Chef Profiles: Canada’s Culinary Talents Bring Innovation, Artistry and New Global Flavours to the Table


Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge, Nunavut
Justin Tse graduated from both the Culinary Arts and a Management program at St. Lawrence College in Kingston, Ont., before moving to Ottawa to train in a number of different restaurants, including Social Restaurant. He was nominated for the Canadian Premieres Award for Creative Arts and was a Canadian semi-finalist in the San Pellegrino Young Chef Competition in 2015. For the past five years, he has developed culinary programs at luxury resorts in some of the most remote, northerly parts of the Canadian Arctic. In 2012, he became executive chef at Arctic Watch and Arctic Haven Wilderness Lodge, located 800km north of the Arctic Circle. Since moving to the Arctic, Tse has started fishing and cooking with Canadian fauna and has become an expert on Arctic fare such as caribou, arctic hare, ptarmigan (a game bird in the grouse family) and fresh lake trout.

deer + almond, Winnipeg
You might call Mandel Hitzer an adventurous chef. The Winnipeg-based chef and owner of deer + almond has been staging pop-up restaurants that push the landscape and kitchen staff to its limits. RAW: almond, which takes place on the frozen Red and Assiniboine rivers, was named one of the world’s top pop-up restaurants by Conde Nast Traveller. He even took the concept, which brings together chefs from across the country for a three-week stint, to Churchill, Man. (one of the only places where polar bears can be observed in the wild) and designed a menu with locally sourced ingredients. The meal was served within the unique setting of a 250-year-old fort, beneath the northern lights. Hitzer’s food is just as creative as his pop-ups — some of his classic dishes include popcorn shrimp with beet mustard and jalapeño-compound butter, smoked-seafood chowder and soy-glazed crispy pork hock with house-made kimchi and scallions.

The Gladstone Hotel, Toronto
Joshna Maharaj isn’t just a chef, but a social-justice advocate, of sorts. Maharaj worked as the chef at The Stop Community Food Centre in Toronto to create sustainable, grassroots cuisine. She consults with communities, schools and even City Hall to promote food security and sustainability and launch a city-wide food strategy in Toronto. Maharaj also took up the challenge of reforming ‘notoriously awful’ hospital food by revitalizing the inpatient menu at the Hospital for Sick Children and The Scarborough Hospital. She’s also one of the only chefs in the world to have delivered a TED Talk. Maharaj’s philosophy is that the seasons should be reflected through a changing menu.

My Little Dumplings, Toronto
Chef Bashir Munye is redefining global cuisine in Toronto. The Somali chef has become a food advocate and food educator, especially within multi-ethnic communities, about the wide range of Ontario-grown ingredients that can be incorporated into international cuisine. In the mid-1990s, Munye participated in a six-month YMCA culinary arts training program and has never looked back. After apprenticing in various kitchens across the Greater Toronto Area, Munye opened a stand at the Evergreen Brick Works farmer’s market, serving homemade steamed baos and unique dumplings (even a jerk chicken one). He then opened his Leslieville restaurant, My Little Dumplings, featuring the African and Mediterranean flavours from his childhood. Currently, Munye’s focus is his Nomadic Cuisine dinner series in which he caters events and dinner parties with his artisanal creations.

Design to Dine, Vancouver
As a former food stylist, Alison Ramage knows the aesthetics of food matters. The Vancouver-based chef owns and operates Design to Dine, an events-based company that features “food entertainment,” a term coined by Ramage to describe the kind of customized, detailed menu preparation and interactive experience she creates. She recently participated in the B.C.-based Greasy Spoon Supper Series, an event where chefs cook four courses of “old-school” diner dishes. Ramage views her business as bridging the gap between the personal chef and the caterer, since she takes her cues from the client’s interests, personality and inspiration. She has hosted and designed events for various campaigns and celebrities including Jim Treliving of Dragon’s Den, Aston Martin, Bentley and the Vancouver Canucks.

Volume 50, Number 4
Written by Jennifer Febbraro

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