It’s hard to believe that Top Chef Canada, the country’s premiere culinary competition series, will celebrate a decade of seasons in 2022. Yet here we are, eagerly anticipating one of the biggest and boldest seasons yet, as a new batch of exciting chefs enter the kitchen to show us what tricks they’ve got under their kitchen jacket sleeves.
But we can’t look forward without glancing back at where we came from. So, as head judge Mark McEwan and host Eden Grinshpan get ready to name the series’ 10th winner, we revisited all nine of the show’s previous champs. Read on to see what they’ve done since their time on the show and how they’ve contributed to Canada’s culinary scene.
Season 1 Winner: Dale McKay
Top Chef Canada’s inaugural winner began as a fry cook, but we all knew he was special when he began showing us what he could do in the kitchen. Following his time on the show, McKay returned to Saskatoon, Sask. and founded the Grassroots Restaurant Group with Christopher Cho and Nathan Guggenheimer.
With that group, he’s opened celebrated restaurants in Western Canada, including Ayden Kitchen & Bar, Little Grouse on the Prairie, and Sticks and Stones. These days the chef has many accolades to celebrate, but he also continues to be a TV presence with stints on Iron Chef Gauntlet, Fire Masters, and Wall of Chefs.
Season 2 Winner: Carl Heinrich
After blowing away the competition on Top Chef Canada, Carl became a co-owner of Richmond Station in downtown Toronto. He now lives with his wife and two kids and continues contributing to the Canadian culinary scene. He has hosted the series Four Senses for four seasons, won the 2015 Pinnacle Award for Canadian Chef of the Year, and continues to champion local food made with expert technique.
Season 3 Winner: Matthew Stowe
This seasoned chef has spent nearly two decades in celebrated kitchens worldwide, so it’s no wonder he’s returned to his Top Chef Canada stomping grounds to make the odd guest appearance following his win in 2013. Elsewhere, he’s worked as the Director of Culinary Operations with the Joseph Richards group, overseeing their 21 restos and public houses. But these days, he’s now serving as the Executive Director of Culinary alongside Executive Chef Chris Mills at Joey Restaurants Group.
Season 4 Winner: Rene Rodriguez
This Cordon Bleu-trained chef pushed the envelope to the top on the fourth season of Top Chef Canada, and he continues to do so in Canadian kitchens today. Rene has worked in several kitchens, bringing his bold flavours to all kinds of menus. These days, however, he has a new goal: inspiring good eats at retirement living centres in Ottawa. Yup, Rene is currently the Executive Chef at Beacon Heights Retirement Residence in Ottawa, and he hopes to deliver fresh and nutritious meals that taste good to deserving residents.
Season 5 Winner: Nicole Gomes
Nicole Gomes is a unique Top Chef Canada winner for several reasons. Not only did the chef become the first female chef to take home the trophy, but this was an all-star season in which she competed against the best of the best. Following Nicole’s first time on the show, she opened the famous fried chicken joint Cluck N Cleaver in Calgary with her sister, Francine. She’s also been on several cooking series, including Beat Bobby Flay, Iron Chef Gauntlet, and Fire Masters.
Season 6 Winner: Ross Larkin
During his time on Top Chef Canada, Ross introduced the country to the joys of PEI cuisine. Following his win, plenty of hungry patrons headed to his workplace, Raymonds in St. John’s, to sample his fare and snap a photo or two. (To be fair, the resto was already famous, and the late Anthony Bourdain even visited it in his series, No Reservations.) However, following his win, Ross also travelled around the rest of Canada, participating in food events to bring PEI cooking to the masses. This past summer Ross and his wife, renowned pastry chef Celeste Mah, made their most significant leap yet: opening Portage, a new restaurant in St John’s.
Season 7 Winner: Paul Moran
There was no stopping this Tofino chef when he stepped into the Top Chef Canada kitchen. His love of cooking was only paralleled by his expertise at foraging, opening many of our eyes to the benefits of cooking from the land. After his 2019 win, Paul (a fifth-generation forager) began Wild Origins. The company is a rare service: it delivers 100 per cent Canadian wild foods to doorsteps and grocery stores around the country. It’s no wonder Western Living named him and Wild Origins as one of the 2022 Foodies of the Year Finalists.
Season 8 Winner: Francis Blais
If there was ever an underdog Top Chef Canada story, Francis is it. The chef began as a dishwasher in Montreal to avoid trouble but found his true calling in the kitchen. (We’re still dreaming about that pigeon dish he cooked for the judges in the finale.) The first winner from Quebec, Francis won right in the middle of the pandemic when restaurants were having a tough time. However, since then, he’s opened Menu Extra, a food and delivery service that brings ready-to-bake, gourmet meals to your door.
Season 9 Winner: Erica Karbelnik
Erica’s time in the Top Chef Canada kitchen was memorable — she competed against her husband, Josh Karbelnik. In the end, it was Erica’s flavours that impressed the judges most, and she took home the latest top prize. Since the 2021 competition, she moved on from her gig as Head Chef at the Elmwood Spa in Toronto and is now the Executive Chef and owner of Karbs Catering & Private Events.