Tag Archives: Mark McEwan

Top Chef Canada: Chris Nuttall-Smith teases Season 9

Chris Nuttall-Smith is still pinching himself that he’s a resident judge on Top Chef Canada.

“This is a competition that resonates with people not just in Canada but around the world,” the food journalist and critic says. “Working hard, on the fly, under so much pressure. It’s a competition and a format that’s so fun to do. I’m so happy to get the call saying, ‘Hey, we’re doing another season.'”

Returning Monday at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Food Network Canada, the newest season of Top Chef Canada features familiar faces in chef, cookbook author and host Eden Grinshpan; chef and owner of The McEwan Group, head judge Mark McEwan; and fellow resident judges in restaurateur Janet Zuccarini and food writer and personality Mijune Pak.

Not so familiar? The impact the pandemic had on production. Where past seasons saw the competitors scramble out of vans and into McEwan’s eponymous high-end grocery store to shop for products, Season 9 has the ingredients trucked into the studio for a timed shop by the professional chefs. And the classic Restaurant Wars challenge has been scuttled in favour of Takeout Wars.

As always, it’s the professional chefs—and the food they create—that are the stars of Top Chef Canada. In Monday’s debut, we’re introduced to the 11 facing off against one another. The cast includes Kym Nguyen, who identifies as non-binary and whips up killer British-Asian fare; Indigenous chefs Siobhan Detkavich and Stéphane Levac, who bring their roots to their recipes; and Erica and Josh Karbelnik, who are married.

“This season really reflects Canada, who we are as a nation and what our culinary culture is,” Nuttall-Smith says. “More people are finding opportunities, carving out niches, are having a chance to show what they can do. And, as a judge, it makes the food way more interesting.”

That’s evident in Monday’s opening minutes when the competitors are tasked with creating a plate that represents their brand. Everything put forward is unique, authentic and—as evidenced by Grinshpan and McEwan’s reactions—for the most part tasty. That’s not to say there aren’t duds, but this season’s chefs are really bringing it. That’s to be expected, especially with $100,000 and a Lexus RX Hybrid Electric SUV handed to the winner. And, despite the fact not every dish presented to him is a home run, Nuttall-Smith enters each Elimination Challenge meal feeling the same emotion: hope.

“My perspective, as a restaurant critic and a food writer is that every dish and every chef starts at 100 per cent,” he explains. “I look at it as ‘You’re the best chef in the world, and let’s see how it goes.’ A lot of times that really pays off, and other times it doesn’t. But my expectation is always, ‘This is gonna be great.'”

Top Chef Canada airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Food Network Canada.

Images courtesy of Corus Entertainment.


Top Chef Canada: Eden Grinshpan previews Season 6’s culinary combat

Eden Grinshpan’s secret to scoring Top Chef Canada leftovers is pretty darned simple. She writes her name on the food she wants to save for later. And, she’s had plenty of worthy dishes to set aside thanks to this year’s crop of competitors.

“Mark McEwan has been doing this for six seasons and he thinks that this is the best food he’s ever seen on the show,” Grinshpan says. “I’ll leave it at that. Mark McEwan can’t get over it!”

Returning Sunday at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Food Network, Grinshpan returns to host Top Chef Canada alongside head judge McEwan, resident judges Chris Nuttall-Smith, Mijune Pak, Janet Zuccarini and guests like Susur Lee, Rob Feenie, Lynn Crawford and Alexandra Feswick to taste plates prepared by 11 Canadian chefs all gunning for $100,000 and bragging rights.

We spoke to Grinshpan ahead of Sunday’s return to get her take on the competition this season and how she scored one of the best gigs in primetime TV.

Congratulations on your second season of hosting Top Chef Canada.
Eden Grinshpan: Thank you. I feel so fortunate to be a part of this brand. I’ve been a big fan of Top Chef Canada for many years. This year is really great because we have some fresh blood, young chefs who have a lot to prove and are trying to come into their own. It’s amazing to see where they are at and hear their strong culinary voices. This is their chance to showcase who they are as chefs and a lot of the time this can kick-start the next stage in their career. A lot of them are working under some very big names and this gives them the chance to make that big leap and have their own kitchen. I love this season for that reason.

Let’s go back in time. How did you get the hosting gig? Did you audition or did the producers have you in mind?
I was a judge for Chopped Canada and one of the producers actually suggested me because they were looking for a new host. It was kind of like a last-minute audition. I just happened to be in Toronto and they asked me to come in, read a couple of lines and talked. I went in and had a full-on audition and really got along with the executive producers. A couple of months later they sent over a contract and told me they’d love me to be the new host.

