Maverick Chefs 2013

By / Mavericks / May 29th, 2014 / 2

Change is tough. There aren’t too many of us who can claim to embark upon it willingly. After all, it’s not very comfortable. You’d have to be strong, courageous … actually a lot like this year’s pick of Maverick Chefs. They know a thing or two about yanking us out of our comfort zone and giving us a shove in the right direction. Take Nevin Fenske and Adam Hynam-Smith, for instance. Rather than keeping their eyes trained on their own kitchen counters, they chose to step out and make the food world a better place. These two accomplished chefs set their sights on changing the laws and attitudes surrounding food trucks. Once purveyors of little more than hot dogs, French fries and soft-serve ice cream, food trucks are now moveable feasts. Thanks to these two chefs, anyone walking by can get a gourmet meal to go.

Innovators themselves, Emma Cardarelli and Wesley Young have also been driving forces in showing us what authentic cuisine really is. Gone are the days when menus featured only prime meat or pseudo-Italian food. Now, we’re eating cuts we never thought we would, like blood sausage and pig face and octopus terrine. Or indulging in fried salt cod just like one would in Italy. Like Nevin and Adam, Emma and Wesley refuse to allow us to stay ensconced within the familiar.

These four truly creative professionals have transformed us in much more fundamental ways. Even our long held perceptions about what food should be and where we should eat it are fading. That, folks, has been their most difficult challenge, and though the odds they faced seemed insurmountable, they beat them. Today, Nevin, Adam, Emma and Wesley showcase the beauty and easy accessibility of great cuisine. Go visit them, and let them know how much we appreciate their work.


nevin fenske

executive chef and co-owner
drift food truck, edmonton, alberta


If you can know only one interesting fact about Edmonton, it’s that the Festival City has a vibrant food culture, and that Nevin and Kara Fenske have been an integral part of bringing that great cuisine to the street. OK, that’s two interesting facts.

When Nevin graduated as a Red Seal from NAIT’s Culinary Program, he and Kara became keenly aware that there was a dearth of high quality street food available around the city. Their solution? To face the challenges head-on, of course. By the time the dust had settled, Drift Food Truck was born. The two of them have been reaping the rewards ever since, and patrons have been noshing on delicious fare, like a pork belly sandwich filled with pickled carrot and daikon, chili mayo, hoisin glaze and fresh cilantro. I asked Nevin why they would choose to operate in a food truck as opposed to the standard bricks-and-mortar-style restaurant. Apart from the freedom to serve people anywhere, he admits that it’s simply more affordable. There are, however, limitations to a food truck that other restaurants just don’t have to tackle. The work and serving areas are necessarily small, he says, and alcohol can’t be served. Despite the challenges, the concept of the touring feast fits these two innovators perfectly. They are unmitigated travellers. Having trekked around the world (and the streets of Edmonton), their passion for diverse flavours comes through in their menu creations. Nevin is quick to say that their food is “globally influenced, locally sourced.” Nevin and Kara remain inspired by their travels and love of bold flavours, and you will be, too.


Which cookbook changed everything for you?

I don’t know about changing everything for me, but I do like Thomas Keller and Michael Chang’s books.


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

Mexico and Vietnam.


What’s your favourite kitchen tool or gadget?

I like the versatility of my 7-inch chef’s knife.


What are you fanatical about?

Pho, samosas and tacos.


What music do you like to play in the kitchen?

A variety, just like our cooking style, from Neil Young to Daft Punk.


What’s your favourite wine or drink?

I love trying new beers and scotch. Old favourites are Pilsner Urquell and Lagavulin.


Is there something you refuse to have in your kitchen?

Bad work ethics and bad attitudes.


Name an overrated ingredient.

Bacon. Not everything is improved by adding it …


Name an underrated ingredient.

Good salt and acids (vinegars, citrus, wines).


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

Fig Newtons, watermelon and frozen fish sticks.


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

Work and talk. Always be aware of the sense of urgency.


What skill does someone most need in your kitchen?

Efficiency and organization.


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

Anytime I’ve burned or cut myself, I find it embarrassing. If you were more focused on the task at hand, the injury could have been avoided.


What makes your restaurant stand apart from the others?

Being a food truck makes us stand out already, and after that, we hope our creative options and service! I think that the customers really like being able to see what’s happening while they wait, and also getting to talk to the chef. You don’t always get to meet the guys who work back of the house in traditional restaurant settings.


What are your plans for the future?

To sell alcohol. Perhaps a brick and mortar restaurant.


