Mark McEwan speaking with guest judge Chef Morimoto on Top Chef Canada episode 6.

Top Chef Canada season 4 is wrapping up with its big finale on Monday, May 12. That means head judge Mark McEwan has tasted a lot of dishes over the past four seasons. But what’s Mark McEwan like when he’s not judging Canada’s up and coming culinary stars? He took a break from talking about Top Chef Canada to share with Food Network Canada (FNC) what he loves to eat (and drink) and what his plans are for celebrating Mother’s Day with his wife.

FNC:  If you had a menu to showcase the best of Canada, what ingredients or dishes would you have on that menu?
Mark: I think you need a butter tart of some sort in there, if you want to showcase Canada. The Canadian food question is always a tough one, because we have a lot of ingredients that are not necessarily unique to Canada, but they’re here and they’re bountiful. Most of our technique is stolen from other cultures. So I would run the gambit. I love the oceans on either shore, and you move inland and we have game, although it’s domesticated game. There’s lots of great stories there.
For a decadent butter tart recipe, click here.

FNC: Describe your best food day.
Mark: My best food day, would probably be at the cottage. We cook simple breakfasts, but sort of full breakfasts. There are jams that we’ve done and if we’re adventurous we’ll make bread. But if not, we’ll go down the road and buy beautiful bread that was just made. I’ll make goat cheese omelets with soft leek inside.We have the fisheries on Georgian Bay. I’ll do fish that’s local. I like buying beets with greens on them and I do the beets in foil, with olive oil and salt, and herbs and garlic. I’ll do onions the same way. Those are the best meals for me; I love eating that way. I don’t register a great day by eating a lot of foie gras. Although a huge can of caviar can be the best day ever because I still think that’s the greatest single taste.

FNC: Really? That kind of salty, briny…
Mark: Oh my god I love it. I love it. It sounds so pretentious, but it’s just one of the wonders.

FNC: What are you looking forward to eating when summer hits?
Mark: We do everything from grilled pizzas, to wicked burgers off the barbeque. I love slow cooking ribs and I do a rubbed brisket and cook it for five hours.
For more great summer grilling recipes, check out our Summer Guide here.

Mark: I love doing all those things at the cottage. I have a garden, so I’ll go buy a protein and I’ll harvest what’s in the garden and make dinner. So it’s always simple, but it’s wonderful.

FNC: What is your favourite vegetable?
Mark: I’m sort of in love with variegated carrots these days. I roast them, just until they’re soft. I take a ripe avocado with a large spoon and just do shards of avocado. I have blood orange with that, celery leaves from the inside of the head, and lots of scallion and lots of coriander.  I make a dressing with white balsamic vinegar, olive oil, a little bit of horseradish, mustard, salt and pepper. It’s just wicked good. So we eat pretty healthy at home.

You can find beautifully coloured heirloom carrots at farmers’ markets and specialty groceries if you can’t grow them yourself.

FNC: What do you think would be an ideal Mother’s Day menu?
Mark: I do Mother’s Day menus when we go to a restaurant.
FNC: So you don’t cook?
Mark: I will, but I think my wife, Roxanne, likes to go out. I’ll take her to a nice restaurant. That’s kind of a special night.

FNC: What’s your ideal last meal on earth?
A martini.

FNC: That’s it?
Mark: If I know it’s my last meal on earth, I’m a nervous eater. So I lose my appetite when I’m nervous. And I know I’m going to be nervous, so that’s an honest answer. I love a martini.
FNC: Gin or vodka?
Mark: Oh, vodka.

Watch online Top Chef Canada Episode 9: The Science of Food
Get Top Chef Canada: Taking the Challenge Home recipes