Dinner With the Top Chefs

There is no reasonable excuse I could give for not getting around to posting these photos earlier, because the dinner at Great Cooks on Eight with Top chef Canada competitors Andrea Nicholson, Todd Perrin Steve Gonzales, Mike Stauffer and Patrick Wiese took place on June 30. I know, I am a deadbeat.

And despite knowing a couple of the chefs involved from eating at their restaurants or interviewing them for TasteTO, I have to admit that I’m not a huge Top Chef fan. I lost interest in the middle of the 2nd US season, so while I kept track of who was doing well in the Canadian competition, I was not a weekly viewer. I joked on Google + recently that I’d happily watch “Top Chef Historical” where modern chefs had to cook Careme-style banquets without gas or electricity, but my reality-TV watching does lean towards the historical stuff anyway. (And I suspect potential competitors would have my head if such a show actually came to fruition.)

In any case, 5 of the Canadian competitors got together to do a dinner – here’s what they cooked.

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Wouldn’t You Like to Be a Taster Too?

As the food charity season winds down, we finish off with the biggest of the lot. Last night, Second Harvest’s Toronto Taste took over the lobby of the Royal Ontario Museum, as well as much of the street along Queen’s Park as 2000 guests descended upon 60 chefs and restaurants, and over 30 beverage purveyors for a night of eating in support of one of Toronto’s most beloved food charities.

There is no possible way the average person can sample every item, and even though Greg and I tried to share things, we still couldn’t get to even half of the things on offer. But here’s an idea of what we came across.

Above: steamed pork buns from All The Best Fine Foods and 100km Foods

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Tastefully Tasty

Greg said it best on Twitter: “sweet merciful crap, there’s more food inside!”

Celebrating its 20th anniversary, Second Harvest’s Toronto Taste fund raiser upped its game substantially this year, doubling the number of chefs involved (from 30 to 60) and taking over part of the Royal Ontario Museum and Queen’s Park (the street, not the park itself). With tickets going for $250 (half of which garnered a receipt for tax purposes), it wasn’t an event for everybody – a fact that won Toronto Taste the teeniest bit of flack over on Torontoist, where they pointed out the irony of having a fancy food event in order to help raise funds to feed the hungry. Especially one where some people would take a bite of something and then pitch it. Yikes! (Next year I’m going with a doggy bag to bring people’s half-eaten leftovers home to my dogs! Can I get away with that at the swankest food event of the year?)

But the fact is that every $250 ticket will buy 250 meals, and Second Harvest delivers over 15,000 meals every day (that’s 6 million pounds of food each year!), mostly from donated perishable food that would otherwise go to waste from restaurants and cafeterias.

And while the following photos are most definitely food porn, we’d like to encourage you to consider the bigger picture. Second Harvest will happily accept your donations – in any amount – even though the big event is over. The Toronto Taste online auction, which runs until June 23rd, includes cool items at every price point. As well, please consider supporting the participating restaurants if you possibly can – they all worked incredibly hard and donated their time and food to the cause.

We’d also like to offer hearty congratulations for a job well done to everyone at Second Harvest – and that amazing army of volunteers. You guys rock.

Shown above: Ontario perch with chorizo, pickled heirloom tomatoes and fava bean puree from Chef Andrea Nicholson of Great Cooks on 8.

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Stirring the Pot with Chef Andrea Nicholson-Jack

Since the age of fourteen, Andrea has been consumed by the art of food: as a creator, teacher and connoisseur.

She is a Red Seal certified chef who received her culinary training at George Brown College in Toronto.  Her professional experience includes positions in respected Toronto restaurants such as Via Allegro, The Fifth, Sequel, Thirty Five Elm and Trattoria Nervosa, as well as travelling the culinary globe and working with internationally acclaimed chefs. Andrea is currently the only Canadian to hold a diploma from the A.P.N. of Naples, Italy, distinguishing her as a Pizzaiuoli.

Andrea’s passion for food is evident in her masterful creations, which celebrate the purity of local and seasonal produce. Support for Canadian farmers and purveyors is a central tenet of her cuisine. Andrea has received several awards for culinary artistry and has been featured on network television. Her credentials and experience identify her as one of Toronto’s top female chefs.

Andrea is now Executive Chef and Director of Great Cooks Culinary Centre (401 Bay Street, Simpson’s Tower, 8th floor).

What inspired you to become a chef?

How delicious food is and the artistic ability to create.

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All About Almonds

I’ve never really thought about almonds. Oh sure, they’re a tasty nut, good as a snack or in baked goods. They come in a variety of forms; whole, blanched, sliced, slivered, ground and even milk. They can be eaten out of hand, added to pastries or to savoury dishes. But last week I attended an event that was all about the wonders of the California almond.

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