Do you have anything surprising in your home fridge?

Right now, hot dogs. Who doesn’t need one once in a while? Plus you can load them with toppings.


You’ve got 24 hours left to live. What’s your last meal?

My grandfather’s chicken curry with my grandmother’s chapatis.


What’s your favourite meal to cook at home?

In the summer I love to grill, it allows you to hang out outside and drink beer. I also enjoy making curry and chapatis or fresh pasta, of course time permitting.


What do you like to do in your spare time?

Spend time with family. Have spills with friends. Definitely travel, and eat out as well.


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

Playing professional tennis.


jerk chicken sandwich


*yields 2 litres of sauce

3 Scotch bonnets

10 garlic cloves

2 yellow onions

2 “thumbs” ginger pieces

1/2 fresh pineapple

4 tbsp allspice

3 tsp nutmeg

4 tbsp dried thyme

1/2 cup golden sugar

2 cups white vinegar

1/2 cup soy sauce

Juice of 4 limes

1 cup olive oil


Rough chop Scotch bonnets, garlic and yellow onions. Put aside in bowl.

Clean pineapple (cored, too) and ginger, rough chop and add to bowl.

Mix together spices, sugar then add to bowl.

In a separate bowl, mix together the vinegar, soy sauce & lime juice.

Using a food processor, mix together your pepper and spice mix, slowly adding the liquids.

Blend until smooth. Slowly add olive oil.



Debone whole chicken into 8 pieces cut, and cut the breasts in half. Mix 2 cups of jerk sauce with raw chicken. Place chicken pieces on grill, turning and flipping once, letting them char nicely. Remove from grill and coat with approximately 1 cup of jerk sauce. Roast pieces in oven at 375˚F to finish cooking for 20 min or until 160°F. Let meat cool, then pull off of bone and shred.


grilled pineapple

Clean and core 1 pineapple and cut into 4 pieces lengthwise. Toss in olive oil and salt. Grill until slightly charred. Let cool, and slice thinly.


lime slaw

Use a mandolin to cut carrot pieces into matchsticks. Combine with sliced green and red cabbage. Mix with mayonnaise and lime juice.


to build sandwich:

Heat some jerk sauce in a pan or on flat-top, add chicken until warm. Place on bun and top with 4 to 5 slices of pineapple and a helping of lime slaw.



adam hynam-smith

executive chef and co-owner
el gastrónomo vagabundo, niagara region, ontario


There was a time when Adam Hynam-Smith might have been called impractical. After all, his dream of operating a food truck couldn’t possibly be realized. There were laws against such things. But then, who would guess the full extent of Adam’s passion and determination to deliver gourmet food to people anywhere a truck could take him? Adam took on the city’s by-laws and won. The second challenge, the general public’s perception of food trucks, wasn’t quite so easy to change. Operating a food truck was tough in the beginning. “People wanted fries, burgers and hotdogs, and when they saw our menu, they would turn their noses up,” he recounts. “Then they would complain about prices, portion sizes and wait times.” Even the media seemed to be standing against him. “We would have articles coming out in papers or on blogs and people would crucify us saying food trucks are dirty, a health hazard.” Thankfully for Adam, and certainly luckily for us, times have changed, and perceptions of what street food can be are slowly, but surely, evolving.

Asked why he remains in Ontario, Adam says he is inspired by the “amazing boom of talented Ontario chefs doing great things.” He also feeds his tremendous creativity by teaming up with the multitude of talented chefs in Toronto and the Niagara area to do events or dinners where he can prepare a non-street food dish that showcases his extensive talent.

El Gastrónomo Vagabundo’s location and menu change regularly. Be sure to check out their website,, for the most up-to-date information. Ah yes, that menu … with delicacies like Spongecod Lemonpants and Ninja Assassin … I bet you’ll have trouble choosing just one item.


What obstacle does having a food truck present to you?

I can’t fully express myself through food, as I am very limited to what I can prepare and serve given the space and equipment on the truck, and what is an acceptable price point for street food.


How would you describe the style of food you offer?

It’s a broad look at street food dishes from around the world, while using the bounty of local ingredients available to me in the growing season.


Where did you grow up?

Castlemaine, a beautiful country town two hours north of Melbourne in Australia.


Where did you get your culinary education?

The kitchen mainly, and William Angliss Institute of TAFE.


What made you decide you wanted to be a chef?

Nothing, I just knew. My mum always says that as a rug rat I would spend hours piss farting around in the kitchen making stuff that tasted like crap. But I sure enjoyed making it! Times have changed now, though.


