn syrup to a boil. Cook until the mixture turns golden. Remove from the heat. Add the butter and stir until melted. Add the cream. Pour into a bowl and let cool.


Martin Picard

Chef and Owner, Au Pied de Cochon, Montreal, Quebec

In 2001, with his experience as sous-chef at Montreal’s famed Toqué securely under his belt, Martin Picard fulfilled his dream of opening his own brasserie-style restaurant. He called it Au Pied de Cochon, he says, so there would be no confusion: he serves pig, from snout to tail. He doesn’t just serve pig; he also serves all manner of meat, potatoes and vegetables, in season.

At Au Pied de Cochon, there’s nothing on the menu that can’t be made primarily from local products. This includes chicken pie topped with foie gras, maple pigs’ feet, foie gras maki, and pumpkin soup with foie gras. If you’re a keen reader, you may now be picking up on Picard’s love of foie gras …

Picard champions regional, ethical and sustainable cuisine. He proudly buys his pork, for example, from the Porcherie Ardennes, where humane and ethical treatment of animals is the absolute rule. His philosophy is well-illustrated in the restaurant’s self-published cookbook. This family album of sorts looks more like an art book or a scrapbook and is an ode to the food, staff (even the dishwashers are saluted), family and suppliers of AuPied. One of the restaurant’s suppliers is Picard himself.

“I’m a hunter chef. It’s a new species. It could lead to a new approach to hunting. I hunt for meat,” says Picard. He holds an annual souperdes chasseurs (hunters’ banquet), which he calls “a glutton’s fantasy.” Picard and his chef friends spend the day preparing this game feast, and the final presentation is fit for an avant-garde gallery. “I see it as a testing ground in which we discover the means to further our art by experimenting freely with raw materials rarely at our disposal,” says Picard, gleefully.

“I love to come up with a recipe, but with someone else, the two of us together. Something created from a simple idea. That’s where the magic is.” Perhaps the best example of this magic lies in his very popular foie-gras poutine. He may be the only chef so possessed by poutine that he traveled to its alleged birthplace, a house in Warwick, Quebec. Now that’s passion.

Where did you grow up?

Repentigny, Quebec.

Where did you get your culinary education?

The Institut de Tourisme et d’Hotellerie du Québec in Montreal.

Who or what has influenced your cooking the most?

Normand Laprise [head chef and co-owner of Toqué] and Elena Faita [renowned Italian cook and owner of the Mezza Luna cooking school].

What made you decide to be a chef?

The profession chose me.

Which cookery book changed everything for you?


What was your first job in a professional kitchen?

Mont-Royal BBQ.

What’s your favourite country or region to eat in?

It’s not the place, it’s who I’m with and what I’m eating.

What’s your favourite kitchen tool or gadget?

A diamond-crystals stone for sharpening knives.

What, if anything, are you fanatical about?

The respect of the person and the product.

Do you have a “guilty” secret ingredient?

Yes, and I’m not gonna tell!

Favourite wine? Drink?

Burgundy wines from the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.

Favourite ingredient?

Foie gras.

Is there something you refuse to have in your kitchen?

Frozen products.

Name an overrated or underrated ingredient/seasoning.

Underrated: mackerel.

What rule of conduct matters more than any other in your kitchen?


What skill does someone most need to work in your kitchen?

To be able to work with lots of people.

What’s the most embarrassing thing that you’ve done while cooking (biggest screw-up)?

I completely screwed up a New Year’s Eve party.

What are your plans for the future?

To feel alive.

What’s in your home fridge?

A lot of stuff: I have two kids.

What do you eat for breakfast?

Fruit, yogurt and maple syrup.

What was your favourite meal as a child?

Pan-seared calamari with lemon juice.

What’s your favourite meal to cook at home?

Pasta with the kids.

Where do you shop?


If you weren’t a chef, what would you be doing?

I would be renovating old houses.

Foie-Gras Poutine

Serves 4

Foie-Gras Sauce

200 g fresh foie gras

6 egg yolks

2 1/2 cups Pied de Cochon poutine sauce (available at the restaurant; you can use store-bought poutine sauce)

1/4 cup 35% cream

In a saucepan, bring the PDC poutine sauce to a boil. Set aside 1/2 cup of the sauce for final presentation.

Mix the egg yolks, foie gras and cream in a food processor at high speed. Slowly add the 2 cups of hot poutine sauce to the mixture.

Pour into a saucepan and heat gently, stirring constantly, until the sauce reaches 175°F. Remove the sauce from the heat. Stir for 30 seconds more. Keep warm.


