Feasting on Favourites: 50 Favourite Things from Canada’s Top Chefs

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Chef Mark McEwan

Chef Mark McEwanIt’s all about choices. The list of decisions chefs must make daily is exhaustive to say the least and would intimidate the best of us. With a bounty of product available, a chef has to determine what ingredients to use, what equipment will produce necessary volumes, go-­to dishes to highlight on the menu and the ideal school to find the perfect sous chef to toil alongside him and provide the essential support needed to create and deliver culinary excellence.

Those are only a sampling of the questions chefs ask themselves on a regular basis — the tip of the iceberg. As anyone who has ever worked in a kitchen knows, a chef’s work is never done. From early in the morning to the wee hours of the next morning, it’s a challenging, tiring and sometimes daunting profession, but one always fuelled by passion, dedication and commitment.

At the end of the day, the blood, sweat and tears are typically replaced by the sweet taste of gratification — the realization that comes from knowing creative interpretations have made a lasting and positive impact.

Welcome to our annual Chef’s Issue, a sumptuous feast of 50 favourite things from some of Canada’s most talented toques. — Rosanna Caira, editor and publisher

1.    ANYTHING LOCAL

The local food movement — it can’t very well be dismissed as a trend any longer — is pushing chefs to new creative heights across the country, transcending every food group. From responsibly caught or farmed fish to locally grown produce, or from naturally raised beef to artisanal breads, the edicts of slow­food devotees are finding their way into just about every restaurant. And, it’s not just fine dining that’s taking the local leap, with chains like Canyon Creek and Chipotle’s Mexican Grill pushing their own local street cred. When asked for his favourite ingredient, Paul Rogalski, chef at Rouge Restaurant in Calgary replied: “Gosh, that’s a hard question to answer.” But, he eventually chose “Local and sustainable fresh produce and herbs. They offer so much more than just adding a regional flavour, as they support and propagate local relationships as well as the economy.” — JDN

2.    PIZZA

Who said chef favourites have to be gourmet? Just like vintners will tell you that it takes a lot of beer to make good wine, most chefs are known to enjoy a little comfort food from time to time. With a rise in the popularity of authentic, wood­fired Napolitano pies, along with a vast selection of new ethnic flavours, however, pizza is becoming a more popular pick, even among chefs and foodies looking for artful execution and inspiring tastes. In Calgary, Boxwood’s Andrew Bujak cites homemade pizza as one of his top dishes, while Peter Ecker, corporate chef at Sysco, names pizza as a top menu item, because “Pizza makes you money and has no ethnic boundaries.” — JDN

3.     ROUGE RESTAURANT, CALGARY

If ambiance is what you’re craving, take a seat in the dining room, atrium or parlour of the 120­ year­-old Cross House that serves as Calgary’s Rouge Restaurant.  The award­-winning wine list complements the locally inspired menu that earned the restaurant a coveted spot on San Pellegrino’s list of the world’s 100 best in 2010. It’s no wonder Connie DeSousa, co­-executive chef at Calgary’s CharCut Roast House and Top Chef Canada finalist, counts it among her favourites. — BB

4. GEORGE BROWN COLLEGE    

Mark McEwan, Jamie Kennedy and Roger Mooking are among the graduates of its culinary program. Today, Torontonians flock to George Brown College’s Chefs’ House where its culinary and hospitality students man the stoves and serve the nosh as part of their education at a school that continues to turn out “well­-trained” and “disciplined” students taught in a newly renovated learn­ing centre. Cited as a favourite across the country, Toronto chef and owner Claudio Aprile turns to the institution when search­ing for help in the kitchens at Colborne Lane and Origin. “[It’s] my top choice when I am looking for students,” he says. “John Higgins [the school’s director and corporate chef] has transformed the culinary program at George Brown into a world­-class culinary institution.” — BB

5. IMMERSION BLENDER

Anything that makes the job in a busy kitchen easier is a bonus, so it’s no sur­prise that time and again chefs cite immersion blenders as one of their most prized tools. Not to be confused with table­top blenders, an immersion’s handheld wand offers versatility and flexibility. — AN

6. SALT

Whether it’s of the sea, kosher, coarse or fine, salt is a cook’s best friend. Known to augment other flavours, a properly seasoned dish is the mark of a true professional, or as William Vickers, sous chef at Ela Greek Taverna in Nova Scotia, says, “It’s the difference between a cook and a chef.” — JDN