What was your first job in a professional kitchen?

The same as most chefs, aqua technician.


What are you fanatical about?

Cricket and Aussie rules football, the two greatest games in the world!


Do you have a guilty secret ingredient?

I don’t feel guilty about any of my ingredients.


What is your favourite wine or drink?

Plenty of hoppy beers.


What is an overrated ingredient?



What is an underrated ingredient?



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

Cleanliness, I can’t stand a dirty kitchen. First thing every apprentice should learn is how to clean the entire kitchen from top to bottom on a nightly basis. That way they won’t make a mess. And always look after your kitchen hand! It’s the most important role in the resto.


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

I burnt $180 worth of saffron in one hit.


What makes your restaurant stand apart from the others?

Our flavours, nobody else in our area has the same flavours as we do.


What do you eat for breakfast?

Coffee, lots of coffee, toast with avocado and Vegemite.


You’ve got 24 hours left to live. What’s your last meal?

My Nan’s roast lamb and sago plum pudding.


What’s your favourite meal to cook at home?

Snags on the barbie.


Where do you shop for ingredients?

My local Asian grocer, and I get all my seafood through Tide and Vine — a local food truck/seafood wholesaler. During the growing season we go through local farms like Tree and Twig and Whitty Farms.


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

Hopefully playing cricket for Australia’s first 11.


greek-style marinated octopus with fried new potatoes, broccoli and aioli

Serves 4, with leftover marinated octopus

Prepare octopus at least 24 hours in advance. Octopus will keep in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks if completely submerged in marinade.


1/2 bunch fresh oregano

4 cups vegetable oil

8 cloves of garlic, finely crushed

1 whole octopus

Per kilogram of octopus, 2 tbsp of red wine vinegar plus 1/4 cup for dressing

Per kilogram of octopus, 1 tbsp of salt

20 new potatoes

1 head of broccoli

Aioli (refer to recipe below)

6 sprigs flat leaf parsley

Vegetable oil for frying

Pinch of fleur de sel


method for dressing

In large bowl, pour 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 8 crushed cloves of garlic, and 1/2 bunch fresh oregano. Whisk in 4 cups vegetable oil. Set aside until ready to use.


method for octopus

Weigh octopus. For every kilogram of octopus, add 2 tbsp red wine vinegar and 1 tbsp salt to a large pot.

Place octopus in pot and cover with lid on high heat.

When liquid in pot bubbles, turn down to medium heat.

Octopus will start to release its own juices, as these juices start to bubble, turn to low and simmer with lid on until octopus is tender. To check, cut a tentacle off, slice a small piece, and taste for tenderness.

Once octopus is cooked, remove octopus from pot and place on a large tray.

Carefully cut off all tentacles and discard head and beak, reserving meat from around beak.

Allow octopus to cool for approximately 15 minutes.

Carefully slice tentacles and meat from around beak into disks 1 cm thick and add to red wine vinegar dressing. Place in container and refrigerate for 24 hours.


method for potatoes:

Place potatoes into pot of cold water and bring to simmer. Cook until fork tender.

Strain potatoes, place on tray and set aside to cool to room temperature.

Once cooled, slice potatoes lengthwise into disks 1/2 cm thick.

Heat oil in pan over high heat. Shallow fry potato disks until golden brown on both sides.

Remove potatoes from oil and place on paper towel to absorb excess oil.

Lightly season potatoes with salt, to taste and set aside until ready to serve.


method for broccoli:

Bring medium sized pot of water to a boil.

Prepare ice bath in medium sized bowl with cold water and ice.

Break broccoli into very small florets and blanch in boiling water for 10 seconds.

Refresh broccoli in ice bath to stop cooking process. Strain broccoli and place in a container lined with paper towel to absorb excess water. Set aside until ready to serve.



2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely crushed

1 large free-range egg yolk

1 tsp Dijon mustard

2 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Lemon juice, to taste

1/4 tsp salt


method for aioli:

In food processor, place egg yolk, mustard, garlic, and salt. Slowly add oil while blending. Once oil is added, turn off food processor.

Scrape contents of food processor into container, and gently mix in lemon juice, to taste.


to serve:

Create a bed of fried potato disks in a circular arrangement on the plate. Randomly place 6 to 8 pieces of marinated octopus on top of potatoes.

With a teaspoon, place dime-sized drops of aioli in and around potatoes and octopus.

Randomly place small florets of broccoli throughout plated dish.

