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  • Carl Heinrich Recreates His Winning Top Chef Canada Dinner

    Almost a year later, Carl Heinrich is back in the kitchen cooking the meal that won him the title of Top Chef Canada.Although this time he is more relaxed - there’s not a life-changing title or $100,000 at stake - he’s still a perfectionist. Each of his 70 guests must be presented with a beautiful plate in the dining room of the resort's signature restaurant, Cabin. 




    As the guests are fans of the show and Chef Heinrich, Carl leaves the kitchen as each dish is served and personally introduces it. He appears calm and poised, suiting his title of Top Chef. Often, he is pulled over for a photograph and then he’s back to the kitchen guiding his cooks. The meal begins with an amuse bouche by Chef Paul Lietaer of Cabin.  The bite-sized serving of homemade Andouille sausage topped with pickled smelt, micro asparagus and Kozliks triple crunch mustard is a perfect mouthful.


    Carl next introduces his smoked trout salad.  The judges on Top Chef were right about this dish: it’s perfectly executed. Carl himself says: “This dish is, in my mind, perfect.  Its not rocket science: the classic combination of smoked fish, sour cream and pickles.  But this dish is refined, the trout is very lightly cured and smoked and cooked, the vegetables are all lightly crunchy and there is a mix of cooked and raw and pickled, spicy and sweet, the sour cream is blended with an aioli to give a little richness.  The key is finding the best ingredients.”




    The trout salad is followed by elk served with homemade barbecue sauce, sautéed kale, grilled eggplant, glazed radishes, and shallot rings. Every ingredient compliments the other.


    Carl’s famous ice course is next, a dish that baffled judge Mark McEwan in Carl’s final meal but blew away Chef Vikram Vij, who called it “killer”. The pear sorbet is subtle and natural, served with sweet raspberries and a crispy pear chip.


    Dessert is a simple peach cobbler that Carl has refined. Sweet peaches, Bailey’s caramel, a warm crust, crispy walnuts, are topped with a marscapone cream.  As Carl says, “It’s certainly not the most adventurous dessert - there’s no doubt about it, but it’s a good one.”


    After coffee and biscotti, Carl steps out of the kitchen to tell me about his new restaurant.  Richmond Station will open in September. The concept is simply to serve good food. For this Top Chef that means sourcing the best ingredients and cooking them to perfection.



    Carl’s Smoked Trout Salad with Hockley Garden vegetables "raw, pickled, just cooked", ranch dressing 

    Recipe: 6 portions
    “At both the dinner at Hockley Valley on July 13 and my finale dinner on Top Chef Canada, all of the vegetables came right out of the garden and were on the plate within a few hours.  The fresher the vegetables, the sweeter they will be.  The quality of the fish is so important as well.  Fresh and firm trout that is not too small.  Prepare the fish, the dressing, and the vegetables, cook the fish only at the last minute!”


    Ranch Dressing:
    2 whole eggs
    1 tbs Dijon mustard
    1 tsp red wine vinegar
    1 small clove garlic, minced
    1/2 tsp salt
    1/2 tsp coarse ground pepper
    1 litre vegetable oil
    1 cup sour cream
    -Combine the eggs, mustard, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper in the base of a food processor, blend while adding the oil very slowly.
    -When all of the oil is added, you should have a very thick, creamy, emulsified dressing.  Add all of the sour cream and pulse until well blended.
    -Season to taste with salt and pepper
    2 x 10 oz trout fillets, deboned
    1/4 cup kosher salt
    1/4 cup sugar
    1 tsp Maldon salt
    1 Tbs chopped fine herbs, such as dill, tarragon, parsely, chervil and chives
    -Mix the salt and sugar together
    -Skin side down on a sheet tray, coat the fish with a heavy layer of the salt/sugar mix.  Cover, rest in the fridge for 1 hour
    -Lightly rinse the fish, pat dry
    -Cold smoke the fillets for 10 minutes over applewood
    -Cut the fillets into 3 to 3.5 ounce portions. Place portions skin side up on a lined baking tray.
    -Bake the fish portions at 200 F for 5-10 minutes until just cooked
    -Remove from oven, peel off skin, sprinkle with salt and herbs, serve immediately
    2 fresh medium sized carrots
    6 fresh small beets
    6 fresh small white radish
    300 g red wine vinegar
    150 g water
    40 g sugar
    10 g salt
    5 leaves fresh boston lettuce, washed
    -Combine the vinegar, water, sugar and salt, bring to a boil.  Peel and quarter the beets, or in eighths if they are larger.  put beets in vinegar solution and cook until just cooked, about 5 minutes. Cool down the beets in the liquid.
    -Bring a pot of water to boil and season. Peel and cut carrots into uniform oblique shapes.  Blanch the carrots in the boiling water until just cooked (they should be lightly crunchy, about 2 minutes).  Remove into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking.
    -Slice the radish thinly.
    300 ml sunflower oil
    50 ml red wine vinegar
    50 ml apple cider vinegar
    -Combine oil and vinegars, season to taste
    -Spoon ranch dressing onto the plate, layer lettuce, cooked carrots, pickled beets and raw radish on top. Lightly spoon vinaigrette over vegetables. Top with smoked trout.