7. SUSUR LEE

He’s respected as one of the world’s most creative chefs. Susur Lee may not have been born in Canada, but he’s one of this country’s favourite sons. And, for culinary students everywhere, the opportunity to work alongside the visionary is a dream come true. Though he’s a tough task master, he’s respected as one of the industry’s finest teachers. “My mentor has always been Susur Lee,” says Robert Bartley, top toque at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Sports + Entertainment. “I was lucky to have worked with him at Lotus when he cooked beside me every night. He taught me anything is possible  and creativity never stops or is good enough. You can always make something better. He was hard-working, expecting the best from himself and others and is truly passionate in his profession.” — RC

8. ROAST CHICKEN

A throwback standard that resonates with family style cooking, roast chicken is an undisputed culinary classic, and it rates highly among chefs looking to dine on their personal favourites. When put in expert hands — or mom’s — roast chicken can be a nostalgic gustatory delight. Crisp skin, juicy meat and any number of complementary flavours such as garlic, onion, lemon, sage or tarragon all conjure images of long harvest tables and family dinners. “Roast chicken with stuffing and creamy mashed potatoes would be my favourite,” says Robert Bartley, chef for Toronto’s Maple Leaf Sports + Entertainment, “because it exemplifies family dinner and simplicity; I crave it all the time.” — JDN

9. BUTTER

You can take the modern, trendy bistro out of France, but you can’t very well take the rich buttery sauces out of the bistro. Every chef knows that when you do as the French say, and monter au beurre, you’re adding depth and richness to just about anything you toss it in, or, as Prime Restaurants’ Niels Kjeldsen says, “Butter adds flavour to any dish.” — JDN

10. MARK McEWAN

Mark McEwan may be recognized from TV shows like the Food Network’s popu­lar Top Chef Canada series, but, for a legion of chefs and consumers alike, the top toque’s name is synonymous with culinary greatness and successful business acumen. Although he’s one of the industry’s most renowned celebrity chefs, he’s also a great businessman. Speaking to a crowd of young culinary students at George Brown College this past winter, the 54­ year­-old dynamo said, “I still think I’m 30.” What makes the chef great is his ability, his knowledge and his creativity.

McEwan credits Josef Vonlanthen, once executive chef of Toronto’s Constellation Hotel, as one of his greatest teachers. “I learned to cook all the stations, and he taught me the management cost side of the business. It’s one thing to cook; it’s another to manage the business. If you can cook and you can’t make money, there’s no place for you,” the chef told students in the audience. “The most important thing is to land in a good operation and learn from the chef.” He implored them: “Don’t focus on the money initially.”

After a career that has spanned more than three decades, McEwan has mentored many of today’s finest chefs, and he’s rated as one of the industry’s best teachers. “Mark McEwan has played an integral part in my development as a chef and a business person,” says Claudio Aprile, chef/owner of Colborne Lane and Origin in Toronto. “I worked for Mark when I was 22 years old. He taught me that with hard work and drive I could realize my goals. He made an impression on me that has stood the test of time.”

With four restaurants, a food emporium, highly rated television shows and a cookbook under his belt, McEwan is truly today’s everyman. — RC

11. FENNEL

Now here’s an ingredient that has been part of our collective cooking repertoire for millennia — it was, after all, a stalk of fennel that Prometheus used to steal fire from the gods. With its delicate black licorice flavour, fennel is a favourite ingredient in fresh summer salads or with larger entrées involving anything from fish to chicken and beef. Stephen Goyda, executive chef at Deer Ridge Golf Club in Ontario, cites fennel as his personal pick, for just that reason, noting its versatility and flavour. Bar Bonus: Fennel isn’t just for the cooks. Mixologists working behind some of the country’s most exciting bars are looking to culinary ingredients like fennel leaves and seeds for muddling or to brew into a simple syrup. – JDN

12. HONEY MADELEINES

A sweet complement to tea and a heavenly reminder of France, madeleines are a favourite of many. David Garcelon’s take on the timeless treat includes honey, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla and butter.  — AN

