Being on Top Chef Canada as a host is very exciting. But as I’ve said before, as a competitor experiencing the twists and turns of reality television, it’s a downright emotional rollercoaster! This week, some of the chefs got a second go at the ride -- and they were not complaining!
Trevor, Jonathan and Carl made it into the finale last week, while I had to tell David to pack his knives. This week, David, Trista and Xavier came back to the GE Monogram kitchen expecting to be sous chefs for the others, but got another chance to be in the finale by cooking their best dishes ever, with the bountiful product of PEI.
This was indeed a sweet chance for the chefs to redeem themselves... Trista had plastic wrap in her last dish, so she could be fastidious this time. Xavier might have overdone it with butter in the past, but with PEI lobster, he could let his cooking style shine. David got the opportunity to remind the judges that his plates are not just about design, but also about top flavour. For their part, Trevor, Jonathan and Carl got an inside peek at the judging process as they tasted - and judged - the PEI dishes. While they overlooked Xavier for his too rare chateaubriand steak, they unanimously favoured getting Trista into the finale for her elegant mussel lobster soup with PEI potatoes. Mark and Shereen voted instead for David, though, based on his seafood chowder dish. Of course it was hard for me to eliminate Xavier and Trista for the second time, but it was clear, just by looking, how exhilarated David felt. He seemed motivated to go for the win, despite a stove top injury and a bandaged hand.
We all shuttled off to Hockley Valley Resort where we were met outside by the four sous chefs for the challenge: Xavier and Trista, once again, and also Jimmy and Elizabeth. The chefs had to pull knives for their sous chefs, and here again there was some tension, since Jonathan and Elizabeth ended on tense terms the week she was eliminated. As luck would have it, Jonathan drew Elizabeth for a sous, and I could see he was concerned it would be a battle of wills between them, but he had no choice. Then, as if to add insult to injury, he was promptly stung, off camera, by a wasp right there in the middle of the organic vegetable garden, and suffered an allergic reaction. But like David and his burn, Jonathan soldiered on. The last challenge in Top Chef Canada is the kind of situation where the adrenalin keeps you pumping.
The idea behind the Elimination challenge was to prepare a four course meal that would reflect to the judges who the competitor is as a chef. Jonathan reemphasized his love of South Asian cuisine, Carl displayed his farm to table ethic, Trevor showcased the techniques he’s learned through his career and David paid homage again to the ethnic diversity he so loves about Toronto. Everyone brought their A game so hard, I had to be mindful of pacing myself.
A real highlight for me was to hear insights from the amazing talent, guest judge, chef Virkram Vij, who is the chef and owner Vij’s in Vancouver, as well as our hosts at Hockley, chef Michael Potters and president and owner, John Paul Adamo, who is also a trained chef. This was an extraordinary final meal to partake in and share with everyone. The stakes were so high, yet the positive energy coming from the kitchen was easy to feel. Even Jonathan and Elizabeth, contrary to reality tv tropes, fused as a team and came out shining, for the most part. Working in a kitchen means working as a team, after all.
None of the meals were perfect, and all the chefs had their shining moments, but the chef who put together the best dishes in this final meal was definitely Carl. He drew us into his culinary world, and in the process we were led to savour the gifts of our planet. Carl is this now Canada’s Top Chef, and it’s a well deserved victory for him. As for me, I’ll always treasure the ups and downs of this fantastic culinary adventure.