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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.



  • Mark's Finale Recap

    markI can hardly describe the great passion and drive that has fueled my journey as a chef over the years. Being a professional chef is a creative pursuit that has given my life meaning and purpose. This is why it is very, very moving for me to see young chefs who are full of passion for this career, and who are putting all of their energy, focus and heart into competing in this last episode of Top Chef Canada. This is the competition of a lifetime, and this is the final push. It’s a great emotional and energetic high for me, and needless to say, my expectations of the competitors couldn’t be higher right now, either.


    The Quickfire is an opportunity for three very good chefs who were eliminated earlier to compete their way back into finale. At their disposal is the most beautiful array of PEI seafood. It has been paramount to me throughout the competition that the chefs have great product to work with, and what they got here was nothing short of amazing.  Xavier, Trista and David all had a fire burning within them to get back into the game, and the results of their effort were robust and refined, but it’s David whose sophisticated seafood chowder, composed of Maritime mussels, clams, oysters and pan fried gnocchi in a cream fraiche sauce, made the most impact on us, and got him that coveted fourth spot in the finale. Carl, Jonathan and Trevor joined us at the tasting table to share their take on the quality of the dishes, but now it was their turn to join David in the final Elimination Challenge.


    The setting was magnificent. Hosting us at Hockley Valley Resort - where the land was lush, and the seasonal vegetables were just ripe - was Chef de Cuisine, Michael Potters, and owner and president, John Paul Adamo. Guest judge, Chef Vikram Vij from Vancouver also did us the great honour of joining us for this last challenge; creating a four course meal reflecting the food philosophy most important to each competitor. Sous chefs Jimmy, Elizabeth, Xavier and Trista were on hand. 


    In the first course of this $100,000 dinner, Jonathan’s South Asian influenced trio of lobster - beetle leaf with lobster mousse, lobster green curry and lobster broth - was a powerhouse of crunchy, buttery and warm flavours, textures and temperatures. He set the bar high - wowing fine Indian cuisine master, Vikram Vij, and the other esteemed guests at the table - and Carl maintained the excellent standard with his expertly cooked smoked trout salad with ranch dressing, haricots, pickled radish and sunflower shoots. His dish reflected his connection to a local trout farmer and also featured organic vegetables from the garden.


    David faltered with his curdled consomme, with mayonnaise and steamed pickerel. The pickled onions and fresh peas were well done, however. Trevor embarked on taking us on a journey through his culinary experience, but it was not a good start, since his little goat cheese amuse was too insignificant an offering for this very important meal. 


    The second course was off to a great start. Carl made a bold move carving elk loin off the bone right at the table, since there’s no guarantee of doneness - just a wise estimate. It was cooked perfectly, and accompanied by tasty homemade barbecue sauce, fried pork belly, brussel sprouts, shallot rings and eggplant.


    Next Jonathan made a braised pork belly salad I could imagine serving on my patio at One. The fact that he got me thinking that way while eating his dish was very good indeed. The shredded green mango and papaya salad was refreshing and flavourful, and the pork was marvelously prepared.


    Trevor served up an olive oil poached arctic char and garden vegetable salad with soy truffle vinaigrette. He showed a lot of skill here, as well as bravery in using an unusual combination of flavours. 


    David was taking us through a culinary journey of Toronto, but what he purported to be a little Italy inspired tuna dish, had no discernible Italian seasoning. It’s too bad of course, because it sure was a pretty, contemporary looking plate. 


    For the third course, I was surprised and disappointed by a few things. I was concerned that Jonathan served his curry dishes family style, I longed for more of a flavour story from David’s briyani, and I was floored that Carl chose to make a whole course out of a simple sorbet, much as Vikram enjoyed it. Thankfully Trevor buoyed the meal with his perfectly roasted veal loin and braised veal shoulder ravioli. He also had a refreshing granita - in addition to the veal.


    For dessert David delighted us with his sweet corn pudding with candied sage and dark chocolate truffles. It was really interesting and addictive. Jonathan, too, impressed with his peach compote stuffed beignet. It had a perfect crust. Carl chose simplicity with a perfect peach cobbler. Its perfection could not be denied. And lastly, Trevor climbed back up form his tiramisu and peanut butter molten lava cake lows, to deliver a perfectly good tasting, and exceedingly beautiful looking blueberry and lavender tart with mascarpone cream and lemon curd.