13. TURBOCHEF

Chefs gravitate toward the internationally renowned TurboChef. With head offices in Texas and the U.K., the company has been producing rapid-cook ovens that feature proprietary technology, which creates high-heat transfer rates, since 1991. Its award-winning Sôta oven, which is known for high speed, high quality and energy efficiency, is just one of its many product offerings that also include the Tornado 2, the C3 and the ChefCommPro. As a bonus, the website offers “cookbooks” suited to individual ovens. As it turns out, the Tornado is great for cooking apple blossoms. — AN

14. SAIT POLYTECHNIC

Go local or go home. That seems to be the mandate at SAIT Polytechnic, which receives industry kudos for its passionate instructors who champion the local food movement. Take Andrew Hewson, and fellow chef instructor Simon Dunn, who are behind the planting of a 4,200-sq.-ft. on-campus garden that grows everything from edible flowers to lettuce. “We need to connect cooking students — our future chefs — with food. Believe it or not, so many students have no idea where carrots or potatoes come from. We send  them to the fridge for parsley, and they come back with basil,” says Hewson. The Calgary Petroleum Club’s Liana Robberecht sees value in the program. “I rely on SAIT,” she says.“Not only do  [the instructors] teach practical skill sets, but, with the  addition of the garden project, students now have an understanding of where food comes from. It’s brilliant.” Rouge Restaurant’s Paul Rogalski agrees. “[It’s] a killer fantastic program,” adds the Calgary chef. — BB

15. PORK

Various pork products are a common chef’s favourite, with  prosciutto, pork belly and chorizo getting nods, just to name a few. Pork’s brilliant texture and mouth feel, along with its sinfully salty cured preparations make it a dream ingredient for chefs to match with anything from steak to vegetables and fruit — this is the year we met with salty bacon cupcakes, after all. But, when asked why this family of ingredients tops the list, few could put it better — or more succinctly — than Adam Koppany, executive chef of Gananoque Inn and Spa in Ontario. He named bacon as a fave, because “it’s awesome.” — JDN

pho16. PHO

This classic Vietnamese soup-like dish has become a favourite among chefs for its simplistic veneer but often powerful flavour. When it comes to preparing pho, the rule book is wide open, but the dish most often involves beef or chicken, rice-noodles, bean sprouts, Vietnamese basil, lime and chili in a savoury broth. Pho can also take on myriad other tastes and textures with the inclusion of spicy elements such as sriracha sauce or off cuts like ox tail or tendons and tripe. Claudio Aprile, chef/owner of Toronto’s Colborne Lane and Origin, says pho is tops in his book. “Pho is my favourite dish, because I enjoy the complexity of flavours,” he says. — JDN

17. MANDOLINE

Not to be confused with the musical instrument, a mandolin (or “mandoline”) juliennes, waffle cuts and slices. A great benefit is its adjustable blades that allow for varying degrees of thickness — from paper-thin to 0.5 inches — when cutting. The tool is a “must-have” for Erik Anderson, retired instructor and chair of the culinary arts program at Camosun College in Victoria, B.C., who says, “I like the mandolin because of its nice, accurate cutting. Plus, it saves time.” — AN

18. SALMON

A longtime seafood staple on menus from coast to coast, salmon, particularly the farmed variety, has come under scrutiny of late from organizations around the world. But, conscientious chefs can — and have — found innovative solutions, with the help of a new breed of responsible fisheries advocates, who promise  to bring sustainable salmon to the masses. But, the challenges presented by this undeniably delicious and  popular protein, are precisely the reason chef Andrew Bujak of Calgary’s Boxwood selected it as a top ingredient. “It’s delicious and healthy, but it’s also a constant reminder to me that we need to always be conscious of what we are taking from the water.” — JDN

19. RISOTTO

It’s a culinary school and restaurant staple, the cause of kitchen brigade stress, the source of much kitchen folklore and superstition and the highlight or downfall of many a menu. Risotto, a blank canopy of Arborio rice — or local barley — is a culinary classic both for its meticulous preparation and stunning possibilities, from mushroom and parmesan to seafood to braised rabbit with frozen foie gras. At Prime Restaurants, corporate executive chef Niels Kjeldsen says “when done well, it defines a chef.”— JDN

