Founder and chef, The Paisley Notebook, Kelowna, B.C.
In 2008, Aman Dosanj and her family moved from England to Kelowna, B.C. on an entrepreneurial visa. Dosanj thought she’d stay for a year and then go back to a marketing job in London. “Then I fell in love with food and this year marked my 10-year [anniversary] in this country,” she says.
In Kelowna, the family ran a farm-to-table, Indian-inspired restaurant called Poppadoms, where Dosanj eventually became chef. After the restaurant closed in 2016, Dosanj embarked on an eight-month “edible adventure” around the world, visiting countries such as Thailand, Australia and Italy.
Throughout her travels, she asked people to share a food memory and recounted their stories on a blog. That was the genesis of her newest venture, The Paisley Notebook, which hosts a pop-up dinner series called “Sourced” at farms, orchards and wineries throughout the Okanagan Valley.
Taking place from June to September, the dinners feature surprise menus crafted with local, seasonal ingredients. Two dishes from a menu last year were Crooked Sky organic kale pakoras, made with house-milled Saskatchewan chickpea flour and local tomato chutney; and Okanagan Jhal Muri, made with puffed-rice salad, lentils, cucumber, tomato, onion and culled-peach gastrique.
At each event, Dosanj tells the guests stories about the ingredients and the producers behind them. For example, Dosanj sources her rice from a Granville Island-based saki maker who grows his own rice. “It’s Canada’s first rice field and I don’t think many people know that,” she says. “It means it’s one less ‘typically’ Indian ingredient I need to import.” This year’s series features seven dinners at locations such as Roche Wines in Penticton, Caldwell Heritage Farm in Kelowna and Claremont Ranch Organics in Lake Country.
“Supporting local isn’t what I do, it’s who I am,” says Dosanj. “It’s really exciting because this country is so edible and there are so many different things to explore.”
Executive chef, Terre Rouge, Markham, Ont.
The scent, taste and texture of food mesmerized Forrest Liu at a young age. “Every dish had its own distinct personality and [cooking] was like learning a new language for me. I find cooking for others extremely fulfilling — that silent look of joy in their eyes makes me feel incredibly accomplished and proud.”
Liu went to culinary school in Shanghai, which led to an internship at Jean Georges. He then worked at Jade 36 as a poissonnier. “This was an important turning point for me,” says Liu, who was then accepted into George Brown’s culinary program. After graduation, he worked at some of Toronto’s finest kitchens, including Canoe, Lee Restaurant, Bent Restaurant, One Restaurant, Le Select Bistro and George.
Liu is currently executive chef at Terre Rouge, a new a farm-to-table restaurant in Markham, Ont. “We are Feast-On certified and dedicated to sourcing quality ingredients produced as close [by] as possible to ensure our dishes are consumed at their best,” he says. “Supporting local communities across Ontario, indeed across Canada, is important, as we want to live and work in a thriving community as well.”
The dishes at Terre Rouge are a fusion of French techniques with worldly flavours: contemporary French, contemporary Canadian. “The miso black cod is one of my signature dishes I first created as a private chef for a family in Forrest Hill. At Terre Rouge, we serve it with a spinach risotto topped with bonito flakes.” Other dishes include seared foie gras with passionfruit and apple mustarda and seared King Cole (Stouffville, Ont.) duck breast served with a black-and-white sesame crust and accompanied by heirloom carrots and roasted grapes.”
Liu’s dream is attaining three Michelin stars for his restaurant. “Though Toronto does not have a Michelin Guide at the moment, I hope one day, Terre Rouge can be a part of it,” says Liu. “I travel often — visiting restaurants worldwide — as I am always looking to elevate our cuisine and develop my own knowledge. The next natural phase for me will be to collaborate with different chefs across Toronto, then Canada and, finally, from around the world.”
Chef de cuisine, Le Petit Mousso, Montreal
For Benjamin Mauroy-Langlais, using local ingredients is important for environmental reasons, but there’s also a human impact. “It makes people feel connected to who they are and where they are,” he says. “And it makes more sense when you serve it to people. You’re not replicating trends or other restaurants in the world…It’s a reflection of what makes us different.”
