Stirring the Pot with Chef Chris McDonald

Christopher McDonald is one of Canada’s most respected chefs, known for a creative, first-principles approach to cooking, and an exceptional knowledge of the intricate relationships between food and wine.

Born in Toronto and growing up in New York and later Toronto, his childhood and early interest in food was conditioned by his mother Marion Grudeff’s career as a concert pianist and Broadway musical writer in New York. After returning to New York in 1979 to work in Dodin Bouffant, one of the city’s finest French restaurants, McDonald embarked on what would become a 15-year educational odyssey of learning both the spoken and culinary languages of the world’s great cuisines, studying at the famed La Varenne Cooking School, travelling to Verona, Italy, where he worked as the chef of La Bottega del Vino, and opening the kitchens of two world-famous luxury hotels in Mexico. His international travels also took him to San Francisco, where he cooked at both Stars and Chez Panisse, and to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he worked at the renowned Coyote Café for Mark Miller, for whom he developed the menu at Coyote Café’s Las Vegas incarnation.

In Canada, McDonald has been influential in bringing his experience to several acclaimed projects, acting as chef at the VIP lounge of the Ontario pavilion at Expo 86 in Vancouver; as chef de cuisine at Centro, a project that introduced the emerging California cuisine to Toronto; as opening chef at Santa Fe Bar and Grill in Toronto, a highly successful project showcasing his southwestern and Mexican culinary skills; and at Massimo Rosticceria in 1990, which drew on an intensely personal vision that grew out of his experience in Italy.

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The Premium Chocolate Experience

cluizelbars

My first encounter with Michel Cluizel chocolates took place a few years back when I happened across the entire line of estate plantation bars in a shop in St. Lawrence Market. I ended up buying the whole line, setting me back about $50, and the experience completely changed how I think about chocolate.

Like coffee and wine, chocolate from different regions offers distinctive flavours and characteristics that denote the specific terroir in which the cacao is grown, making each chocolate unique.

This past week, I was fortunate enough to be invited to a chocolate tasting event at Cava where the various chocolates from Michel Cluizel were paired with spirits.

The tasting was led by Yves Farges, CEO of Qualifirst Foods Ltd, a family-owned company that has been importing specialty foods since 1957. The line of Michel Cluizel chocolates is their most well-known product, but with a philosophy of offering the best quality products as the guiding concept of the company, Qualifirst offers everything from truffles and foie gras to tea, coffee, preserves and vinegars, and the evening began with a selection of canapés prepared by Chef Chris McDonald of Cava, and featuring products from the Qualifirst selection that ranged from smoked sea salt to a vegan caviar.

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