20. OSSIE’S LUNCH, NEW BRUNSWICK

Hungry for some soul food from the sea? Jesse Vergen, of The Saint John Ale House and Smoking Pig BBQ in New Brunswick, knows just the fix: Ossie’s Lunch. The Bethel, N.B., truck stop, just off Highway 1, has been called pricey, but the “Best Seafood in North America,” sign out front lives up to its claim. “Their local hand-dug, fried clams kick ass and take names,” enthuses Vergen. “It’s an old school take-out that’s been there since the ’50s; you take a number and wait for them to call it out on this old-school speaker. [They’ve got] wicked-good clams and tartar.” — BB

21. CHANTERELLES

Mushrooms are a kitchen staple for most chefs, but, in Canada, where we aren’t blessed with hills chockfull of black truffles, few varietals can compete with the reverence reserved for chanterelles. Commonly sautéed in butter, wine and cream sauces, chanterelles add rich, woodsy flavour to Canadian classics. At Cape Breton, Nova Scotia’s Keltic Lodge, executive chef Alexander Herbert says the flavourful fungi are his number-1 selection. “My top pick is hard; I have hundreds of favourites, and it depends on my mood, but if I had to pick one, it would have to be chanterelles. [It’s] an enchanting mushroom you can find as you walk the trails of Cape Breton; pick it, then go home and serve it with a steak from your backyard barbecue. Ah,Heaven.” — JDN

22. HUMBER COLLEGE

Late last year Toronto’s Humber College inked a five-year exclusive contract with the Canadian Culinary Institute to become the first school to offer Canadian Master Chef Certification, the highest culinary academic designation in the country. But, aside from furthering the career of professional toques, it’s also a go-to institution for executive chefs looking for students who have worked with induction stoves and  environmentally friendly technology in award-winning labs. Robert Bartley, director of Culinary at Maple Leaf Sports + Entertainment, counts Humber as one of two schools that has “raised the bar” in content, producing cooks who can perform on the job. — BB

23. VACUUM PACKING
Keeping food fresh and sanitized is a top concern, so it’s no surprise Javier Alarco, of the Delta Prince Edward in Charlottetown, and Adam Koppany, of Gananoque Inn and Spa in Gananoque, Ont., cite a vacuum-packing machine as a must-have. The device typically vacuum packs food in airtight Cryovac packages. And, despite often being dubbed a Cryovac machine, that term in particular refers to a brand name and is compatible with Cryovac packaging. — AN

24. FAMILY

Ask almost any chef who their guiding force or their best teacher was, and they’ll undoubtedly say “my mom” or “my grandma.” Without fail, responses from many of the chefs we surveyed echoed that sentiment. Andrew Winfield from Calgary’s River Café, salutes his grandparents for helping show him “to cook simple but fresh from their garden.” Others, like Andre Bujak, Winfield’s counterpart at Boxwood, River Café’s sister restaurant, also credits his grandparents with being his guiding lights. “They always grew everything and showed me good quality ingredients can stand alone.” But William Vickers, sous chef at Ela Greek Taverna in Nova Scotia, put it succinctly when he states: “My grandfather and my mother both taught me patience in the kitchen and to love food but mostly to do the best with what you had on hand.” — RC

25. LOBSTER

Toronto’s Royal York Hotel chef David Garcelon calls it a “Canadian world-class product,” but many other chefs and diners simply call it delicious. Without a doubt, lobster, particularly the North Atlantic variety, is a favourite among this country’s chefs. Former star chef at P.E.I.’s Seasons in Thyme, StefanCzapalay agrees, noting the protein’s unique flavour and versatility. “Lobster has long been my favourite ingredient as I grew  up in a lobster fishing community and have always associated it with celebrations. I love it for its ability to be paired with so many different styles and nationalities of cuisine.” — JDN

26. ANYTHING WITH FOIE GRAS

There’s something about chefs that seems to make them go crazy over the rich luxurious flavour and Texture of foie gras. Served as a mousse, frozen, seared or prepared sous-vide, fine-dining chefs seem bound and determined to find as many uses as possible for these unctuous, decadent livers. Simon Weeden, sous chef at the Hilton Garden Inn, Halifax, calls seared foie on crostini with slow-roasted grape is go-to dish, saying, “There is nothing quite like seared foie gras; the richness and texture is the epitome of indulgence.” — JDN