    Gillian Young is a writer, researcher, and lush for life who blogs at Battle of the Bites and Healthy, Tasty, Cheap. She writes and produces videos about food, health, travel, her love of Champagne and French macarons. She spends her spare time romancing her butcher and looking for the best bites in town.



  • Carl Heinrich, the 27-year-old winner of Top Chef Canada Season 2, is even cuter in person... and sweet.  He admitted to shedding a tear watching the finale last night for the first time. (If you missed it don't worry, you can watch it here) I cried too, especially when he called his girlfriend on the phone to tell her he is Canada's Top Chef.  You probably did too. Right?

    So what's he doing with his $100,000 prize? Opening his very own restaurant in Toronto's Yonge and Richmond area, of course. The Richmond Station will open sometime in August. The food will be what Chef Carl does best -- from farm to table.

    The Top Chef Canada winner also told me Marcus Samuelsson was the most intimating of the judges -- he's still reeling from Samuelsson's comment that his food lacked, "soul." (ouch!)  That, he admits, was a hard criticism to take.

    During our chat, he talked about the biggest learning from the show, whether he's going to ask his gal to marry him, and whether or not he'd make that ice course again (you know the one Resident Judge Mark McEwan raked him over the coals for? ). His answer may surprise you. 



    Congratulations Carl! And I'll see you in the 'hood (turns out we're neighbours btw).


  • Top Chef Canada Finale Recap!

    Well, readers, it’s time. We’ve made it. Three great chefs; only one Top Chef. 

    Finale Challenge #1 

    Wait! Did I say three great chefs? I meant four. Prior to asking Trevor, Jonathan and Carl to get down to business, Lisa brought Trista, Xavier and David back to the kitchen. Of course, we all said, they’ll be acting as sous chefs for the final. Not so! Lisa replied. Instead, the previously eliminated trio was given a last chance to cook their way back into the competition. All each of them had to do was prepare at least two dishes using ingredients from Prince Edward Island—lobster, mussels, oysters, beef, potatoes and more.


    Another twist: the already determined “final three” would judge the redemption dishes. Would Carl, Jonathan and Trevor choose the best of the remaining chefs, or would they vote strategically in order to compete against a weaker opponent? What would you have done in their position?


    In the kitchen, the chefs seemed a bit discombobulated. David, as usual, was all over the place. He must’ve been very nervous. Being allergic to shellfish, he couldn’t touch many of his ingredients without gloves, and of course he couldn’t taste his dishes either. Oh, and he had so many pots and pans on the go that he lost track of one, picked it up, and promptly burned his hand.  


    Yet he managed to pull off a beautiful looking seafood chowder plus a not-half-bad steak tartar. The chowder really seemed to impress everyone, but in the end, our existing finalists unanimously preferred Trista’s classical mussel and lobster soup and grilled steak tenderloin with lobster mashed potatoes. 


    Mark and Shereen, however, were a nonplussed by that decision. Clearly, they told us, the finalists had voted for someone they felt they could beat in the finale. And in a not entirely surprising move, they went with the chef who had proven himself over and over again. They sided with experience, rewarded bold cooking and sent David into this season’s last elimination challenge.


    Finale Challenge #2 

    And what was this much-anticipated test? In a nutshell: travel to Ontario cottage country’s Hockley Valley Resort, cook your pants off and present four of the best courses you’ve ever crafted.


