For years French cuisine was viewed as the sine qua non ultra of the restaurant landscape. But in today’s cosmopolitan, culinary world — made smaller by the explosive growth of the Internet and the popularization of the Food Network — no one style of cooking dominates. Certainly, few would dispute that food is a common denominator that allows us to bridge our varied differences. Not only is it the fuel that keeps our bodies humming by providing sustenance, it’s also what fans our interest in other countries, allowing us to taste our way into new cultures and, in the process, appreciate and understand them better. Where language, politics and religion often divide nations, food magically unites us.
Ironically, 41 years ago when Foodservice and Hospitality was a fledgling magazine covering the Canadian foodservice industry, the chefs making news in Canada were born and trained in France, Germany or Switzerland. The food they cooked had its genesis in faraway destinations, and more often than not, these recipes found their way into our kitchens, transported thousands of miles from where they were conceived. Back in the day, very few Canucks could be found manning the kitchens in this country, let alone outside our great nation. The notion of Canadian cuisine was a foreign concept to all.
But a funny thing happened as the country matured; we discovered our culinary voice, and slowly, Canadian chefs have become a force to be reckoned with — at home and abroad. Though we’re continually developing a definition for our national cuisine, we know that it’s being ably produced by dedicated, talented chefs who have largely been educated at Canadian-based culinary schools. Today, with local and regional foods gaining momentum across the country, our toques are testament to what can be achieved when knowledge and skills combine with passion.
Canadian content is as strong now as it’s ever been, and it’s gratifying to see so many great Canadians leading kitchen brigades, but we’re also witness to a growing number of chefs who are yearning for authenticity and are hungry to discover the roots of a cuisine from the ground up — from those who know it best. More than ever, Canadian chefs aren’t content to ply their trade in the same restaurant for years at a time. Increasingly, this successful and enterprising cadre of chefs is determined to see the world, to learn from the best and share their Canadian know-how and perspectives, making the restaurant experience a truly dynamic and global one. And, undoubtedly, when they return to Canada, as many often do, they bring back with them an invaluable cache of knowledge and skills that will serve as the basis for innovative menu interpretations and wow restaurant goers.
This month’s Chefs’ Issue (see stories beginning on pg. 15) salutes five leading Canadian chefs who are making their mark internationally — in locations ranging from Los Angeles to Dubai. While their backgrounds and reasons for international exploration are as unique as their culinary styles, what unites them is their passion for learning. So whether their new restaurants are housed in small farms in Tuscany, in mammoth hotel projects in Dubai or in the swank and sophisticated Beverly Hills Hotel, these talented toques are sharing their intense love of food, helping to shine the spotlight on all things Canadian and perhaps more importantly, reinforcing the new reality that great food knows no boundaries. Bon appétit!