27. TERRONI, TORONTO

Beloved for its regional Italian dishes prepared authentically — no substitutions please. Terroni’s hip decor, prominent in both busy Toronto locations (and one L.A. location), is the perfect prelude to the homestyle fare that includes everything from “Sazzizza” panini ($13.95) to Bufalina Pizza ($16.95) and Spaghetti in Canna a Mare ($16.95). “The food is always good. I admire that [owner] Cosimo [Mammoliti] stays true to his core values. It’s very cool that he won’t cut your pizza,” says Claudio Aprile of Colborne Lane and Origin in Toronto. — BB

28. FOOD PROCESSOR

Every chef needs a food processor. In fact, Alexander Herbert, executive chef of the Keltic Lodge Resort and Spa in Nova Scotia, listed the electronic grinder as one of many pieces that quite simply allows him “to make anything and do anything.” More specifically, the Thermomix brand is singled out as a particular favourite among chefs. The Quebec-based company began producing the device in 1999. Its product is known to work well with a range of fare, including grains, coffee beans, hard cheeses and pasta dough.  — AN

29. YUZU

While not yet germane to the popular Canadian lexicon, yuzu, a small Japanese citrus fruit, and, particularly the juice thereof, is working its way into the hearts of chefs and onto more and more menus. Its tart, grapefruit-like flavour is a favourite of Asian and fusion chefs, and it’s also becoming a popular bar ingredient for those on the cutting edge of Canada’s burgeoning cocktail scene. At the Calgary Petroleum Club, Liana Robberecht is a convert. “I fell in love with yuzu over 10 years ago while I was in Japan. I just find it highlights and wakes up so many sauces and dressings.” — JDN

30. BRAISED MEATS

While restaurant patrons often lean towards the quick-charred flavour of a well-grilled steak, chefs always seem to know that some of the best dishes take a little time. To wit, braised cuts of beef or lamb, such as short-ribs and shanks, feature prominently on the list. Cooked with a combination of moist and dry heat, the process of braising, breaks down the tough connective tissue in less commercially desirable — but endlessly delicious — cuts, rendering them fork-tender and packed with any number of flavours infused in the braising liquid. At Cape Breton, N.S.’s Keltic Lodge, executive chef Alexander Herbert says his braised lamb shank is best served with a white bean and pancetta purée, or what he calls “Simple food made simply.” — JDN

31. ICE-CREAM MAKER

It’s easy to understand why ice-cream makers can be a chef’s favourite  kitchen toy. Claudio Aprile,of Origin and Colborne Lane in Toronto, loves them. “My current favourite piece of equipment is my soft-serve ice-cream machine,” he says. “It allows me to convey that Origin doesn’t take itself too seriously.” One brand favourite is the Pacojet, which makes ice cream, sorbets, gelati, soups and savoury sauces. The Switzerland-based company’s machine boasts rapid operation, minimal prep and no spoilage. In fact, the brand’s website offers tips on preparing garlic paste and olive oil mixtures, dill-dough brioche, pesto sauce, cheese and smoked-salmon mousse. — AN

32. FAIRWINDS FARM  GOAT CHEESE AND WATERCRESS PANNA COTTA

This traditional Italian favourite is infused with some regional flare. Andrew Winfield’s recipe features goat’s milk — surely any goat cheese will do, although local is best — cream, chevre and a head of watercress. — AN

33. ALEX CLAVEL

There are few chefs in Atlantic Canada who have garnered as much respect and admiration as the late Alex Clavel. In his role as chef and owner of Chez la Vigne in Wolfville, N.S., Clavel dished up some of the most creative and inventive fare east of Montreal. But what made him even more admired was his ability to train and develop young cooks. Chef Stefan Czapalay credits Clavel as the toque who helped inspire and shape his career. “Chef Alex Clavel took me from a wild youth and guided me in life and in the kitchen and gave me a solid base of classical cuisine.” — RC

ceviche34. CEVICHE

While the origins of this culinary classic are up for debate — some say it’s from Peru, while others claim it arrived there along with the Spaniards who first developed the dish in and around Grenada — one thing is certain, it’s a dish that currently enjoys global appeal. Most often created using a white fish, such as mahi mahi or snapper, once you get past the fish, ceviche is a blank canvas for additional flavour. Spice from jalapeños, sweet or sour hits of fruit such as grapefruit and herbaceous additions such as cilantro can add a personal signature to this crisp, clean, summer dish. — JDN

35. HALIBUT TEA AND VEGETABLE “AQUARIUM”

While tea continues to grow in popularity as Canadians crave healthier alternatives to coffee, Paul Rogalski, of Calgary’s Rouge Restaurant, offers a way to kick up the health quotient another notch: add veggies. His tea blend includes cucumber juice, frozen canola oil, halibut bones, onions and fennel bulb.