    Man, did Carl, Jonathan and Trevor ever seem nervous on the ride up to the resort? David had been cooking up a storm over the course of many challenges. And to know that Mark and Shereen personally vaulted him back into contention? That must’ve been a major confidence booster for David, and a blow to the egos of the three pre-set finalists.


    You’ll recall that at the start of the night, everyone figured David, Xavier and Trista would simply be helping Carl, Trevor and Jonathan prepare their respective last meals? That didn’t pan out, but ultimately we did get some sweet sous chef action: Xavier and Trista returned, as did early-season castoffs Jimmy and Elizabeth.


    The latter didn’t inspire much confidence in the man with whom she was ultimately paired. Yes, it seemed as though Jonathan would be handicapped for the finale. He also decided to cook a 100 per cent Asian menu, though he admitted not knowing whether Mark would like it, and Elizabeth didn’t have much experience cooking it.


    Fortunately, he lucked out with the guest judge: acclaimed Vancouver-based chef Vikram Vij. If anyone would know cuisine from the East, it was going to be him. 


    After two courses it looked like Jonathan and Carl had the upper hand. Jonathan’s haute Asian was going over very well, while Carl’s dedication to local, farm-fresh fare also scored high points. Trevor was sort of one-for-two: in a puzzling move, he claimed to actually want his first course to be a bit underwhelming. As a one-bite fig concoction, it was underwhelming. So would he have counted that as a success? His follow-up, though—an olive oil¬–poached char—looked gorgeous and apparently had taste to match. 


    Going into service, it’s difficult to say whether David was a favourite or a dark horse. Either way, he didn’t do himself any favours with the first half of his meal inspired by Toronto’s multicultural neighbourhoods. Unfortunately his third course failed to impress judge Vikram, too. And how could it have? The chef Vij cooks the stuff every single day. David would have had to cook the best darn biryani in his life to win over this tough crowd. He gave it a good shot, but at this point I think we all knew that he was no longer in the running for the Top Chef Canada crown.


    Carl, however, was still very much in contention, though he drew Mark’s ire by presenting a palate-cleansing sorbet as his third course—essentially a pre-dessert dessert. But Carl stood up for the dish’s quality, and it seemed to wow everyone. That said, Trevor immediately showed him up by presenting a palate cleanser and a full meat course, and then threw down with a top-level blueberry tart to end his service. 


    The Verdict

    The final judgment really was something of a nail biter. I thought any one of Trevor, Carl or Jonathan had a shot victory. They each cooked exceptionally well; their flaws, if any, were in presentation as opposed to flavour. 


    Jonathan, for example, displeased Mark by serving his main meat family-style (though Shereen and Vikram appeared to prefer that type of service), and served a North American-style dessert that didn’t really go with his Asian-themed progression. Trevor and Carl both took hits for “wasting a course” with, respectively, a weak amuse-bouche and a third-course sorbet.


    Those were shown to be mere quibbles, however, as that pair comprised the last men standing. Would it be Carl, who showed ample skills all the way through the competition, but sometimes lacked flair? Or would Trevor, the corporate cook who just got better with every challenge, take home the grand prize?


    The answer—and at this point, it seemed almost inevitable—was Carl. Can we say I called it? The Toronto-based farm-to-table chef demonstrated, overall, just that little extra bit of talent that helps a good chef become a truly great one. I think the judges saw that ineffable quality in him, and couldn’t resist giving him the career boost that being a Top Chef winner entails. 


    It was the right decision in my books. How about yours? 


    Craig Moy

    Craig Moy is an editor at a Toronto-based city magazine. He also writes about all manner of cultural topics, including food culture.  




  • Well, it is almost time for this season of Top Chef Canada to come to a close.


    Tonight, we all will find out if Trevor, Jonathan, or Carl will take home the title of ‘Canada’s Top Chef’. It’s been great watching these three skilled gentlemen show off their chops throughout the past 13 weeks, so, regardless of who wins, it will be well-deserved.

    Yet again, I’ve found myself out of town during one of my weekly Top Chef Canada dish recreation challenges. I was lucky enough to head back to Vancouver this week to attend Trevor Bird’s restaurant opening bash for Fable Kitchen. If that name sounds familiar, that’s because it was the name of his team’s one-day dining establishment during this season's ‘Restaurant Wars’ episode.