Mauroy-Langlais completed a cooking degree at Quebec’s l’Institut de tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec in 2010. Since then, he’s worked locally and abroad, with stints at Amass and Relae in Copenhagen; Youpala Bistro in Saint-Brieuc, France; and Pollen Street Social in London, U.K. He’s also worked at various Montreal restaurants such as Montréal Plaza and Le Mousso. In 2016, Mauroy-Langlais became chef de cuisine at Hôtel Herman and, today, he’s chef de cuisine at Le Petit Mousso, which opened in Montreal in June.
The menu, which focuses on Quebec food, includes a shrimp dish with Nordic shrimp from the St. Laurent River, served on a pickled white turnip disk, with crème fraîche, hot sauce made with Quebec peppers, as well as fermented tomato juice, turnip juice and house-made soya. Seasonal items include charred local asparagus wrapped in ramp leaves and served with a ramp and parsley sauce, as well as a beef-fat and rhubarb vinaigrette.
“I love ingredients that are a representation of a moment in the year,” he says. “Right now, I’m so excited because I can eat asparagus. But, in the middle of winter, I’m excited to work with turnips.”
Head chef, Urban Pantry, Uxbridge, Ont.
Corey Duncan says consumers today realize eating local food isn’t just a movement — it’s here to stay. “People are getting behind local food because there are so many good things about it,” says Duncan, head chef at Urban Pantry, a Feast On-certified, farm-to-table restaurant in Uxbridge, Ont. “It’s helping the community hugely because you support the people around you first. And it’s better for your body.”
A graduate of Humber College’s Culinary Arts program, Duncan has worked at various establishments in Ontario, including the Elora Mill Hotel & Spa in Elora, The Bruce Craft House in Cambridge and The Brock House in Whitby. In 2015, he became sous chef at Urban Pantry and head chef a year later.
Duncan’s approach is to incorporate as many local ingredients into his dishes as possible. For example, his Fish n’ Chips uses Lake Erie perch and the beer batter is made with beer from Second Wedge Brewing Company in Uxbridge. Even the tartar sauce has a local twist: for his latest batch, Duncan made capers from the buds of locally foraged marsh marigold. His duck fritters use duck from King Cole Ducks in Stouffville, Ont. The dish’s maple-gochujang sauce boasts maple syrup from Pefferlaw Creek Farms in Uxbridge and the dried kimchi is made with local cabbage.
Asked what he likes best about cooking with local ingredients, Duncan says: “When you’re getting food in from a local [farmer or producer], you can tell how much they love their products — and you can taste it.”
Executive chef & partner, Los Colibris and El Caballito, Toronto
At upscale Mexican restaurant Los Colibris, Elia Herrera’s culinary philosophy is “to show respect to each other and to the product, and celebrate the memories of my childhood and where I come from,” she says.
A native of Veracruz, Mexico, Herrera moved to Toronto in 2003. She worked as a pastry chef at Sassafraz, Mistura, Ultra Supper Club and Canoe, before opening Los Colibris and taco joint El Caballito in 2014.
While Los Colibris serves dishes that Herrera grew up with, they also showcase a number of local ingredients. Her signature dish, Chiles en Nogaga — pork picadillo stuffed in a roasted poblano pepper with a cream-based raw-walnut sauce — uses Ontario pork and local peppers. Herrera also utilizes Ontario lamb and beef sourced directly from the farmers, and incorporates local, seasonal vegetables, such as asparagus, fiddleheads and snow peas, into a variety of dishes.
The hand-pressed tortillas used at both restaurants also feature a taste of Ontario. “[My supplier] makes them very traditional and very artisanal and they’re using corn from Ontario farms,” says Herrera. “It’s nice to share my culture, but using Canadian products.”
One product Herrera wishes was grown in Canada is avocado. “In order to bring avocadoes here when they’re green, they have to go through a treatment with C02 gas to get them ripe,” she says. “If the avocadoes were grown in Canada, that wouldn’t happen. They would ripen naturally.” Herrera would also like to see more Mexican herbs grown in Ontario and is talking to farmers about growing hoja santa, epazote and papalo. Better quality is one reason she uses local ingredients. “It’s important to use local ingredients because, wherever you are, you always want to help the local economy,” she says.
Written by Rebecca Harris