4 slices fresh foie gras, approximately 100 g each and 1-inch thick

400 g cheese curds

4 white-fleshed potatoes (cut into French fries)

oil for frying (use 2/3 tallow and 1/3 peanut oil)

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

In a very hot pan, sear the foie gras slices until golden-brown. Transfer the slices to a baking sheet and finish cooking in the oven for 4 to 5 minutes.

Cook the fries in oil until crisp and place on top of a mound of cheese curds in the middle of the plate.

Place a slice of seared foie gras on the fries and smother in the foie gras sauce. Decorate with a few dabs of regular poutine sauce and serve immediately.


Michael Stadtländer

Chef and Owner, Eigensinn Farm, Singhampton, Ontario

Getting an interview with Michael Stadtländer may be even more difficult than getting a reservation at his restaurant. Reports are that it takes months, even a year, to get a spot at Eigensinn Farm, which also happens to be the Stadtländer home. Loosely translated, the name of the farm means “find your own way.”

In 1993, Stadtländer did just that, leaving his coveted position at the apex of Toronto’s culinary scene to move with his wife Nobuyo to a 100-acre farm, two hours north of the city.

At Eigensinn Farm, dinner is served only a few nights each week; they accommodate from ten to fourteen diners a night. There is no liquor licence, but guests are encouraged to bring their own wines. The average epic meal offers up nine to ten courses, all made from ingredients and animals grown and raised on the property or sourced from nearby farms.

Stadtländer doesn’t employ a staff, but he does take on apprentices. Melissa Craig, now executive chef of the Bearfoot Bistro, spent two weeks at the farm. “In the summer, he serves dinner in the field. It’s very rustic — guests sit on stumps,” says Craig. She also notes that the Stadtländers raise their own animals and source local cheese and produce.

Stadtländer spent time at the Sooke Harbour House on Vancouver Island in 1986 and 1987. “Nobody really paid much attention at the time,” says Sinclair Philip, owner of the renowned Harbour House. “His wife Nobuyo also worked here. She’s an excellent pastry chef.” Philip says he and Stadtländer have had many meals together. “His meals vary, he uses whatever is on hand. The last time he served water-buffalo tongue; it was amazing.” Philip has had many employees who apprenticed under Stadtländer. “He’s very kind and a wonderful teacher. His students always come away with something. He’s a brilliant chef, well worthy of the praise he gets. He’s one of the best on the continent.” One of the best chefs on the continent… and passionate about local ingredients. That may just make him the best.

Steve Vardy

Executive Chef, The Whalesbone Oyster House, Ottawa, Ontario

Steve Vardy began working in the kitchen at fourteen, when he moved from Newfoundland to Ottawa. There he attended culinary school at Algonquin College. By twenty-one he was a sous-chef, and by twenty-four he had opened his first restaurant, Beckta, with a partner. “With a new restaurant, you’re not inheriting anything — not even the paint on the walls. You start fresh. I did Canadian-based cuisine, with an international influence.”

Seeking new challenges, and now twenty-eight, he left Beckta last fall. At the Whalesbone, a contemporary seafood restaurant in Ottawa, he’s still doing things his way. “Even though we’re a seafood restaurant, I have foie gras, steak and other things on the menu. We have a full raw bar —for sashimi — and, of course, the oyster bed.”

Vardy uses over thirty different suppliers, unlike many restaurants that, he says, only rely on one or two. “I get Swiss chard from a guy who only grows Swiss chard. Instead of a big corporation, my supplies are delivered by Frank or Bill or Joe.” He only uses locally grown products when they’re in season. “I’ll never serve asparagus in the winter,” he stresses. But he imports what can’t be grown in the Canadian climate. “We will never grow lemons here, and I’m not going to spend my life without lemons, so I bring those in. And things like passion fruit.”

When asked about his culinary influences, Vardy says he has three. He remembers cooking with his mother when he was seven or eight, making bread at home. “I think everyone in Newfoundland is a chef; food is so important there, more so than in large urban centres.” His other influences are the late chef Robert Bourassa, under whom Vardy worked at Gatineau’s Café Henry Burger, and the infamous British chef (whom he’s never met) Marco Pierre White, who had earned three Michelin stars by the time he was thirty-three only to later return them. Vardy makes White’s autobiography White Slave mandatory reading for all of his cooks. “Reading it gives them a bigger drive to succeed.” He’s clearly taken his own advice. Last year he was named Ottawa’s Epicurean Chef of the Year.



From the farmer’s field to the dining table, Joanne Will writes about the people and issues connected to the journey of food. Joanne Will is an independent journalist who has covered diverse topics - from food, agriculture and transportation, to business, arts and the environment. For more information visit

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