    When I popped by the event, I told Trevor I had to recreate his Apple Bacon Tart from the current episode. Not being much of a dessert-maker himself, he assured me that I would be fine baking his dish this week!


    In addition to baking some apple bacon tarts this past weekend, I also signed on to cook a birthday dinner party for my friend Jillian. After coming up with a simple menu for her and some friends to enjoy, we decided that some Top Chef-inspired tarts would be the perfect way to end the evening, on a sweet note. I’ve cooked many of my Top Chef Canada recreations for friends before, but making a dessert dish at a birthday dinner was definitely upping the ante. Jillian is not an easy lady to impress!


    Now, I don’t usually cook for large groups of people and, truth be told, this group was not that large, about ten or so, so I decided to leave the dessert prep until after finishing all of the other dishes. After three hours of cooking, some lovely conversation, and more than a few glasses of wine, I suddenly realized that I hadn’t started working on the tarts yet. It was time to pull myself together and get this job done!


    Now, if we can quickly reference my macaroon disaster of week four, you’ll remember that I’m not much of a baker. Luckily, pies and tarts are a tad more attainable, so I started off by frying the bacon until it was extra, extra crispy.


    Next, I sautéed the apple slices in the leftover bacon fat with some sugar, honey and a splash of juice. Threw in a few spices and, with that, the filling was done. Easy as, well, pie tarts I guess…


    When it came to the pie dough, I tossed some chopped walnuts, flour, sugar, salt, and cubed butter into a food processor. It may have been the few glasses of wine I was enjoying during the birthday dinner, but I accidently added too much liquid to the dough, making it way too sticky.



    I managed to salvage the dough with a bit more sugar and flour. Finally, with an ideal product to work with, I let the dough chill in the fridge for a half an hour. Once everything was ready to assemble, I baked off the tarts, all the while crossing my fingers that they would turn out well.


    Post-baking, I let the mini desserts cool slightly and then sampled them out to the nine ‘judges’ in the room. After a few bites, the tarts were given thumbs up by all. I think their taste buds had been relaxed by wine throughout the evening, as I thought the tart crust definitely needed a bit of refining, but I’ll take compliments when I can get them!


    Next week will be my final Top Chef Canada taking the challenge home. So, no matter who matter who comes out on top tonight, know that I still have one stressful cooking challenge left! Ha, ha, ha.


    Rustic Apple and Bacon Tart
    Yields 12 tarts
    Total prep time…1 hour, 15 min

    What you’ll need…

    Tart crust:
    • 1 ¼ cup walnuts (loosely chopped)
    • 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
    • ½ cup white sugar
    • ½ TSP salt
    • 2/3 cup butter (chilled, cubed)
    • cold water

    Apple Bacon Filling:
    • ½ cup smoked bacon (loosely chopped)
    • 2 gala apples (cored, halved, thinly sliced)
    • ½ cup white sugar
    • ¼ cup apple juice
    • 1 TBSP honey
    • 1 TSP cinnamon
    • 1 TSP chili powder
    • 1 TSP nutmeg
    • 2 TSP all-purpose flour

    Tart Crust
    Place the walnuts into a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Add in the next 3 ingredients and pulse a few times to combine. Next, toss in the cubed butter and pulse until the flour/walnut mixture resembles a small crumble. Slowly pour in the cold water while pulsing until a soft dough forms. Remove from food processor and place onto a floured surface. Form into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and let chill in the fridge for about an hour.

    Apple Bacon Filling
    Cook the bacon in a large pan on the stove until very crispy. Remove from pan, leaving some of the rendered bacon fat. Place the apple slices in the pan and sauté for 5 minutes on medium-high heat. Next, add in the next six ingredients, stir to combine and let simmer on low heat for another 10 minutes. Carefully sprinkle in the flour to help the filling thicken. Return the crispy bacon to the pan and remove from heat to let cool before filling the tarts.

    Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Roll out the chilled dough to approximately 1/4” thickness and press into prepared tart shells or tray. Fill each tart with a couple spoonfuls of the apple bacon filling and bake in the oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes.



    Dan Clapson
    Dan Clapson is a food writer and culinary instructor based out of Calgary. He is constantly creating new recipes and striving to expand his culinary horizons. He thinks yam fries are overrated. 



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