Hosting Top Chef Canada is a unique experience. You’re there to introduce guests, the challenges and keep things moving. Was that a learning curve for you?
Definitely. My experience on television has been unscripted, I’m very candid and am very casual on-camera. Top Chef Canada is the most prestigious culinary competition. This is serious. There is a huge title and huge prize. This is another level, so I had to learn some new skills and be able to move the whole competition to the end point. That’s something I had to learn as I went. This season felt more comfortable because I had been through it already and I knew what to expect. I learned a lot and I love that.

Yourself, Mark, Mijune, Janet and Chris all have great chemistry.
We all love each other. Everyone brings something so different to the judging and the show. Chris, obviously, is one of the most intimidating people in the food industry. He just last season revealed what he looks like. That was a big deal. Janet is a powerhouse restaurateur who was nominated for a James Beard Award for best new restaurant. Mark, again, another powerhouse. He is the guy. Mijune has her world experience through her travels and her knowledge of different cuisines. It’s really something all of us can respect in one another and we do. Judging food together has been interesting and amazing.

What can you say about the food you’ve tasted this season?
Mark McEwan has been doing this for six seasons and he thinks that this is the best food he’s ever seen on the show. I’ll leave it at that. Mark McEwan can’t get over it! Every season, it gets next level good. And they always, always surprise us. Not that we’re not expecting amazing, but they are bringing exceptional.

Top Chef Canada airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Food Network.

Images courtesy of Corus Entertainment.



Top Chef Canada: All-Stars returns with former chefs and new-look judges

Twelve recognizable faces return for this Sunday’s debut of Top Chef Canada: All-Stars. Thirteen, actually, if you include head judge Mark McEwan. But the culinary competition—airing at 10 p.m. ET on the specialty network—boasts four new faces to help McEwan whittle down the dozen hopefuls to one grand prize winner who will pocket $100,000, a Monogram kitchen worth $25,000 and the to-this-point elusive title of Top Chef Canada.

Alongside McEwan are resident judges in former Globe and Mail restaurant critic Chris Nuttall-Smith, author and food contributor Mijune Pak, restaurateur Janet Zuccarini and host Eden Grinshpan.

“We’ve had a lot of fun,” McEwan says during a recent conference call with the judging panel. “Our different personalities work perfectly. Everybody comes at it from their own angle, but all of the comments are complementary. Eden was kind of the wild card as the host, but she turned into a rock star. There was a great energy on set.” Nuttall-Smith, after spending a decade as a secretive food critic for a national newspaper, has stepped into the glare of television cameras for the first time but didn’t wilt under the pressure of critiquing dishes to a chef’s face.

“When you are a restaurant critic, you keep things secretive so you some semblance of regularity when it comes to service,” he says. “And you also do it so that the chef doesn’t come and stand table-side and ask you what you thought. You never have to look them in the eyes. When you are in a competition like this, it’s face to face and that is humbling but also a lot more direct and it works. It’s not always comfortable, but this season the calibre of chefs is so high that you often find yourself tripping over yourself to capture just how exciting and beautiful a dish was.”

The Top Chef Canada chefs returning to create those dishes are Season 1’s Connie DeSousa, Dustin Gallagher, Andrea Nicholson and Todd Perrin; Season 2’s Trevor Bird, Jonathan Korecki, Curtis Luk, Elizabeth Rivasplata and Trista Sheen; Season 3’s Nicole Gomes and Dennis Tay; and Season 4’s Jesse Vergen. Nicholson may have once worked for Zuccarini, but the owner of Toronto hot spots Café Nervosa, Gusto 101 and PAI Northern Thai Kitchen didn’t let that influence her taste buds.

“These are professionals,” Zuccarini says. “These are people who own their own restaurants and I’m judging at that level. I’m not judging at an amateur level or somebody who is a line cook. These guys are high calibre and that’s what we’re looking for. And they brought it. Andrea did work for me, but I didn’t favour anyone, even if I wanted to.”

The resident judges were mum on specific details when it came to the challenges the chefs face but we do know several guests drop by to critique the proceedings, including Chopped Canada‘s Susur Lee, John Higgins, Lynn Crawford and Antonio Park; Lidia Bastianich; Sugar Showdown‘s Josh Elkin; and Daniel Boulud.

“We have an amazing new set design,” Pak says of Sunday’s debut. “The panel makes for some really interesting conversation and insight into food.”

“And the only injuries were to pride,” Nuttall-Smith says with a laugh.

Top Chef Canada: All-Stars airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Food Network Canada.

Images courtesy of Corus.Facebooktwitterredditlinkedinmail