Garnish with small tears of flat leaf parsley.

Season lightly with fleur de sel and serve immediately.



emma Cardarelli

executive chef and co-owner
nora gray, montreal, quebec


You might say that Emma Cardarelli’s fate was sealed. After all, she grew up in Montreal West. She had the good fortune of inhaling a rich, vibrant and multi-ethnic food scene on a daily basis. Emma tells me that the dance of cultures opened her mind and taste buds to what food could be. She takes inspiration from all the different neighbourhoods, and what they have to offer. Surely, that alone would awaken a desire to become a chef in pretty much anyone. But, it wasn’t that exactly for her.

Perhaps it was her father who inspired her deep love of food. “He and I spent many a Sunday afternoon in the kitchen listening to his opera collection, making lasagna or roast pork loin with a million vegetable sides.” These are the kinds of experiences that take root in the mind and heart of a future chef whether or not she realizes it. In fact, Emma didn’t. Having completed university with a double major in English and Psychology, and not knowing where to go from there, Emma decided to try cooking at a lodge in Yoho National Park. “There couldn’t have been a more perfect or alluring introduction to the restaurant industry,” she says. “It was a casual and creative environment, not to mention the 10,000 foot mountains surrounding the lodge!” That atmosphere gave Emma the licence to begin discovering exactly where her talents lie. She was 22 years old before she finally realized that being a chef was her true calling, “which is pretty late in the cooking world,” she confides. Right from the beginning, Emma’s talent and passion for learning set her apart. Chef Fred Morin, now chef and co-owner of Joe Beef, immediately took her under his wing. “Working with Fred taught me the true meaning of mentorship, which I find is the foundation of this profession,” she says. Now, she pays it forward.

Her restaurant, Nora Gray, a collaboration with co-owners Lisa McConnell and Ryan Gray, showcases Emma’s broad talent. She knows just how to take the Italian food she loves and interpret it in authentic ways that make everyone else love it, too. “The Italian food that North Americans eat has very little to do with the food that one finds in Italy,” she tells me. “The food at Nora Gray is inspired completely by my trips to Southern Italy and the cookbooks I’ve bought there.” Emma’s goal is to be faithful to the food she has experienced in Italy, and create the most delicious and uncomplicated meals that underscore those true flavours. If her customers have anything to say about it (and they do), Emma consistently gives them plenty of reasons to come back for more.


wesley young

executive chef
wildebeest, vancouver, british columbia


Wesley Young admits that the road to becoming a chef was often fraught with doubt. Working 17-hour days, the modern, high stress environment of a restaurant kitchen made him question whether or not he really wanted to pursue that life. What young man wants to spend his nights sweating over a hot stove? Surely, Wesley might have preferred to hang out with his friends sipping his favourite cocktail, the Negroni. But, this man’s irrepressible passion to work with food, and his drive to be the best, demanded that he keep his eyes focused steadily on the future. After all, this is the same Wesley who, at 8 years of age, baked lasagna for his family and knew without any misgivings that his future lay in the realm of the culinary. So, despite the exhausting hours, he stuck with it.

Today, Wesley is able to fully express his creativity and commitment to serving his customers mouth-watering dishes, like compressed heritage cabbage, apples, chilled saltspring island mussels and snow. Here is a chef who has taken the concept of whole animal cookery to heart. “I can’t say there’s another approach that I value more than this one,” he assures me. “Respecting the animals to use as much as possible with little or no waste, and the integrity of the process [is what matters],” he says. Wesley recognizes that his customers have become very interested in the food their grandparents would have eaten and the ways in which that food was often prepared. I asked him if this trend influences how he develops and cooks his dishes. “Well, we certainly celebrate and utilize classic techniques and traditions in our daily practice,” he tells me, “and it’s our hope that through the powers of taste and aroma we can make those visceral, sublime connections with our guests.” Ultimately, it’s that awareness of producing quality and authentic food that makes Wildebeest stand out from the rest. For Wesley and his team, “it’s a desire to make a positive impact and gently educate our staff and guests in the importance of our philosophy, while making delicious, honest and unpretentious food.” As for the future? Wesley doesn’t want much, just “more learning, more teaching, [and making] a greater impact upon our community.” Given how much Wesley has accomplished up to now, there’s no doubt he’ll fulfil those goals, too.



Rosemary Mantini has always loved words. When she isn't working as the Associate Editor at Tidings Magazine, she's helping others achieve their writing dreams, and sometimes she even relaxes with a good book and a glass of wine.

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