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!”
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.