    I am both proud and humbled by what the chefs accomplished. And I am duly impressed with the passion each one exhibited over the course of this competition and especially in the final leg. It was tough to make the call, but when all the details were tallied, the choice was clear that Carl earned the enviable title of Canada’s Top Chef. 


  • Lisa's Finale Recap

    Top Chef Canada: Lisa's Episode 9 BlogBeing 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. 


  • Shereen's Finale Recap

    ShereenA good meal is what it’s all about. That’s what it comes down to, and that’s what the chefs had to do: create the best meal of their young lives so far, to try to win a GE monogram kitchen, a $100,000 prize and the title of Top Chef Canada!!


    So much happened in the finale episode. Xavier, Trista and David had the chance to try and cook their way back in, using PEI ingredients, while the other finalists judged them with us. They all had a fighting chance and David rocked it, with his aromatic seafood that showed off his creative talent. Jonathan, Carl and Trevor collectively voted for Trista to be back in and cook against them in the competition, and she did make a skilled dish with mussels, but I really believe they were intimidated with having a seasoned chef like David in their midst in the finale. So we chose David, of course! 


    All four chefs in the finale really deserved to be there, because they are all top notch, but of course only one can be Top Chef, and I was panicked to try and narrow it down. But when the whole meal was said and done, it became clear to us...


    The chefs created a four course menu that reflected their cooking styles and passions, and they were evaluated by Lisa, Mark and myself, as well as Guest Judge chef Virkram Vij, Chef de Cuisine at Hockley Valley Resort Michael Potters, and owner of Hockley Valley, John Paul Adamo. What was key for us was meal progression, as well as great taste and technique in every bite. 

    Jonathan showed great flare, and showed us exactly who he is as a chef by cooking all South Asian food, but for the dessert. He went from a sweetly spiced three part lobster app of mousse, curry and soup, to a braised and slightly fried pork belly salad with Hockley Valley garden vegetables, to a curry spread of coconut rice, spicy seasonal garden vegetables and juicy braised beef shot rib Phanaeng curry. The third course was controversial because he served it family style, but I stand behind his choice because that’s what the food called for in this case, and it was balanced by the other more refined presentations of his whole meal, including dessert, a delicious donut filled with peach preserve, complimented by blueberry ice and peach ice cream. It was a great finish to a fabulous meal.  


    David took us around Toronto with every course of his menu. He started with steamed pickerel with pickerel bourride, mayonnaise, pickled onions and summer vegetables. This was supposed to be the French inspired neighbourhood of Yorkville, which I don’t completely get, but would have forgiven had the fish been really stand out. In reality it was a bit flat. Next we went to Little Italy for ‘Tuna three ways’ albacore tuna crudo, tuna mayonnaise and ‘tuna of chianti’ poached pork. Of course it looked amazing, because David always has a really imaginative presentation, but again, I think he played it a bit safe with the flavours. Going to Little India was tough for David too because Vikram was there, seeking deep flavour, more than Indian French fusion. He could have sold us if it just had that certain pizzazz, but it came up short. I can only imagine how he felt getting voted out of the competition, then winning his way back in and fighting for the title under pressure. I’m confident his food is of the best calibre, but this wasn’t the ideal meal for David. Except for his dessert. His corn pudding was a knock out in every way, and showed us how a chef’s mind takes a brewing notion and develops it into a refined food sensation. 


    Overall Trevor did great and really impressed us with how he’s grown over the competition. He started out lame though, bringing a little, simply prepared, one bite amuse to the table. It was too insignificant for only four courses. He took us on a great journey though with his melt in your mouth char dish and it was all up hill from there.  His ‘veal doppleganger’ roasted veal loin with mushroom farce and braised veal shoulder ravioli, had Lisa bowing down to him and had all of us seriously considering him for the top title. His dessert was really good too, considering where he’s gone with desserts before. I like his blueberry tart a lot -- but it was no corn pudding!!!


    And that brings us to Carl, who you all know by now is the winner. Yes, he threw us for a loop with his third ‘course’, a sorbet that didn’t fit expectations of this challenge, but did in fact taste great. I would rather have not seen a ball of ice at that moment, but I understand his reasoning as far as meal progression goes, and frankly, everything else prepared was so top notch he really did call out for being named Top Chef. From the local smoked trout salad, to his perfectly cooked elk loin to his sweet and delicate peach cobbler with brandy caramel sauce, spiced ice cream and candied walnuts, Carl’s talent and passion shone through.  

  • 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).


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