36. KNIVES

Japanese knives seem to be all the rage. Andrew Winfield of Calgary’s River Café lauds Fujiwara knives and David Gunawan, executive chef at West in Vancouver is “addicted” to a range of Japanese-made blades; his collection includes Yanagiba, Kiritsuke and Deba. “I get a new one every six or seven months,” he confesses. Jonathan Gushue of Cambridge, Ont.’s Langdon Hall favours the Misono carving knife. Normand Laprise, of Toqué Restaurant in Montreal, is a big fanof the prized knives, too: “Japanese knives serve as a basis in the kitchen,” her asserts. – AN

37. SALAD KING, TORONTO

A partially collapsed building, fire, move and 10-month closure doesn’t appear to have hurt business at Salad King in Toronto. Diners are drawn in droves to the cheap, satisfying Thai food served in a cafeteria format that attracts everyone from Ryerson University students to top chefs such as David Garcelon of Toronto’s Fairmont Royal York, who loves the great “value, great atmosphere and great food.” — BB

38. PORK PAISANO MARINADE

Looking to give your pork dish a little extra bite? Javier Alarco of the Delta Prince Edward in Charlottetown does just that when he prepares his Pork Paisano marinade infused with chili, black pepper and toasted cumin seeds. — AN

39. APPRENTICE? NO THANKS

Finding good culinary students can be tough, so some chefs prefer a quieter kitchen. Alexander Herbert, executive chef at the Keltic Lodge Resort & Spa in Nova Scotia, avoids working with students altogether, especially those with a sense of entitlement. “No school seems to prepare them for the long hours, menial tasks or even how to keep a kitchen clean,” he says. “We need to extend the length of classes and have more practical involvement.” Stephen Goyda, executive chef of Deer Ridge Golf Club in Kitchener, Ont., is of a similar mind. “A large portion of students coming from culinary school [seem] to be undereducated and lack the basic skills needed to succeed.” — BB

40. LEMON GRASS

Typical in Thai and other Asian cuisine, lemon grass has gone mainstream in this country, thanks to the delightfully subtle citrus notes it can bring to slow cooked and stewed dishes as well as sauces and soups. Francisco Rivera, professor at the culinary school at Humber College in Toronto, especially loves it on his thai curry dishes. — JDN

41.JOHN BISHOP

For more than 25 years Vancouver’s John Bishop has trained and developed a kaleidoscope of the city’s finest cooks. The legendary chef/proprietor of Bishop’s, the seminal training ground for regional cuisine, is respected as one of the leaders of the local food movement. His hand has guided many a chef, including Andrea Carlson, his executive chef at Bishop’s, who looks to her boss for inspiration and guidance. “John comes in and is here for service as the owner and host of the restaurant and so many of the customers here are regulars and everyone wants to see  him, whether they know him or don’t. He’s such a lovely [man], and he really makes a difference being here in the dining room. I certainly learned a lot from him that way, in terms of his graciousness. If I have even a glimmer of the graciousness that he does towards his guests, I would feel very lucky.” — RC

42. RABBIT MANY WAYS

Nose-to-tail eating has truly taken off at restaurants across the country, from Chives in Halifax, DNA in Montreal and Beast in Toronto, to Rouge Restaurant in Calgary and Refuel in Vancouver. While it’s pushed diners’ comfort zones, it’s also pushed the creativity of chefs, who are now trying harder than ever, to impress savvy customers with their abilities to use the whole animal. In that vein, chef Stephan Czapalay says his favourite dish is “Two-day rabbit. It’s an amazing meal,” he says. “The legs are cooked like coq au vin and then slow-cooked and picked. The little rabbit rack is frenched. I love the look of surprise on people’s faces when they eat this dish and discover how amazing rabbit can be.” — JDN

43. COMMUNITY COLLEGE

Not to be forgotten, many community college instructors educate aspiring chefs in large and small urban hubs. In COMMUNITY F&H’s chef’s survey Vancouver Community College was earmarked for the dedication and passion of staff, and COLLEGE NSCC (Nova Scotia Community College) earned top grades for staffing a brigade of trusted chefs. — BB

44. COMBI OVENS

It goes without saying that most chefs value a good stove and oven. A combi oven, or steam and convection oven, used for convection, steam and combination cooking, is typically  favoured because it offers better temperature control. Sysco chef Peter Ecker likes the Rational SCC combi and Rod Butters, chef of Raudz Regional Table in Kelowna, B.C., loves his “Amana AXP, a combination of infrared, microwave and convection cooking all in one.”  — AN

45. B.C. RESTAURANTS

Rod Butters says it’s a tough to choose one great restaurant when there are so many great ones, his current faves include the Waterfront Wines & Restaurant, in Kelowna, B.C., which is helmed by his former apprentice and sous chef Mark Filatow. He’s also a fan of Wild Apple Restaurant at Manteo Resort. “The chef, Bernard Casavant, is my best friend and fellow B.C. Restaurant Hall of Fame member.” For restos in Vancouver, the Raudz Regional Table chef says Cactus Club is always top notch, but his current faves include Vancouver’s Labattoir. “It’s simply awesome and chef Lee Cooper produces the best food in YVR.” Other strong contenders include Nicli Antica Pizzeria, known for its authentic Neapolitan pizza with warm olives that are “quite simply the best.” — RC

Le Crueset Pots46. LE CREUSET POTS

It’s no wonder Le Creuset cookware was the center­ piece of a 2011 F&H tabletops photo essay featuring Lynn Crawford’s Ruby Watchco, a family style restaurant in Toronto. The brand’s coveted back­to­basics construction of iron, steel, clay and silicon products include pots typically made with enamelled cast iron, which helps distribute heat slowly and evenly. The company offers every possible application with a family of products that   includes pots, pans, kettles and stoneware. Oh, and did we mention the products’ colourful design? There’s no doubt they’re a beautiful and functional addition to any kitchen or dining room. — AN

47.SUNCHOKE SOUP

Sunchokes (or Jerusalem artichokes) are the star of this dish from Andrew Bujak of Calgary’s Boxwood. The North American species of sunflower may steal the show, but the soup is complemented by flavours of ginger, garlic, celery and white wine.  — AN

48. GUU, VANCOUVER

“Guu is Guuu’d!,” promise staff at Guu Izakaya restaurants in Vancouver, Toronto or China, but don’t expect a quiet dinner at the popular Japanese tapas hot spot. Chef Javier Alarco of the Delta Prince Edward in Charlottetown, enjoys the “fun atmosphere” and “great selection of food” at the chain’s home base in Vancouver. The supersized inexpensive menu runs the gamut offering a range of small plates, from kimchi nabe ($6) to Hanpen puffed fish cakes ($1.80 each) and almond tofu ($3). — BB

49. CULINARY INSTITUTE OF CANADA

Good enough to serve royalty — the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Kate, no less — the students at the Culinary Institute of Canada at Holland College in Charlottetown continue to impress chefs across the country. — BB

50. JOËL ROBUCHON & MARCO PIERRE WHITE

When it comes to choosing mentors, David Lee of Nota Bene restaurant in Toronto has been influenced by Joël Robuchon and Marco Pierre White. “Joël Robuchon has a talent for creating food that tastes like what it should taste. He’s a master chef that raises the bar above and beyond, and Marco Pierre White has a great palate.” — RC

Lest We Forget…
Below — and listed in no particular order — is a round-up of some of the “favourite things” that didn’t make on our top 50 list.

Ingredients: garlic, olive oil, cumin, curry, tamarind, ginger, chicken stock, fresh herbs, star anise, morels, fair-trade chocolate

Dishes: confit of duck, sweetbreads, grilled steak and fries, curry chicken, seared tuna, trout, crab

Mentors/Inspiration: Wolfgang Puck, Jeremiah Tower, Jacques Pépin, lush surroundings, colleagues

Restaurants: Big Fish, Calgary; Raymonds, St. John’s, N.L.; Nota Bene, Toronto; La Petite France, Toronto; Segovia Tapas Bar and Restaurant, Winnipeg; Splendido Restaurant, Toronto; Chives Canadian Bistro, Halifax; C5, Toronto; One Restaurant, Toronto; River Café, Calgary

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